Monthly Archives: December 2013

What causes insecurity?

One of the people whose way of practicing spirituality has helped shape my own spirituality, and has helped me deal with anxious emotional process is the late Anthony De Mello. He was a very radical Jesuit priest, whose view about life in general would make people consider him callous and insensitive. Sometime ago one of my friends (now late) came to visit me for the first time and was admiring my library. This friend asked my opinion on what type of books to read. So I selected couple of books that I felt would be a good read based on what I know of this friend.

I came back from work one day, and to my surprise this friend was reading one of Anthony De Mello’s books on the shelf, The Way To Love. I said to my friend you shouldn’t be reading that book, it might be a little too radical for you, and sure it was. “This guy is so insensitive and heartless, how can he even say those things about love, does that mean we don’t have to grieve for our loved ones when they decide to end the relationship…… ” my friend said angrily. I receive similar reactions from folks when they engage me in discussions relative to relationships or life in general.

I have been pondering on the word insecurity lately especially as we approach the new year and some people are making new year resolutions. I believe that everyone at a point in their lives experience insecurity of some sort. It could be about not having enough money in the bank; not having a job; not knowing what the future holds; not knowing if their spouse is seeing someone else (in that case just poke out their eyes, lol). It could also be about their level of education; physical appearance; health; and the lists go on.

So what is this insecurity? Well, Anthony De Mello views insecurity as an emotional turmoil within oneself. If this is the I case, I sure do have insecurity. Mine is not having a little girl. There is something about little girls within the ages of 5-7 that warms my heart. I thought that my first son was a going to be a girl to the point that even when the ultra sound report established that we were having a boy, I thought that the doctor must have made a mistake. I am sure there are other insecurities that I might I have but suffice to say that we all do have insecurities but of different magnitude.

I bet that if someone asks us what make us insecure, we may say things like, I don’t have the kind of education that I need; I don’t have the type of girlfriend, or boyfriend that I need, or something else. To put it in another way, we would point to some outside phenomenon not knowing that our insecurities are generated internally. Insecurity is caused by the emotional programming of oneself. Something that we tell ourselves in our heads. If we change our programs, our insecurities would disappear in blink of an eye. Some people are insecure because they don’t have money in the bank, others feel insecure even though they have millions in the bank. Some people are insecure because they have no friends or are single, others feel insecure even in best of relationships. How then can we deal with our insecurities? I will explore this in my next blog. If you are interested in this topic, please leave a comment after reading this blog.

2 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Care/ Counselling, Uncategorized

In my post about divorce and remarriage, I had stated that to remarry after divorce is adultery. That was an oversight. What I meant was that to remarry the same person after being divorced is comitting adultery.

Leave a comment

December 19, 2013 · 1:17 am

Is it acceptable for a Christian to divorce? If so, when? What about remarriage after divorce? If remarriage is permissible, are there any stipulations that must be satisfied?

One of the things we learn in the Pauline corpus is that several issues he addressed in them were things that arose in the church at that time. He did not set out to write a handbook of systematic theology, or manuals, instructing his audience on how to deal with issues arising within the church. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul deals with divisions among the church concerning the administration of the Eucharist.

The Lord’s Supper that was meant to be received in an orderly manner was being abused by the wealthy in the Corinthian Church. Paul deals with this situation and then gives a formula that is being used in many churches today. We also see a similar case later in chapter 15, where Paul deals with the issue of resurrection, Some brethren were dubious of the possibility of resurrection, considering that the physical body was considered to be inferior to the spiritual body; and a thing to be discarded. Paul tried to address in this  referenced chapter. And I could go on. In the same manner, Paul addresses the problem of divorce and remarriage, which arguably was a problem in the Corinthian church at the time of his writing.

