Thursday, April 05, 2007

Online Evangelism

Below is a transcript of a conversation I had this morning. A 13 year old boy (TW) raised by Wiccans has apparently had a friend telling him about Jesus. He turned to me for some answers. Please pray that God uses the planted seed to the salvation of this young man.

TW: Hi

TW: my name is Xxxx

Me: Hi, Xxxx.

TW: I found your profile on the yahoo members page, and I think it said you were a minister......or at least a christian

Me: Yes.

TW: ok

Me: The least of Christians, perhaps.

TW: really?

Me: Probably not - I’m a big guy. What can I do for you?

TW: I had a few questions if thats ok

Me: Sure

TW: ok

TW: What do you worship as a christian?

TW: one God.......instead of a God and Goddess right?

Me: One God, that’s correct.

TW: ok

Me: It’s not exactly accurate to say God has a gender, though God has revealed as a Father.

TW: ok

TW: So is Jesus another name for God?

TW: or someone seperate

Me: looks like you are asking for some clarification on the greatest mystery of the faith.

Me: The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, correct?

TW: im not sure what that is

Me: Fair enough.

Me: There is only one “thing” that can be called “god”

TW: im 13, and my family is wiccan, so I know nothing about christianity

TW: but i am curious and maybe one day I want to become christian

Me: It’s okay - I was actually Wiccan during college.

TW: wow

TW: and your a minister?

TW: for a christian church

Me: One of the greatest heroes of our faith, a man named Paul of Tarsus, was a persecutor of the early church (in the decades following Jesus’ death).

Me: Nevertheless, God used Paul to write nearly half of the New Testament (the portion of the Bible that deals explicitly with Jesus).

TW: ok

TW: Ive read some of John in the new testiment

Me: God uses all kinds of people, and his greatest delight is in making his enemies his friends.

Me: John is a great place to begin.

Me: It not only tells the story, but it also talks about the importance of those events.

TW: thats what I was told

TW: are you parents christian

Me: Yes.

TW: ok

Me: I was raised a Christian and believed in “god” but didn’t want to accept Jesus as the focus of God’s work in the world.

TW: ok

Me: To go to your original question, you were asking what Christians believe about the nature of God.

TW: right

Me: We believe that there is only one God - one entity, if you will - that is God. And that God is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, all holy, all GOOD, etc.

Me: However, God is also three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

TW: ok

TW: I think I understand

Me: To be honest, we can say more about what we know God is not rather than what/who God is.

TW: ok

TW: what is God not

Me: To illustrate: There are not three Gods, but only one God. God is not “made up” of three persons; rather God is three persons.

Me: God doesn’t “switch hats”: now acting like the Father, then acting like the Son, and sometimes acting like the Holy Spirit.

Me: Rather, each of those persons is fully God.

Me: One of the most ancient - and beautiful - explorations of God is called the Athanasian Creed.

TW: ok

Me: Another place to look for why Christians believe this doctrine is found here.

TW: ok

TW: thanks

Me: No problem.

Me: Here is a helpful analogy, comparing the Trinity to a book. For example, a book has length, width, and thickness. The length is not the book’s width, the width is not the book’s thickness. These three dimensions can be described separately, yet they are connected together. If you remove one dimension, you are no longer describing a book. In the same way, the Godhead has three separate members that are connected together, and if you try to remove one you no longer have the Godhead.

TW: ok

Me: Does that make sense?

TW: i think so

Me: Don’t worry if you find this perplexing.

Me: Any honest Christian will say the same thing.

TW: ok

Me: God is so much greater than we are - it’s impossible for us (trapped in bodies, experiencing time in a linear fashion, of limited mental/spiritual capacity) to truly understand a God who is infinite.

TW: ok

Me: The important thing to know is that God loves us, and we see that love in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Me: Have you ever felt guilty?

TW: maybe

Me: I have. That’s because we know that there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong.

Me: Even the Wrede teaches that to harm another is to bring harm to yourself and the world (three-fold harm)!

TW: right

Me: Yet we say nasty things to each other, and sometimes do nasty things to each other.

Me: And we heap the same abuse upon ourselves.

TW: ok

Me: The things that we do to hurt others and our world is called “sin.”

Me: Sin breaks our relationships with other people, with ourselves, with our world, and - most importantly - with God.

TW: ok

Me: God does not want us to miss out on who he is - all of his goodness.

Me: So Jesus - who is God the Son in human flesh - came to earth.

