Discussions involving religion are never that easy to navigate, which is why I don’t initiate them. That being said, when they do occur, and an unsubstantiated remark comes out of nowhere, I find it absolutely necessary to respond – though in the most gracious and considerate way possible, without taking away from the truth that has to be made clear.
In Cebu City, in the Philippines, where I live – the default position is that of a theist position. Though a lot of it is predominantly flawed, at least there’s not much to refute with regard to believing in the diety we recognize as God – though these days there happen to be more who think that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob masquerades as Allah, and quite a few also mistake Him to be Buddha as well. If we have time for a few cups of coffee, outside of the reason why we gathered, a brief look at comparative theologies is a pretty good starting point for clarity but it usually doesn’t end up where we want it to go.
Though most people here have a genuine belief that God does exist, it’s a resultant of a fear that if they don’t, there’s going to be a supernatural penalty if they express otherwise. And this is quite dominant among the different social classes. More so with the masses, who tend to mix folk superstition quite liberally with their beliefs.
However, when they inevitably get to the point – usually, “Why are you so insistent on posting all those things about God on Facebook??”, I oblige them. And strangely, the responses vary from very receptive to very strange.
Considering that here in Cebu City, we have a heritage of a strict, devout (?) – more like obligatory – and severely condescending practice of a Hispanic form of Roman Catholicism, it isn’t too difficult to come to terms with believing in the God that the Lord Jesus referred to as “Our Father”.
The difficulty begins when those who’ve experienced a “born again” incident in their past start to try and “right” the “wrongs” in their theology. And that’s when the sparks fly, the misunderstandings ensue and nothing ever gets resolved. And worse, you begin to realize that though the basics of understanding salvation through faith is intact, it ends right there and all sorts of defective theological worldviews start to come into play.
Mind you, I have less problems explaining these things to my nominal Catholic friends. I’ve had a great many who began reading the Bible on their own and begin rethinking their positions about what they believe in. I myself came to faith reading the defective King James translation and understood the matter of salvation almost immediately.
However, when working through these issues with those that came to faith in Jesus during the last ten years or so, it seems that quite a lot of them were left to fend for themselves after they were led to pray “THE PRAYER” of salvation and they began absorbing all sorts of things that consequently led to all the wrong ideas about what we can believe about what we are supposed to believe in.
It almost feels like we need to start all over again. (Football coach to losing team: “Men, this is a football…”)
Why is this so? I can think of a few good reasons and they all lead to what the people on the pulpit have been propagating for quite some time. Everything else, EXCEPT the scriptures.
Clearly, there is a need to return to the sources. Ad fontes. And understand them as they were meant to be understood. Not because Joel Osteen or Rick Warren say so. Or even my favorites, Dr. William Lane Craig and Mike Licona say so. (Mind you, I admire their orthodoxy, but we have to struggle on our own when we do our exegesis and let the Holy Spirit do His work.)
And this is the reason why we have to do this. It’s not enough that we study to defend our faith. We need to know what faith we actually should defend – and it’s that legacy of promises made by the Living God which the Lord Jesus came to fulfill, explain further and leave with those who started getting it out in the first century.
I like what Dr. Dan Wallace said in one of his lectures: “Without the scriptures, the God you worship is nothing more than the God of your imagination”.
May we come to learn more about the truths of the Living God – and know Him in the process. So that the world will know that He alone is Adonai.