Tag Archives: What do Christians believe?

Getting into Heaven Is not the Point

Christian faith is often pictured, by Christian and non-Christian alike, as a kind of insurance policy that secures a person on Judgment Day from a guilty verdict and a sentence of eternal damnation. Some people choose to purchase the policy, some choose not to, and others ignore it altogether.

This picture misrepresents the story the Bible actually tells. It is a caricature, having less to do with what the Bible says than with the concerns we bring to it, chief of which is saving our own skin. Or, failing that, our own soul.

God wants to save our souls and our skin even more than we do, hence the importance of the biblical doctrine of the resurrection. But God has other concerns as well. Humanity is but one part, albeit an important part, of the larger creation which God, according to the biblical revelation, intends to save and restore.

If asked, many people – both those who attend church and those who don’t – would say the whole point of Christianity is to get into heaven. Death is looming, eternity awaits, heaven is the much-preferred destination, and Christianity offers an affordable plan for getting there.

Were someone to lay out this synopsis of the faith to St. Paul, he would not recognize it. If we told him we had come to this understanding through his letters, he would be appalled.
Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, Faith, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Powerful Prayers: The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation III (His Incomparably Great Power for Us Who Believe)

Paul longs for Christians to know, to the full extent of their mind’s ability, the supreme greatness of God’s power. He knows that when the Spirit of wisdom and revelation opens people’s eyes to God’s surpassing power, it changes them. It gives rise to reverence in them, what the ancients called “the fear of the Lord,” and makes them passionate worshipers. As our knowledge and experience of God’s power grows, the fear of failure, fear of people, fear of the future, fear of privation is extinguished. Knowing the power of God sets people free to try, to give, to enjoy, to love. We need to know, to the very limits of our ability, the power that God possesses.

This power, Paul says, is “for us who believe” or “for us the believing.” Do you think that is an accurate description of you? John the believing. Dawn the believing. Ethan the believing. Emily the believing. Not everyone is in position to take advantage of the power Paul is talking about. It is for the believing.

That begs the question, doesn’t it? What are “the believing” believing? In my experience, many people who confess belief in God have little more than a blur or smear of religious thoughts – some quite pagan – about a God who is generally nice and will look after us, and take us to heaven when we die. Would Paul recognize those folks as “the believing”? Continue reading

Posted in From the Pulpit, Prayer, Sermons, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment