Category Archives: faith

Theology QUESTION

Pearls Before Swine
I’ve only been a Presbyterian for about seven years. So I know far less about John Calvin than I do about John Wesley, a founder of Methodism. Calvin, who founded a reformed movement that is represented in the United States by, among other denominations, the Presbyterian church, was born 500 years ago on July 10. One of the most difficult concepts for me is this:

John Calvin: On Double Predestination

In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction. We affirm that this counsel, as far as concerns the elect, is founded on his gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit; but that to those whom he devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible, judgment. In the elect, we consider calling as an evidence of election, and justification as another token of its manifestation, till they arrive in glory, which constitutes its completion. As God seals his elect by vocation and justification, so by excluding the reprobate from the knowledge of his name and the sanctification of his Spirit, he affords an indication of the judgement that awaits them.

In other words, if I understand it correctly, some are born to be saints going to heaven, and others sinners going to hell. As one theologian friend of mine opined, “And you may THINK you have free will, but it was predestined that you think that.”

This hurts my head.

Here’s another take on double predestination.

Am I a bad Presbyterian because I’m a “free will guy? Where do you stand on this?

***
BTW, I went to the Pearls Before Swine website, having seen the strip in the newspaper, and the SITE provided the specific URL for the graphic. Cool.

ROG

The Faith Meme

This quiz was a Facebook thing thing I got from Jaquandor (again!)

1. Who gave you your first Bible?

It was so long ago that I have no idea. Best guess, though, would be my paternal grandmother, who was also my Sunday school teacher. Or perhaps it came from the church itself. No doubt, it was a King James Version. Currently, I own the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, Good News, The Way and Good News. I also have New Testament only: Jerusalem Bible and New International Version, and probably others. Additionally, I have handbooks, a concordance, essays and hymnals – quite a few hymnals, actually.

I also have The Book of Mormon, which I tried to read but found boring, as well as a Treasury of Kahlil Gibran. I’ve had others, but they’ve disappeared over the years; I don’t recall specifically selling them or giving them away.

2. When and where did you receive your first Communion?

No idea, but it was as a child; I “grew up in the church”, as people were wont to say.

3. What was the first prayer you were taught?

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

When I learned this as a young child, it didn’t bother me, but by the time I was eight or so, it started to really freak me out, actually.

4. What was the first church you attended?

Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion) on Sherman Avenue (or Street) off Carroll Street in Binghamton, NY. The church moved to the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets when I was about seven, just two short blocks from my home.

5. What was the first Bible passage/story that became meaningful to you?

There were so many Bible stories I was taught. I suppose Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace from the Book of Daniel; it may have been their names.

6. What was the first miracle you experienced?

I suppose it was when I started speaking in tongues. I think I’ve told that story in this blog somewhere, though for the life of me, I cannot find it presently.

7. Where and when were you baptized?

Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, Binghamton, NY, August 1953, which I know only because I’ve seen the photo.

Bonus: Is there a story of faith you would like to share that doesn’t fit into one of these categories? If so, share it.

I had a “saved” experience when I was nine years old. Oddly, it wasn’t at church, but at a Bible study that was maybe a half a block from my church. It almost certainly had to do with a Billy Graham crusade.
Subsequently, I started to go to Friday Night Bible Group, usually with my sister Leslie, for years at the home of Pat and Art Gritman. She was the secretary to Neville Smith, the principal of my elementary/junior high school, Daniel S. Dickinson in Binghamton. She was about 16 years younger than Art; I remember specifically that when she was 48, he was 64.
When I was in high school, I would go to my church in the morning, then walk with my friend Bob Swingle to the Primitive Methodist Church in Johnson City in the evening, not an insubstantial trek on foot. From Bible club and from PM, I could quote chunks of Scripture by heart.
But it was also during high school when doubts about my faith emerged. The notion that, e.g., most people in India, good practicing Hindus, were going to go to hell because they didn’t know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior became problematic to me, and I drifted away from the church in my twenties, merely dabbling in everything from Baha’ism (the faith of an ex) to Catholicism (often my Christmas and Easter place of choice) to Unitarianism to the Unification Church. It wasn’t until the early 1980s when, through music, I found my way back into church, and that was/is a theologically evolving process.

Barack and Hillary QUESTIONS

When I was on vacation in Virginia this past Sunday, I turned on the TV and happened to catch the last 45 minutes of Barack Obama’s Q&A with CNN on religion/faith/values. I thought he seemed most impressive and comfortable; I didn’t see Hillary Clinton. Then I catch the local news tease asking if the Dems have a “prayer” of dealing with faith issues. The story itself noted Clinton’s and Obama’s “struggle” talking about religion (in general, it was implied) and then showed the clips of Hillary and Barack talking about abortion (she said that the potential for life began at conception, Barack noted that he did struggle with this particular issue).

It seemed that abortion is still THE issue when it comes to matters of faith, at least according to that broadcast. A related issue in the media also seems to be that the Dems are FINALLY talking about religion in 2008, when, in fact, John Kerry for one was, I thought, quite eloquent in speaking about his faith and how he acts on it in a 2004 debate; since he didn’t talk about it often, and because he didn’t oppose abortion, he was perceived as somehow inauthentic.

So my questions:
1) Did you see or hear any of the Clinton or Obama pieces on race? If so, what did you think?

2) Regardless of whether you actually saw them, what was your perception of how they did based on what you read in the newspaper or heard on radio or TV? I’m interested in sources of your info, too, if possible.

3) How SHOULD candidates be talking about faith and religion, if at all?

4) I also caught much of the ABC News debate on Wednesday, and I thought they both were fine. Mostly it reminded me that either of them is a better choice than John “not so straight talk” McCain, who had ducked the faith debate. Did you see the Wednesday debate, and what did you hear about it, whether you saw the debate or not?

ROG