Before we begin, I must emphasize that the Bible prohibits divorce. The Lord speaking through His mouth piece in Malachi 2: 16, declares that He hates divorce. But, even before then, He also declares in Genesis 2: 26-28, how marriage is a one flesh bond that cannot be broken. Both the Hebrew and Greek words used for the bonding of the man with his wife suggest inseparability. The Hebrew word “dabaq” utilized in Genesis 2 (to weld, to cleave), tends to have more force to it than the Greek kollao (to glue, to unite). Jesus in Matthew in 19, is reiterating what He had said in Genesis (if we agree that He was the one doing the creative activity in Genesis as is evidenced by Col. 2:14-16), that divorce can be allowed only on account of fornication porneia (Matthew 19:9).

So what we have on the subject of divorce are words of Jesus, Yahweh, and Paul. To guide us in understanding how this delicate issue can be handled, we must refer to what we have learned in NT survey, NT studies, and biblical hermeneutics (arts and science of biblical interpretation): looking at the historical background, culture, atmosphere, how the literature was understood, and then applying the principles to the present. One thing that stands out is that there are some modifications going on here. Yahweh says He hates divorce, Jesus allows it only on account of fornication, and Paul says it is okay if the unbelieving spouse seeks to divorce his believing spouse.

Is any of them undermining each other? By no means! When Paul was dealing with divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:18-16, he was quite clear that this was a direct command from the Lord (Mark 10:9; Matthew 19), unlike his suggestion and guidance respecting marriage and remarriage of widows earlier (1 Cor. 7: 1-9). Divorce was never intended by God for his people, and also not intended for His people today. From the time that man was created in God’s image there is something about this one flesh bond that reflects God’s image into the cosmos and back in reverence to God. A breaking of this one flesh bond will be dishonoring God, as well as the individual involved. I have witnessed divorce first hand, and I have spoken to numerous people who have. It is a heart wrenching experience.
However, Paul said that if a non Christian partner wanted to separate, the Christian partner should not resist. Paul modifies Jesus’ teachings in (Mark 10: 9), not to divorce; but is not by any means undermining Jesus’ teachings, as Jesus in no way undermines Malachi 2: 16; but has applied them in detail to a new situation that Jesus never faced. It is left for us today to decipher what constitutes fornication. Looking the usage of adultery moichao (adultery) and porneia (fornication) in the gospel by Jesus, it does seem that these words are used interchangeably for unchastity or immorality. The traditional interpretation that adultery is sexual sin between married couple outside of marriage, or a married person with unmarried person; and fornication as sexual sin before marriage is misleading.

This is because Jesus singles out “fornication,” which is a sexual sin against one flesh bond as the only grounds allowable for divorce (Matthew 19:9). I will argue then, that an act does not only have to be sexual to constitute fornication. In line with Dr. Gordon Hugenberger, one of the people that shaped my theological thought, I am arguing that fornication includes willful desertion, as well as adultery. This also includes any act that repudiates the marriage vows. The present day church who live in many different situations that was never contemplated by either Jesus, Malachi, or Paul need wisdom, humility and Holy Spirit’s guidance to apply their teaching afresh in their own time. My answer is yes. It is acceptable for a Christian to divorce.

 

Obviously, God hates divorce. Jesus told the Pharisees (Matthew 19:3-12) that God’s original plan was for a man and woman to be joined in marriage and made one flesh through the act of sex. No man is to be able to separate that bond. Even if the man and woman do divorce, they are still joined together because their flesh is joined. In the Old Testament, divorce is defined in two ways: 1) to send away and 2) a cutting, as in severing a tie. When Jesus refers to divorce it is defined as to send away, as in being fired or let go. When reading about divorce in the Old Testament, it’s almost as if the man can leave if he’s unhappy with his wife and her performance (Deut. 24:1). Jesus gives no such stipulations, only to say that to remarry the same person after a divorce is to commit adultery. 

I hope that you are blessed reading this blog.

Fr. Jacobs

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

POST MODERNISM: OPPORTUNITY OR PERIL?

