(…continued) My question for Lady Gaga and all others who want go their own, personal direction on religious faith is, Where are you getting your information about God? This is GOD we are talking about here. How can any tiny, temporary person, crawling around for a few moments on this little speck of dust we call earth, in the midst of this vast universe, think that whatever pops into their mind about God has any truth or value whatsoever? Shouldn’t this sort of this be based on something?
The Bible was written in response to the miraculous interventions of God into his creation, especially his personal visit to this earth in the man Jesus Christ. The church, for all its problems, has been trying to live in response to that revelation by God of Himself. We can investigate the historical reliability and truth of that; this has been a lifelong study for me. We can try and understand and figure out how to live in response to that; and that attempt has led to our many differences. We should all try to live our lives by that truth; and this attempt will be filled with failures and the daily need for God’s forgiveness. And, of course, we can decide to not believe in any of it, and then see what happens.
But what we cannot do is think we can just invent whatever we want all on our own, and make God into whatever we want him or her or it to be. The Apostle’s Creed says we believe in God who made this earth; we believe that Jesus, who lived and died and rose again, was God’s Son; and we believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit as promised. And we believe no person invented all this, but that God revealed himself to us and we need to live by what God says. This is what we are told in the Bible, and this is what we declare in the Creed.
Becki was a girl in my confirmation class several years ago. One day, I was teaching her class about the third article of the Creed, and the line where it says we “believe in the resurrection of the body.” Becki raised her hand and said she did not believe in this resurrection business and heaven and all that. I asked her what she did believe in, and she said she believed in reincarnation, and that when you died your spirit immediately passed into another life form on this earth. And then she asked if she could believe in reincarnation and still be a Christian.
I said, “Well, it is not for me to judge who is and who is not a Christian, but you most certainly would be a very confused and mistaken Christian. Reincarnation is not a Christian belief because there is not a word of it in the Bible. Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, your body, where you will wake up and still be you. That is something very different from reincarnation where you may come back as a person, but an entirely new one with no memory of your previous life, or perhaps you will come back as a cow, or some kind of rodent, or maybe even a maggot, depending on what good or bad karma you have accumulated in this life.”
At this Becki got very upset with me and said, “Don’t you know this is a free country, and I can believe whatever I want, and that is just your opinion, and who are you to judge me?” She really got on a roll.
I said, “Yes, you are free to believe in whatever you want, but that doesn’t make it a Christian belief. You are not free to pick and choose from other beliefs and make up whatever you want and call it Christianity. The Christian faith is defined by the Bible, and while we may have different interpretations of some parts of the Bible, we are not just free to believe something completely different and call it Christianity. This is not my opinion. This is what Christianity is.”
“You are mean,” Becki said to me.
Seeing I was getting nowhere, I thought I would try a different approach. I said, “Becki, you are a vegetarian, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am,” she said firmly.
I said, “You believe in that strongly and are committed to it, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said again.
“So,” I said, “that means no hamburgers, no meatballs and gravy, no beef jerky, and no steaks on the grill for you, right?”
“Right,” she said.
Then I said to her, “Did you know I am a vegetarian too?”
“You are?” she said, genuinely surprised.
“Yes,” I said, “But I am a vegetarian who likes to eat steaks from the grill, pork chops, summer sausage, and roast beef. That’s okay, isn’t it?”
“No,” Becki said, “That’s not okay. That’s stupid. Being a vegetarian means not eating meat. You can’t be a vegetarian and eat meat.”
“Well,” I said, “That is just your opinion, Becki, and besides,” I said, “who are you to judge me? And didn’t you just tell me this is a free country?”
“But,” she said, “The very definition of a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat.”
“Oh,” I said, “so we can talk about definitions, and not just accuse each other of being judgmental. Good, now we are getting somewhere. You are right about being a vegetarian, Becki, and I am right about being a Christian. Being a vegetarian means not eating meat, and being a Christian means believing some specific things about God and Jesus and life now and life forever, and one of those things is resurrection of the body, not reincarnation.”
Becki said, “You are mean,” and that is as far as I got that day.
Voltaire said, “If you want to converse with me, define your terms.” The Apostle’s Creed is what defines the Christian faith.
II Peter 2:16 — For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
II Timothy 4:1-3 — In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Romans 10:9 — If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Lord, give us weak eyes for things which are of no account, and clear eyes for all your truth. Amen.