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Dogma: an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behaviour; a settled or established opinion, belief or principle.

–Dictionary.com

This word has taken on a negative context in our culture, suggesting narrow-minded inflexibility that many people insist is simply wrong.

Now, read this meme (posted in an atheist Internet community) again. Doesn’t it sound a little…dogmatic? Consider the points it makes:

“Dogmatic” people lack freedom. Well, freedom to do what? I’m a Christian, which means I believe Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God and I do my best to live my life according to His principles.

What freedom does Lindsey believe I lack? Can I not think the world is a beautiful place? Of course I can. And I do.

Does this mean I’m going to walk around with rose-coloured glasses and ignore the many, many human-caused problems that plague this planet? Absolutely not. That would be delusional. So should I wonder if Lindsey is deluding herself?

“Dogmatic” people’s vision is clouded and close-minded. Really? Yet another dogmatic assertion. My vision is clear enough to see the world is beautiful AND horribly messed up. One of the reasons I’m a Christian is I believe faith in Jesus Christ is the starting point to fixing that mess.

As for the apparent horror of being “close-minded”, should my brain simply drift like an aimless amoeba for all time? Is that what Lindsey’s mind is doing?

I like what famed British writer and thinker G. K. Chesterton wrote about being open-minded: “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

I shut my mind on something solid when I decided to trust the evidence and believe that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ paid the price for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do (a price I could NEVER pay on my own). By doing this, the Bible — which serious Christians believe is inspired by God from start to finish — says I’ll “not be lost but have eternal life” (that’s in a section simply called ‘John’).

What Christ did is a gift that’s offered to everyone, including Lindsey. Including YOU. If you accept that gift, a section of the Bible called ‘Galations’ says you’ll have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness [and] faithfulness”.

This won’t happen overnight. But if you say ‘yes’ to faith in Jesus, a life-long construction project will begin. And it won’t end until this life ends and you spend eternity with your creator.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Oh boy; there’s a lot of fabulous content in this anti-Christian atheist meme. So let’s get started.

1. Brainwashing: Is there brainwashing in Christianity? Sadly, yes. I’m sure if you search long enough, you’ll find some parents who, in effect, brainwash their children to ensure they grow up without ever, ever questioning their Christian beliefs.

Gee, wouldn’t that also apply to parents in other faiths, as well as atheist parents? YES.  In fact, whether Matthew Laramore likes it or not, all of us — including him — are brainwashed in some way. To deny that is to ignore reality.

2. Has the history of Christianity been marked by violence? Unfortunately, yes. People who are opposed to this faith often bring up the Crusades (a series of violent wars, in the 1100s and 1200s, aiming at retaking the Middle East from Islamic rule).

What most critics ignore, however, is at least some of the Crusade campaigns were a response to large-scale violence instigated by Muslim forces against Christians. Investigate for yourself, if you don’t believe me.

Either way, except for the occasional lone-wolf lunatic, Christianity left violence behind many centuries ago. I thank God that followers of Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God) understand that love, not violence, is the way to tell the world about Him.

3. The whole “wearing a half-naked dead man nailed against a crucifix” thing has nothing to do with promoting Christianity as non-violent.

It wasn’t Christians who nailed Jesus Christ to a cross; it was soldiers of the Roman Empire, acting on the orders of their leaders. Those leaders were responding to pressure from religious authorities, who believed Jesus was a threat to their power and the religious laws they forced on people. They were right.

This leads to a wonderful truth: Jesus Christ came to free us from brainwashing, from violence and from religious laws.

Looking for evidence? Consider these passages from the Bible:

Give the Lord a chance to show you how good he is. (From a section called ‘Psalms)
In other words, don’t be brainwashed; check out God for yourself.

Don’t fight back against someone who wants to do harm to you. If they hit you on the right cheek, let them hit the other cheek too. (from ‘Matthew’, one of the four accounts of Jesus’s physical time on earth).
In other words, don’t resort to violence, even if someone is violent against you.

Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. (Also from ‘Matthew’.)
In other words, it’s not about “religion”. It’s about a relationship with the Son of God that can start now and stretch into all eternity.

Consider all this carefully. Jesus is about good news, not about anything advanced by Matthew Laramore. Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

JesusThe basis of Christianity is a transformed life, now and for all eternity, through faith in Jesus Christ. So this graphic, posted on an atheism Internet community, brings up a very good point.

Did the millions of people who lived and died before Jesus was physically on this earth, about 2,000 years ago, have any chance of going to Heaven? Maybe that’s a question that’s occurred to people like you, who are open to spirituality.

The Bible, which serious Christians believe is the inspired word of God, does not provide an absolutely clear answer – as I’ve discovered while researching the question.

Depending on which website you visit, there are long essays that quote various parts of the Bible to make this or that point. I gotta admit, reading some of this stuff made my eyes glaze over.