This topic is a very fascinating one for me in the sense that it opens up areas which in my opinion many Christians including graduate students are less enthused to interact. The world is not stagnant. It is constantly evolving. What is relevant today may not be the case in the next decade. Before Modernism was the Pre-modernism era, which viewed meaning in the lens of authority. In this era meaning was monopolized by authority, the Roman Catholic Church being an example. The populace were dominated, or in other words possessed by tradition. 
 
Overtime, a movement arose in opposition to this monopolized meaning by authority and this led to the emergence of Modernism in the 1800s or so, depending on who you read. This “new kid on the block” (modernism) brought in industrialism, progress, literature, music, arts, and prosperity. This era also saw human reason, human ingenuity, and human authority at a high pinnacle. But because the human mind is insatiable with the quest for discoveries, exploration; always desiring to push the limit, people now started to move away from Modernist concept of reality, and began to question the certainty of things, hence Postmodernism. 
 
In my opinion, Post modernism is not that awful. It is a movement that builds upon modernism, but tries to move away from the strict rationalistic approach of modernism. Post modernism heralds subjectivity relative to morality, social constructions, political movements, arts, and relativism. My big dilemma with post modernism are 1.) Its insistence that humans lack the ability to know things for certain. 2.) Its undermining of the construction of language by insinuating that words can be interpreted differently owing to the fluidity of language, and 3.) Its innuendo that the bible written in the ancient language is open to various interpretation of equal validity. To the postmodern mindset, nothing is truly knowable. They argue that because nothing is truly knowable, the foundation for truth, (which for Christians is the Bible and God’s revelation), both moral and spiritual are dubious and open to interpretation and reexamination. 
 
However, having said all these, I strongly believe that Post modernism presents Christians especially graduate students and anyone committed to Biblical truths a great opportunity to share the gospel, but within a new paradigm. Evangelism within the Post modern context requires a paradigm shift from pre-modernism and modernism approach. Here is why. A study conducted by The Barna Group (a very reputable research group) in 2007 stated that many people in America lack a basic understanding of biblical principles owing to their naturalistic worldview. These people according to Barna, tend to perceive  and interpret  the world in light of natural principles, combined with relativism with regards to morals and truth. Because of post modernism rejection of the biblical absolutes, we have to device innovative ways of preaching the gospel to them. The emerging church is trying to do that by way of consumerism, which I am not opposed to the extent that it does compromise God’s holy writ. 
 
I have in some occasions shared the gospel with people with postmodern concept. I first of all acknowledge that we are all children of God made in His image regardless of whether we believe in His existence or not. I try to explore why they believe what they believe. Often times, they leave with a different view of God than they did before our conversation.Our problem is that because we know we that have the truth and the absolute, we get into to the “it’s my way or the high way mode.” This results in eliminating any common ground for dialogue. The paradigm shift I referenced earlier is accepting the persons, exploring with them their live journeys, and what gives them meaning. Once we gain their trust, it becomes more easier to share our faith with them. It has worked well for me. 
 
We can be sensitive by being humble and intentional about how we interact with individuals with post modern mindset. I am not a big fan of apologetics because it tends to win arguments. Accepting people the way they are, letting them know that you care about them, and not bombarding them with scriptures prematurely are ways we could be sensitive to them. 

1 Comment

December 17, 2013 · 7:51 am

All Roads do not lead to God: Salvation belongs to God!

Salvation belongs to God!

One of my professional careers brings me in contact with clients of all faith traditions, and also with those who claim they have no religion or affiliation with any faith tradition. One of the things that amaze me when I am providing care to these clients is the surprised look in their faces when I mention that salvation belongs to God and not to any institutionalized religion including Christianity. I could sense the consternation in their faces because they know that I am a Christian, and also an ordained clergy. In Revelation 7:10, we learn that salvation belongs to God who sits upon the throne…. “They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

If you have been involved evangelism, you must have come across people with statements like these, “ How can Christianity be the only way to salvation, when in fact there are very devoted, and loving people in other faith traditions like, Moslems, Buddhism, New Age movements, and Catholics? (It is interesting that many people including some Catholics don’t consider Catholics as Christians).

