Religions are all the same? Not so, said Prince

 

Prince (1958 – 2016)

“What’s that?  All religions come from the same place?”                             Prince (1958 – 2016),  musician, pop legend, philosopher of religion???

 

Wisdom can come from anywhere.  Such as it is with music legend Prince, who died yesterday. Prince was very deservedly hailed as a musical genius and cultural icon.  I remember Diamonds and Pearls and the Love Symbol Album dropping when I was but a lad and being amazed.  He was also incredibly sexually explicit in many respects.  Religiously, he was a Jehovah’s witness – a heterodox sect far outside the mainstream of Christian Faith.  So on those two points I wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow him. But even someone who may be wrong about so much may have incredible insight.

In an interview give a few years ago , he was challenged on the contradiction between his sexually charged career and his strange but seemingly sincere religious life.  Joel Miller at the time picked up on an interesting moment in the interview and it’s worth reflecting again upon it. Prince pushes back on the interviewer and asks:

“First of all, do you see a difference in religions?”

The interviewer gives a typically post-modern response:  I say no, suggesting all religions are based on the same idea and then corrupted by their human leaders.   This is such a common sentiment that it is almost boring to hear. It may be considered disrespectful or even less “spiritual” to acknowledge difference. “It’s all the same” is the refrain of the spiritual-not-religious mindset. Even though some may sincerely believe in it, I wonder how many have actually thought it through

Prince is apparently unhappy with the answer. Before he dodges the entire issue and changes the conversation, he lays down a simple statement:

“If one religion believes Christ is the king, and another doesn’t, then there’s a difference in religions.”

Maybe Prince was just trying to deflect the pressure she was placing on his incongruous life. And certainly the Christ described by his JW beliefs is not the accurate New Testament Jesus. But there’s a great nugget of truth in his words. If one religion says something is A and the next says it is Not A, then they can’t both be right.  They can both be wrong. Or one of them can be right and the other wrong.

So, yesterday the world lost one of its greatest guitarists and music legends.  And, even though he may have been confused on any number of other issues, someone who could think clearly on at least one point.

 

 

(HT:  Joel J. Miller)

 

Jesus Loves Me (and you)

child hands

I was driving my children somewhere this morning. They began to sing the old song “Jesus loves me”.  You don’t even need to be a churched person to recognize it…  Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…

It was one of those nice dad moments. My daughters almost got the lyrics right.  That song may be relegated to Sunday School or even looked down on for being so simplistic.  Though the truth it contains is simple, it is far from shallow.  The love of Jesus is at the heart of the Good News.

The great Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) was once on a tour of the United States. After a lecture, a student stood up and asked him to summarize his entire theology. Most likely the student was expecting a profound answer from the man who was known neither for his simplicity nor brevity. Instead, Barth allegedly said:  “Yes, I can. In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

So from the greatest minds to the youngest of children – the truth is the same. Nothing could be more simple, nothing could be less shallow.

 

Find Yourself? or Lose Yourself?

I was hoping to find a cheesy image to use for this post. The Internet did not disappoint.

I was hoping to find a cheesy image to use for this post. The Internet did not disappoint.

How do we find ourselves?

I did a quick check online and sure enough Oprah an online quiz to help us find ourselves.  But I don’t want to pick on Oprah too much because it was only slightly harder to Christianized versions of such ideas. The faithful often possess the exact same outlook on life as the surrounding culture, merely shellacked with spiritual gloss.

How we find ourselves is a question not many people asked in previous times. In previous cultures (and present ones different than our own), our identity was for the most part inherited. Our social position in family and society gave us an identity and we found ourselves within it. Now we can easily imagine the shortfalls of this and are probably repulsed by a perceived lack of freedom in determining who we are.

But given our own culture – where are forced to not just find but even to construct our own identities – we may be blind to the dangers on the other side. Whatever the pitfalls of finding identity in social and familial expectations, few wrestled with issues of identity with the same angst as we do today. This is evident from looking at the literature of the day.

It can actually be exhausting on our side of things. Because if we are completely free to find ourselves, or even to self-create ourselves, than it really rests all on us. The burden is entirely individually borne. And it betrays the general fact that if want to find yourself you ought not to look to yourself.

The Gospel – the Good News of Jesus with all its implications – offers something completely different than the older inherit your identity from tribe-social position-family-religious/ethnic affiliation. When people embraced Jesus as Lord they often had to forsake reliance on ethnicity or social position to construct identity.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free the Apostle wrote to the Galatians.  Not even family ties, as vital in the Biblical view as in most other cultures, was where we are to find our identity.  Think on that and consider Jesus’ words about fathers, mother, sons, and daughters.

But the Gospel also does not urge us to look to ourselves or find ourselves. This repudiates the contemporary obsession with self-discovery, self-invention, or self-construction. Instead urging us to find ourselves, we must instead lose ourselves – even our very lives. It’s then that we truly will find what we’re looking for.

 

 

Reading to Children – the power of stories

Here is HRH Prince William showing us how its done.

Here is HRH Prince William showing us how its done.

 

I listen to Al Mohler’s podcast The Briefing almost every morning.  This morning he had an especially heartwarming final segment.  It was on the importance and benefit of reading to children even as they grow up.

In my home we are firm believers in the power of good literature and recently I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my girls, aged 4 (and a half) and 6 (and a half).  (those half years are very important to them at their ages).  Seeing their faces shine with wonder is all the reward I need but there appears to be great benefits besides.

Listen to these five minutes (and if you have kids, read to them!)

Click link to hear the segment :                                          Play 5:35                   

 

articles referenced:

A Most Amazing Word

but

 

If someone were to ask “what is the most amazing word in the Bible?” there could be lots of answers and many of them would be good. Most of us would probably suggest something like loveGospel, Kingdom, or even the word God. But often the most amazing words are those that are the most humble.

One of the most humble words is “but”.  That’s right, “but”.  Used mostly as a conjunction it finds its way into many sentences but we probably don’t take much notice.  “But” is not a word that preachers will spend time explaining the root of or studying in depth. But it is not the meaning of “but” that is so amazing but its function. As a conjunction it represents contrast with what goes before it; a 180 degree turnaround. Things are going one way, but… they now go this way. That turn around is at the heart of the Gospel.

Watch how it is used:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart…. (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)

We may assume that it is relatively easy to obey God’s law, be a good person, or live a righteous life.  Then Jesus comes along and with one little word – “but” – shows us that it is far worse than we can ever imagine. It is not merely what we do which keeps us from God, but the source of our actions that has gone wrong. Our hearts are wrong.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…  (Ephesians 2:4)

It really is bad.  Then God accomplishes a complete turn from where we are and have been heading. We’re dead in trespasses, “but God…”  There is that “but” again.  We are completely prone to what Jesus wants us about “but” God, out of his mercy and love, reaches out to us. The entire Gospel is described in that turning point.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1st Corinthians 6:11)

Another amazing “but”. In every type of sin, Christians are no better than anyone. “But” there is washing and cleansing from that past life. Not just changed “but” transformed into a new kind of life. The entire Gospel of a transformed life is expressed in that tiny conjunction.

 

There are many amazing words in the Bible. Often the smallest and most humble carry far more significance than first appears.