But in the end, each website came to the same conclusion: people were granted admission into Heaven, where they will spend eternity with their creator, through faith. Not in themselves. Not in their ability to live good lives, to be kind to others and/or to attend church regularly.

They went to Heaven based on faith only in God. A section of the Bible called ‘Romans’ explains how this faith thing worked in the life of Abraham, who (1) lived and died thousands of years before the arrival of Jesus, and (2) is often considered the common denominator in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths:

If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.

What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.’

A section of the Bible called ‘Hebrews’ (written after Christ’s physical time on earth ended) mentions a number of other faith-filled people who were prominent in the centuries before Jesus arrived.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world.

People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted.

But they were after a far better country than that—Heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City [a place in Heaven] waiting for them.

I think it’s pretty plain, from these Bible excerpts, that the atheist who created the meme that inspired this blog didn’t bother to research the character and principles of God before asking the question.

So what’s YOUR viewpoint? If you believe there’s a glorious life after this one, how do you think you’ll get in on it? By just being a “good person”? (If that’s where you stand, who defines “good” and how good is good enough?)

What about faith in Jesus Christ? Does it make sense to you? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

challenging-beliefs-2-17One of my favourite activities is lining up in solidarity with atheists. It was an atheist who put this graphic on the Internet and I found myself so strongly in agreement that I downloaded it to use on Frank’s Cottage.

As far as I’m concerned, every honest and thinking person MUST challenge their beliefs. Like a jeweller checking a diamond’s purity, they MUST hold them up to the hard light of critical examination.

That’s what I did for a long time. I investigated the claims of Christianity and weighed them against what I knew about others faiths (including atheism).

I read books, thought hard about the reality of this world, and debated concepts with brave, knowledgeable Christians. Finally, at age 42, I decided to follow Jesus Christ (whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God).

Through this process, I escaped the prison of blindly accepting the dogma of our culture, which insists that we:

  • Buy the newest iPhone
  • Save for cruise ship vacations
  • Obsess over which celebrities are feuding on Twitter
  • Never, EVER consider the big questions of existence

So, to quote the graphic that started this blog, are you your own most effective prison warden? Or are you brave enough to wonder if a promotion, a new car and a bigger flat-screen TV will really boost your happiness?

If you’re at that place in life — and if you’ve read this far, I’m gonna assume you are — then consider these claims:

  1. There IS a creator, a perfect creator, and this creator knows everything about you.
  2. This creator wants to connect with you on the deepest level possible, but the wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do have erected a Berlin Wall between you and Him.
  3. That wall is so tall and thick that nothing YOU ever do will ever break it down.
  4. So God, your creator, did the hard work for you — sending His perfect Son to this earth to show us how to live right and, finally, to die as a sacrifice. That sacrifice will destroy that wall for everyone who believes in the Son and follows Him. And I mean EVERYONE.

Why, you might ask, is this horrible sacrifice needed to break down the wall? Because what Christians call “sin” is serious business for a perfect creator. Far, far more serious than our culture will ever admit.

How do I know this? A section of Bible called ‘Romans’ says “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

If you come to the place of understanding this, then you will also understand just how glorious the gift of Jesus is. Are you willing to accept that gift? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

crisis of faith atheismI can’t speak for any faith but my own (Christianity), but I can tell you that most Christians have experienced at least one crisis of faith in their lives. And that includes me.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, to the atheist who posted this graphic online or to anyone else. Christians live in a world surrounded by people who often don’t even believe in a creator, much less the God of the Bible.

That means Christians are constantly exposed to family members, friends, work colleagues, social media, TV shows and more that have a very, very different and often incompatible worldview.

At times, Jesus followers can feel like freaks in a culture that insists power, fame, money, vacations, a trophy spouse, gigantic flat-screen TVs and the very latest iPhones are what we should be pursuing.

Is there a God? Does He care about us humans? Is there anything beyond this life? Are there really standards of right and wrong that don’t change with every shift of the wind? Who cares! Worship your family, get more stuff and plan your next vacation. Somehow everything will all work out, right? Right?

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see that Christians are under a lot of pressure to give up their faith and follow the crowd.

I showed this graphic/meme to Ross Carkner, my thoughtful pastor friend. He agreed with the atheist who posted the meme in that a faith crisis is not about God testing us. He continues:

To my understanding, a crisis of faith is an inability to see the hand of God guiding us through the challenges of life. When we lose sight of God with the eyes of faith, then we become familiar with words like abandonment or betrayal.

So a crisis can take root in thoughts like, “my faith is weak” or “my faith is not big enough”. It may even extend to thinking that this whole God thing doesn’t work.

But faith is not about size, or perhaps even quality. Faith is about believing that God is present, working and guiding us, even when life circumstances seem to be blinding and confusing.

So, what is this “truth” that the graphic meme mentions? Is it the mantra that our culture peddles? Or is it something deeper, more profound and more important?

