Saturday, July 30, 2011

God the Father is also God the Mother?

In the name of political correctness (or gender equality), there are those who push that either we also call God the Mother, not just God the Father, or go for the generic God the Parent. They even accuse the Bible especially the Old Testament of chauvinism or biased towards male persons.

In his insightful “Discovering God as Father,” Rev. Dr. Narry Santos clarified, “‘Mother’ is never used in the Bible as a name for God. On the other hand, ‘Father’ is used in Scriptures as a metaphorical [figurative] name. Because the name ‘Father’ is metaphorical and not literal, it does not speak literally of God’s having a male or masculine nature. However, because ‘Father’ is a name and not merely a metaphor, it is not interchangeable with ‘Mother.’ Thus, there is no need for God the Mother.” (Jeremiah’s Dilemma Quarterly, Issue 3, August 2011)

I’m afraid that reason why there are attempts to “de-father” God is due to abusive or absentee fathers. Sadly, there are people who refuse the fatherhood of God because there are those who failed to live up to the Biblical role of fatherhood and manhood. I remember the story of a 7-year old boy who asked his pastor point-blank, “What is God like?” The pastor blurted out, “He is like your father.” The boy recoiled in fear, “Then, I don’t want to know God!” That’s the challenge of being a father. Even before they are old enough to read the Bible, our children already grasp their idea of who God is as a Father through our works and not just our words.

For example, Psalm 103:13 give us this analogy: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (ESV) This comparison would not make sense to our kids if we were not compassionate ourselves. Some of us may have grown up with less than ideal fathers. But that need not hinder us from becoming the fathers that God called us to become. We can only impart that which we experienced personally. That’s why Dr. Santos exhorts us fathers, “Let’s remember God’s gentleness, compassion, and intimacy as a faithful lover, forgiver of sins, and close friend, who always shows unconditional delight and unfailing commitment… We need to become like our heavenly Father… We need to be fatherly with those who are under our care… Like our father, let’s be willing to be our family’s protector, provider, and teacher, who affirms our loving nearness through undying (and sometimes tough) love…” (Ibid)

Brethren, enjoy the fatherhood of God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Redeemer on a Receipt?



Some time ago, Yahoo!’s Odd News featured an alleged image of Christ mysteriously appearing on a Wal-Mart receipt: “[In] his most recent appearance, Jesus is showing that even the son of the Big Man has economic issues on the brain… Jacob Simmons and Gentry Lee Sutherland had just returned home from church (interesting connection, no?), and found what looked like the face of Christ BURNED into the receipt.”

Yet, depending on who’s looking at the image, opinions vary whether it looks like Jesus or Charles Manson or Bin laden. One comment reads, “Kinda creepy. Why does everyone assume it’s always Jesus?” Noting that heat can create that image on a receipt, Odd News lead anchor Greg Proops quipped, “Ironic that heat can create a picture of someone dedicated to keeping people away from warm places… The retail giant offers a lot of coupons and many consider Jesus [as] the ultimate redeemer.” (Ibid) 

Diana Duyser with her "miraculous" cheese sandwich. Image source: http://www.smh.com.au/
Many years ago, after taking a bite off a grilled cheese sandwich, Diana Duyser “saw a face staring back at her… She said the sandwich has never sprouted a spore of mold.” (Associated Press) The 10-year old stale bread with a supposed image of the Virgin Mary made a lot of bread for Duyser after she sold it for US$28K on eBay. An online casino placed the winning bid and “planned to use the sandwich to raise money for charity.” (Ibid) 

Image source: SunSentinel

Relics prove that people want to walk by sight and not by faith. Another comment on the supposed “holy receipt” goes like this, “It’s sad that people are so desperate for something to fill their lives that they see whatever they wish to see in everything from tree trunks to frog skins to receipts.”

But true faith rests on God’s revelation, not on relics. After showing convincing proofs that He indeed rose from the dead, our Lord Jesus told Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, ESV) After recounting how he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus and heard the voice of God the Father, Peter wrote, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (1 Peter 1:19, ESV). The Scripture is surer than anything else. We don’t need to run after relics. We can rely on His Word. God’s Word is sufficient for faith and life “for we walk by faith, not by sight.”(2 Corinthians 5:7)

My take? Focus on the revealed Word, not on any relics.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Atheist Churchgoer

Vyckie confessed to feeling slightly guilty for she already missed going to church for four straight Sundays. But she is not your typical, active churchgoer. She is an atheist. She “deconverted” years ago because of, in her own words, “the Bible and Christian doctrine which I finally recognized as ridiculous and even abusive.”(Source: exchristian.net)

She clarified though that she is only criticizing the faith and not the faithful. “So when I write or speak about the evils of Christian fundamentalism and biblical literalism, I’m talking about words, ideas, beliefs, thoughts which affect and influence the flesh-and-blood people who listen to these abstractions and take them to heart… I didn’t leave Christianity because of any failure of the people. For the most part, I found the Christians I knew to be sincere, generous and supportive.” (Ibid) So, even if she loathes Christianity, she loves being with her Christian friends. “I’m still going to church because that’s where my social life is (mostly). I love the people there… They see me, they know me – I am a real person – same as them” (ibid). I really appreciate how her church accepted her for who she is (or, is not). Thus, though she denounces the teachings, Vyckie wrote that she can’t deny that “remaining in close contact with practicing Christians helps me to remember that they do what they’re doing for all the same reasons that used to motivate me too: a sincere heart and genuine desire to love the Lord and to love their neighbors. This keeps me from building up a caricature of ‘Christian people’ in my own mind whom I must fight against and expose as deluded and hypocritical.” (Ibid)

Vyckie’s experience underscores the truth behind this saying: “People do not care how much we know unless they know how much we care.” And we are to care for people even when they don’t care about what we know. The early church was known for “having favor with all the people.” (Acts 2:47, ESV) It is also noted that, though they were afraid to join the church, “the people held them in high esteem” (5:13). The people respected the church because they were real. We are not called to impress people but to express the love of God to them. “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6, GNT)

Brethren, love to express, not to impress.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Faith Angles (Part 3)

When CNN’s Belief Blog (which focuses on the “faith angles” of news) marked its first year, its religion editor Dan Gilgoff posted the 10 things the Belief Blog learned in its first year article. The first thing Gilgoff saw was that, “Every big news story has a faith angle.” (I already discussed it in the first two parts of “Faith Angles”) The second thing that he noted was that, “Atheists are the most fervent commenters on matters religious.” They would pour out “an avalanche of alternately humorous and outraged atheist responses on virtually everything the Belief Blog publishes. They’re more evidence that atheists are coming out of the closet to trumpet their disbelief, argue with the faithful and evangelize their godlessness.

They are so aggressive that they put up ads that promote atheism such as “God-LESS America” (which is a play of “God Bless America”) and “Atheism is patriotic.” In fact, there’s an indie film, The Ledge,” that will be screened in New York and Los Angeles a few days from now that openly advocates atheism. Written and directed by an “outspoken atheist,” Matthew Chapman, the plot is about “religion, love and revenge that pits a conservative Christian husband against an atheist who has seduced the religious man’s Christian wife… it’s Hollywood’s first offering to feature an openly atheist hero in a story about religious conflict.” Chapman declared that he came up with the movie “to help create a more positive image for atheism, which he says is often misunderstood and maligned, for audiences who may otherwise not be exposed to it.”

Now, I wonder why we believers are not as fervent as the atheists in trumpeting our belief, arguing with the faithless and evangelizing our godliness?
While the atheists are coming out of the closet, we Christians seem to be retreating into our comfort zone. We hide into our closet when we focus more on what we can get rather than what we can give, when we delight ourselves rather than deny ourselves. Just look at the latest Christian bestsellers. It appears we want to talk more about “me, myself and mine” such as“becoming a better you” or “improving your life” instead of reaching the real world out there. By doing so, we could lose this belief (yes, unbelief is actually a belief also) battle by default. We are called to “fight with everything [we] have in [us] for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.” (Jude 3, The Message)

Brethren, let us be more outspoken about our faith.