Instilling Healthy Doubt

I saw on FB another bit of foolishness. Okay, there has been a LOT of foolishness on Facebook lately. A recent  post claimed that Satanists utilize “LOL” to mean “Lucifer our Lord.” So if we use “LOL” in our posts, we are endorsing Satan. Let’s have a reality moment here:

  1. I don’t use “LOL,” so if all Christians stopped using the term, it is entirely possible that the world would be a (slightly) better place. Who knows?
  2. It is possible, I suppose, that SOME people who call themselves Satanists do use those letters that way. The last time I had an insightful discussion with a self-described Satanist was 25 years ago. In his case, he did not believe in a literal Satan, but appreciated a “satanic” philosophy… not so far from Hedonism. In his case, and those like him, since he does not believe in Satan per se (ontologically), such a use of “LOL” would be humorous or ironic, rather than worshipful or respectful.

There is some serious foolishness here. It is not about the doubtful use of the term by Satanists. Rather the foolishness springs from:

  1. The thought that the term inherently endorses or empowers Satanism. There may be two different beliefs here. One belief may be that a symbol can only have one meaning. For example, reading comments on FB, there are serious questions regarding the Confederate Battle flag. Two different segments of society argue about what the flag REALLY represents. In fact, it represents two different things to two different groups.  If a symbol means something to Group A and something different to Group B, each can use the symbol as they see fit… without being affected or tainted by another groups use. (I am talking about meaning here… not political affects. Two different meanings can lead to problems, like if a red octagonal road sign means “STOP” to one group of people and “SPEED UP” to another.) . A symbol is always culturally determined. A symbol is not inherently “tainted” by another group. However, the second possible belief is in the power of incantation. That is, that words, if used in the right circumstance in the right order have special magical powers. Even though there are some examples of blessings or curses in the Bible, they appear to be tied to a direct appeal to God to act (relational call) rather than due to the power of formula (incantational or magical call).
  2. Failure to check sources. Frankly, the FB post might have been put up as a joke to test the gullibility of “Christians” or anyone else who would read it. Lot of Gullibility Tests on the Web. Alternatively, it could be “clickbait”… articles that are designed to be provocative and lure people to click on the article to make advertizing money.
  3. Having poor sources of authority.  I read it on the Internet is like saying you heard it on the telephone, or read it spray painted on a wall. It says nothing about its veracity.

Why do Christians fall into such a trap? Of course, we are not alone. Weird reactions appears to be pandemic– a universal sociological phenomenon. But Christians have had their share of such… sociological phenomenon.

  • When I was younger, I was told that one should not say “Good Luck” because “luck” has (supposed) etymological roots to Loki, the Norse God of mischief (perhaps SLIGHTLY similar in very limited ways to the Christian concept of Lucifer, or Satan). So to say, “Good Luck” is a positive Satanic blessing. Ridiculous! No one uses the term that way, and probably never did. Frankly, Christians might prefer to not say “Good luck” because it seems to reference a non-Christian view of providence, although, one would have to define “luck” in context before one could say whether or not it is Christian. But to tie it to an irrelevant reference to the past, and then tying it to an equally pointless cross-religious reference, makes no sense whatsoever.I believe the Luck and Lucifer connection has been made by Kenneth Copeland. I believe Luck and Loki was connected to some statements by Pat Robertson, back when I worked for him. Neither Copeland nor Robertson should be considered competent, reliable sources for… well, much of anything.
  • More recently, people have been trying to pick a date for Christ’s return. It seems to be more a cynical ploy to get people to “choose to follow Christ” or, equally bad, for self-styled “prophets” to gain an audience. But I have to think that more people are turned off by the foolishness of making claims that prove to be ludicrously false. This is done sometimes by “Bible Numerology” (a doubtful practice more in line with the Kabbalah than with Christianity) or by making up false phenomena and that rigging the data (such as the “Blood Moon” thing). Why make up dates anyway. Each of us is a couple of skipped heartbeats from the “abyss.” That is a much more solid prediction.

Why don’t Christians do better? Some argue that it is because Christians (especially Evangelical Christians) have a tendency to be anti-intellectual. But, in truth, I haven’t noticed that intellectuals do any better (or at least not much better). We all, as finite human beings, choose who we hold to be in authority. Intellectuals are as likely to choose poor authorities as non-intellectuals.

I would like to suggest that Christians should Have Faith in God and God’s Word, and Follow Christ. In other things maintain a healthy doubt.

What would be the implications of that. We would doubt authority figures, Christian or otherwise. So…

  • We would separate between God’s Word and human interpretations of God’s Word.(question human wisdom)
  • We would separate between following Christ and following people who claim to follow Christ (question human authority)
  • We would spend less time worrying about the intensity of Christians’ faith, and be more concerned about the true object of their faith.
  • We would spend certain critical moments of our lives doubting ourselves… since each of us are often the most effective in leading ourselves astray.

It matters. We all need healthy doubt.

Who Should be a Missionary

I feel like I need to make a change from what I have said before. I have previously said that a Christian missionary needed TWO distinct qualities to go into missions:

  1. Flexibility
  2. Willingness

I purposefully left out Called. For one thing, I believe the church calls people to missions, while I believe God calls EVERYONE to His mission… and He is not too quick to follow faddish preferences to describe certain Christian ministry as missions and others as not.

Flexibility suggests an openness to new cultures and to contextualization of message. It also involves the flexibility to adjust lifestyle. Willingness, definitely a related term, suggests a willingness to go where God leads, and a willingness to acculturate, and change one’s identity, to some extent.

Some people suggest that Spiritual Fervor is a quality needed of a missionary. However, it seems to me that it is a quality that is called up based on presumption rather than practice. Few missionaries, if any, I know have a spiritual fervor greater than others in church. Of course, part of the issue is that people have different ideas as to what spiritual fervor is. For some, it is the ability to throw around Christian lingo and get emotionally/spiritually wrought up. For others it involves deep involvement in the “spiritual disciplines.” I have yet to see any missionaries that have any of this sort of thing beyond those around them.

However, the spiritual aspect can’t be tossed aside and I have definitely seen missionaries fall by the wayside based on a certain issue in the area of spirituality. With further reflection, I would add a third quality:

         3.  Spiritual Durability

Spirituality is so open to interpretation, and various definitions lend themselves to denominational bias. Additionally, the idea of spirituality in the Bible is often quite different from popular Christian definitions today. So I would like to use Paul Tillich’s idea of spirituality, but limited to Christianity. In this case “Spirit” is the overlay of power and meaning. In the Christian context:

Spirituality, as it applies to missionaries, is the overlay of human and divine power in a person’s life that is focused by a recognition of following God’s path and a personal sense of vocational meaning.

“God’s paths” is not the same as call as it is popularly given. God’s path is not a destination but a path (more like Psalm 23 or Jesus call to “Follow Me.” “Call” as it is used in churches is usually tied to destination or clergical vocation.

Spiritual durability then is the recognition that what one does is important, that it has eternal meaning to self, to the people, and to God’s Kingdom. As such, one is empowered to persevere through difficult times because of the recognition that God is ever-present, ever-suffering, and ever guiding.