Let me advance this for your consideration:

  1. There is a creator who is absolutely perfect and, in many ways, beyond our ability to comprehend.
  2. This creator absolutely loves YOU and wants a relationship with YOU that begins in this life and extends into eternity.
  3. The wrong things you’ve done and right things you’ve failed to do don’t change that love, but they do put up a wall between you and your creator.
  4. No matter how hard you try, you can’t scale that wall or knock it down.
  5. In the end, you don’t have to do anything about that wall. Your creator did something about it through Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the perfect Son of God.
  6. Jesus died on a cross for all wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. Accept what He did, believe in Him, follow Him and the wall is GONE. Forever.

Sound interesting? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Bill HicksWhat would Bill Hicks think if he knew his words were still having an impact more than 20 years after his death?

The American comedian and social critic (1961-1994) wasn’t an atheist but, as you can read in this graphic meme (found in an atheist Internet community), he was no fan of his Christian upbringing.

But did Bill get it right? Is this an accurate depiction of God, as serious Christians understand Him? Or is it a simplistic way to avoid a life of faith?

Let me spell out some facts about the God of the Bible, then you can make up your own mind.

1. God is the creator of time, space, the universe and YOU. You say your parents, not God, made you? Certainly. But what – or who – gave them and all humans the ability to reproduce?

2. Yes, God’s love is infinite. To start with, there are lots of sections of the Bible that explain this. Here is one, from a section called ‘1 John1: “God is love. Everyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in them.” Another quote from the same section: “We should love each other, because love comes from God.”

3. God is perfect. A section of the Bible, called, ‘Matthew’, puts it this simply: “your Father in heaven is perfect”.
Do I understand how this can be so in a world that has childhood cancer and dementia? Certainly not. But I’ve read so much from people who rage against God for these things; it all strikes me as a depressing waste of time and energy.
Far better, I’ve found, is to acknowledge that God is God and I am NOT and there is much that I’ll never understand until this life is finished.

4. As the creator of this world and everyone in it, God has the right to hold all of us to account for how we live our lives. He is the sole judge.

5. On our own, we will never, ever be able to explain away all the wrong things we’ve done and all the right things we’ve failed to do.

6. God knows we can’t meet His standards. But rather than drop His standards, He found a better way: send His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to this world. Jesus taught us the ways of God and the ways of true love for God, for ourselves and for others.
Finally, Jesus paid the penalty for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do by dying on a cross.

7. Here’s the crux of the matter. One of the most famous quotes from the Bible, in a section called ‘John’, says “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.”
Notice that it says ‘whoever believes in him’? If you believe in Jesus and trust in what He did for YOU, then God no longer sees the wrong things you’ve done and the right things you’ve failed to do. He only sees His Son’s perfection.

8. If you don’t trust in and believe in Jesus, then when this life ends, you have to sufficiently explain yourself before God. If you can’t pull that off (and trust me, you CAN’T), then you face eternity separated from God. I guess that’s the “eternal suffering” part of Bill Hicks’ quote.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

Religion badWhy did I save this graphic after first seeing it in an atheist community? Because I can do better.

Yes, “religion” offers false hope for the poor. Yes, “religion” offers pretend wisdom for the stupid.

But it also offers opportunities to be judgemental. Hard-hearted. Unforgiving. Obsessed with keeping irrelevant rules. Unloving of anyone outside the “religious” group.

Had enough? I certainly have. That’s why I’ll always stand up, with any member of the atheist world, and declare that “religion” is downright horrible.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: the “religion” I’m referring to is what most of our culture generally thinks of when they hear the word. NOT the dictionary definition.

Let me move you on to something far more life-affirming, soul-enhancing and character-building: faith. In this case, faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the divine Son of God.

Jesus had as much interest in “religion” as you, me and the creator of the meme that inspired this blog. In other words, ZERO.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus spent much of his time opposing the dominant religious authorities in ancient Israel. In ‘Matthew’, one of the four Bible accounts of Jesus’ physical life, he notes “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”.

Yep. Nailed it.

So what about faith – in this case, faith in Jesus? Now we’re talking about something entirely different. We’re talking about:

  • Understanding who God is – the perfect and mysterious creator of time, space and the universe.
  • Understanding who we are – horribly imperfect people who can never live up to God’s standard of perfection.
  • Understanding who Jesus is – God’s absolutely perfect love GIFT to everyone who is willing to believe in Him and follow Him above everyone and everything else.

When you understand this and accept the gift of Jesus, you also understand that you no longer have to live up to God’s standard of perfection because Jesus paid the penalty for everything wrong you’ve ever done and everything right you’ve ever failed to do.

Finally, when you understand all this, you’ll want to become more like Jesus. You’ll want to be more generous and less selfish, more compassionate and less judgemental, more concerned about others and less preoccupied with yourself.

This is all part of the miracle that happens when you cast aside the priorities of our culture and make Jesus your priority. It’s a life-long process of change and growth that doesn’t end until you’re finished with this life and start your next life – eternity in the transforming, glorious presence of your Creator.

Interested? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.