TW: ok

Me: He taught us how to live, he healed the sick, he fought the powers of darkness, and then - at the appointed time - he died on a cross.

Me: The Bible says that the wages of sin is death.

Me: That means that when we sin, we’ve earned death.

Me: But the gift of God is eternal life. God the Son takes our punishment for us.

Me: The debt for sin - which is death - is paid for in his death on the cross.

Me: God proved to us that the sin-debt was canceled by raising Jesus from the dead.

TW: ok

Me: Because of Jesus Christ, we can have peace with God.

TW: awsome

Me: When we have peace with God, we begin to change from the inside out.

Me: God restores all those relationships that we messed up with our sin.

Me: He makes us able to love him and know him, for the first time.

Me: He makes us able to really love other people - for who they are, rather than what they can do for us.

Me: Peace with God means we can have peace in ourselves, too.

TW: what makes you think I cant already love people for who they are?

Me: I didn’t say you couldn’t.

Me: Genesis - the first book of the Bible - tells about how God made the world.

Me: When God made humankind, the Bible says that he made us “in his image.”

Me: That is - there is something inside of us that resembles God.

TW: ok

Me: And when we are able to love God, we can love other people in a deeper sense because we understand that they carry the image of God in themselves.

TW: ok

Me: You’ll understand - hopefully - one day when you have children.

Me: I have four children, and when I look at them I see something of myself reflected back at me - yet with their own distinctiveness.

Me: And I love what I see - myself and my wife in them, as well as the unique person they are.

TW: sooo

TW: whats your name dude jw

Me: My name is Chris.

Me: Christopher, actually. It means: “Bearer of Christ” or someone who carries the message of Christ into the world.

Me: My mother named me well.

Me: Brent, let me just say that it is a real privilege for me to get to speak with you.

TW: thanks

TW: but why

Me: Why? Have you got your Bible?

Me: Or the Gospel of John?

TW: i know of an online bible

Me: Read this:

Me: It’s a privilege for me to share with you what little I know about how much God loves us in Jesus Christ.

TW: ok

Me: That link was to Jesus’ words.

Me: The sin in our lives keeps us from even being interested in learning about God.

Me: So when someone has can only be because God is already at work in their lives.

Me: God brings us to himself, draws us into his embrace.

Me: And it’s a real privilege for me to see how God is already calling out to you.

TW: i gotta go

Me: God bless you!

TW: later

Me: Keep reading that gospel of John

Keep going out into those information highways and byways, folks!

"May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Esoteric Presbyterianism

A certain minister in good standing with my presbytery has a church member who actively promulgates (in writing, lectures, etc.) the following doctrines:
  • The infinite and eternal Godhead manifests through a cascading hierarchy of divine entities, energies, and laws. The divine entities include the Solar and Planetary Logoi, Sanat Kumara, the archangels and angels, the Hierarchy of Masters, and ourselves. A cosmic entity of even greater power and consciousness than the Solar Logos is associated with the star groups: Ursa Major, Sirius, and the Pleides (sic; Pleiades, ed.).
  • At every level the divine force is expressed first through a triplicity and then a septenary. The triplicity is referred to in Christianity as the Trinity. The septenary consists of the seven rays. Together, the triplicity and septenary can be compared with the ten sephiroth of the Kaballah.
  • The Christ--the World Teacher--is the head of the Hierarchy of Masters and the embodiment of divine love on Earth. Two thousand years ago the Christ overshadowed the Master Jesus to create the "historic Christ."
  • The Hierarchy of Masters owes its origin to an impulse from the star Sirius, which forms the heart center of the cosmic entity mentioned above.
  • The great dramas of human history, such as the life of the Historical Christ, are part of a larger story that also includes the world's myths and legends.
I'm left shaking my head in wonder that a Presbyterian minister endorses this stuff without any mention that the whole idea of "emanations" from the "pleroma" of the Godhead is nothing more than a rehashing of the Gnostic heresy. (No news yet as to whether this guy is the new Sunday School Supervisor.)

I understand the fascination with mystical and esoteric thought. In fact, I did an independent study in Jewish Mysticism while an undergrad, and further work on Merkabah Mysticism in a class on Apocalyptic Literature in seminary. But to broadcast approvingly with no guidance as to where it crosses the line and steps outside of Biblical Christianity - especially on a blog that's part of one's teaching ministry - seems rather...incomplete.

Don't get me wrong. I like John as a person. We have a tremendous amount of stuff in common. He's a damn-decent human being. But that doesn't stop me from being critical of heresy - and this one is full of it.