It is not strange that there are many people who consider themselves as Christians including ordained Christian ministers that believe that all roads lead to God. In other words, that salvation could be found in religious traditions. One of the banes of my life relative to some who profess Christianity is the inconsistency in their beliefs and how they approach the Bible. These Christians will disregard what the Bible teaches about certain issues when it contradicts a position they hold but will use the same scripture is if aligns with what they teach or promote.

My first taste of this was in College. It was during the Bush and Gore Presidential election. Many of my colleagues were vehemently opposed to Bush, whom I admire strongly. These colleagues of mine went as far as saying that Bush is not a Christian. They said that he was using Christianity to his own political advantage. Now, this is a man who has publicly expressed his conversion experience and insisted that it was that encounter that changed him, otherwise he wouldn’t be alive. What was even more frustrating and confusing for me about my colleagues’ insinuation that Bush is not a Christian was that Bush’s testimony of conversion was similar to the type of experiences of some of them before they came to the Lord. I just could not reconcile how it could be true for them and not someone else.

The current President of the United States is another example of our inconsistency in our articulation of the Scriptures. This is a man who spent over a decade attending a Christian Church. As soon as he starts running for presidency, some so called Christians came up with the notion that he is a Moslem as if this nation has to be ruled by a Christian President to be effective. All these religious institutions including Christianity convince themselves that their tradition is the way to salvation/to God. How then can this the case if in Rev 7: 10 we learn that salvation belongs to God?

This is how it reads in the Greek, H swthri,a tw/| qew/| h`mw/n – the salvation the God of him, which is just a way of stating possession in Greek and some other languages as well. Salvation is God’s property, how then can it found in religious institutions? Part of our confusion is that we tend to think that salvation is a New Testament concept. The question to ask is: what are we saved from? When it comes to salvation, regardless of religious/faith tradition God is always the subject.

The book of Psalms is replete with passages describing the Psalmist’s rescue from combined physical and spiritual danger, animosity, and assault of the enemy. The same Bible also makes us to know that God’s saving act includes the whole human life, and all his creation. The Hebrews knew about the seriousness of sin and were also aware that God’s unmerited favor (hessed) could cleanse them; and tried to mitigate this through the sacrificial system. Ultimately, it was God who finally saves them from their sins.

Paul also talks about being rescued from physical and spiritual dangers during his missionary endeavors but God was always the subject. God also saves us from ill health and ordinary earthly suffering. The biblical writers as well as people in the health field are well aware that symptoms of diseases are manifestation of deeper disorder. The salvation that God gives not only diagnoses the symptom of the disease, but also seeks to find the root of the problem. Finding the root of the problem and eradicating is the good news (salvation).

God promises in Rev 21:4 (echoing Isa. 20) of how death, the shroud that covers all men will be destroyed. This is a promise of hope to come from Israel’s God not from any other god. The gospel reveals of how Israel longed for God to come and do something about the problem of evil and sin. Some of the them soon realized that the God of Israel was bringing in a new rule that will destroy the power of sin over Israel first, and over all people because the promise of salvation from sin and death has been made to all people. This era will then see the ultimate shalom which is to be ushered in through the person of Christ.

Through God’s son Jesus, God would finally atone for sin, for He himself is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. This then means, that for there to be a final salvation there must be a final solution to sin. Matthew 3:6, identifies Jesus to be the one “who takes away the sins of the world.” Since the whole world is condemned as a result of sin, we must accept God’s salvation, and this salvation is made available through Jesus.

God also declares that by the merits of the passion and death of Christ, His salvation could only be found through Jesus. God chose Jesus to be the only instrument of salvation and not any religion or faith tradition. Those who accept this offer of God’s salvation are called Christ-like- Christians? God is the one who saves, and He chose to do His saving work through His son Jesus. The question is, since salvation is God’s property, does He reserve the right to choose the instrument through which it could be made available to all His creation?

God’s Best wishes in this Advent season. Remember, you have to be a part of the first Advent to participate in the second advent!

2 Comments

Filed under Christian Thoughts