Friday, November 30, 2007

What is Love - PAX 217

This is one of my favorite Christian rock songs. I don't like the video that much--it's a fan vid, not the band's--but it'll serve to introduce people to the song.

The lyrics to "What Is Love?" aren't overtly Christian. Some might even consider them unChristian with their expressions of anger and veiled threats of revenge, but that's what I like about the song. It's not the sappy God-will-make-everything-alright-I'm-too-holy-to-get-mad junk all too typical of Christian music. This isn't typical Christian music. Hope you enjoy something refreshingly different.

Benny Hinn:

When I first saw this video on a forum I post to I nearly died with laughter. All those people looked like they'd been afflicted with the spirit of epilepsy. And Hinn appeared well schooled in the fine art of Las Vegas showmanship. But when you think about it Benny Hinn and his ilk aren't funny at all.

I know God is all-powerful. I know He can heal. But stage shows like the ones Hinn puts on are, in my opinion, an insult to God. They are an act of taking God's name in vain.

I don't see how Hinn sleeps at night. He must not really believe in God, otherwise he'd be in fear for his life. God doesn't play with people preaching and doing falsehoods in His name. And beleive me, what Hinn is doing and preaching is false.

Really, do you think God only heals at circuslike extravaganzas such as Hinn's? Do you believe you have to put on show equal to anything put on in Las Vegas to get the Lord's attention? NO!!!

God hears the prayers of His children, of hurting humanity, much better in the quiet valley of faithful persistence. A stage show isn't necessary.

God isn't a trained seal. He doesn't perform on cue, yet that's exactly what Hinn's shows depend on. Come to the stadium at 7 o'clock tonight and experience the power of God!! I don't think so. And sadly, Hinn's got a lot of company. Even respectable tv preachers sometimes act like they've got God on a string.

Pat Robertson is one of them. His show, The 700 Club, is very informative and grounded, but there's a segment called "the word of knowledge" that's always disturbed me. During this part of the show Pat and his co-host claim to receive knowledge from God about people being healed.

As I said above, I know God can heal, but at the same moment, on the same show, day after day? I mean, does Robertson have a contract with God requiring Him to show up on his show at the same time every day?

I've always felt insulted that Robertson seems to think no one in his audience knows this "word of knowledge" stuff is staged. Yes, it's much more subdued than Hinn's circus acts, but it's just as choreographed.

Why don't people stop doing this stuff? Don't they know they're only hurting the cause of Christ? Of course, if they aren't really believers the cause of Christ is meaningless to them. They just want the money and the adulation. Well, I hope they enjoy it because this is the only reward they'll get. Their souls are going to hit something far worse than the floor.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

God and Mammon

I just heard last night that six televangelists are being investigated for possible financial shenanigans. The evangelists are Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyers, Benny Hinn, Eddie L. Long, and a married couple surnamed White (sorry, I can't remember their first names). I have mixed feelings about this.

Our modern society is schizophrenic about wealth. We have a love/hate relationship with money and those who have more of it than we do. Entertainers and sports figures are generally worshipped for their money. They're presumed to have done something to deserve it. Wealthy businessmen and preachers, on the other hand, are held in contempt. They're presumed to have done something unethical to get their riches. This is neither fair nor rational. I hope the above mentioned televangelists weren't targeted for investigation based on this double standard.

But it's not only society that's double minded about wealth, the Church is too and has been from the beginning. Over the centuries there've been ascestics who shunned all material comfort and Popes who lived in the lap of luxury. Mother Teresa lived her life in self-imposed poverty while nondenominational preachers invented the "name it and claim it" doctrine that supposedly ensure their followers material success. And no matter how rich or poor individual Chrisitians were the Church as an institution as always been tremendously wealthy.

So how should Christians feel about wealth? I think it's simplistic to use Jesus' famous saying about a camel, a rich man, and the eye of a needle to build a doctrine about wealth. Many Christians do this, apparently thinking that one verse is the beginning and end on what the Bible says about wealth, but it's not. We tend to forget that Jesus didn't have a New Testament. For Him, the Old Testament was the entire Bible. That means that nothing Jesus taught could contradict what was in the OT. What does that have to with doctrines about wealth? Plenty.

In the OT there were many rich people who served God. Abraham was rich. His nephew Lot was rich. Jacob started out modest but ended a wealthy man. The same was true of King David. Solomon, David's son, was incredibly wealthy. Job was given riches by God not once but twice. What all of this means is that God doesn't have a problem with people being rich. There is no teaching in the OT that wealth is intrinsically bad. Jesus' camel, rich man, and needle saying has to be seen in that light.

Jesus was actually talking about faith, not money, in His saying. He was warning His listeners against putting their trust in money instead of God. He was warning them against idolatry. Rich people are more susceptible to idolizing money for obvious reasons, but the poor can also make a god out of wealth. Poor people can spend their entire lives yearning for money rather than God. They can commit crimes to get money, just like the rich. The idea, popular among liberal Christians, that the poor are inherently saintly is erroneous.

Equally wrong is the popular conservative idea that God wants Christians to prosper. Now I believe that God always wants the best for His children, but the "best" isn't always material abundance. We all like to think that if we were rich we'd be wonderfully generous and retain our faith in the Lord. God knows us better. He withholds wealth from many of us for our own good. God will provide our necessities but there's no guarantee we'll get more than that. That's why Paul taught Christians to be content with what they had.

How Christians should view wealth can be confusing. Part of the confusion can be cleared up by simply following the Bible instead of certain preachers. There were rich people who were faithful to God and there were poor people who were faithful to Him. One group isn't more "in" with God than the other. Yes, the Scriptures treat the poor with more sympathy than the rich. But that's because poverty can make people more vulnerable to abuse and victimization. It's not because poverty makes you holy. The way to be righteous with God is the same for rich and poor alike. There is no salvation by class in the Bible. If we would accept that truth the Church would be much better off.