Being Right

Another famous person committed suicide this week. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, another 123 people committed suicide today…but most of us will never know because they aren’t famous. Every day in America and around the world people suffer from sickness, poverty, political oppression, and mental illness just to list a few. We live in a broken world and we see the effects of this constantly.

If you dwell on those negatives, the world can be a very depressing place. For those, like the young celebrity who killed himself, they found themselves in exactly that place. As their minds focused on the darkness within them and around them, they were overwhelmed by it until they finally broke. Darkness surrounds us every day if we choose to focus on it, and it’s still there even when we don’t. It’s inescapable.

On Facebook earlier today I scrolled past a post by a friend with very different theological views. His post was attacking another Christian because of their views, which do not align with theirs of course. Now the person being attacked is a well known television preacher with a large church.

This person has written books and made videos and has a massive media presence, so from one viewpoint they should expect to be attacked by detractors. On the other hand, I doubt anyone was seriously swayed by the critical views from this preacher’s opponent. What I have found following decades of time spent in American churches, are myriad insular groups each convinced of their own place in the universe.

There’s an old joke that goes like this:

A man arrives at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, Religion?

The man says, Methodist. 

St. Peter looks down his list and says, Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

Another man arrives at the gates of heaven. Religion?


Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

 A third man arrives at the gates. Religion?


 Go to Room 11, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

The man says, I can understand there being different rooms for different denominations, but why must I be quiet when I pass Room 8?

St. Peter tells him, Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think theyre the only ones here.

Feel free to swap the punchline’s denomination for one of your own choosing, as the joke is ecumenical.

It’s a humorous little joke, but it exposes a deep issue in the American church. We are all so concerned about being “right” we are willing to sacrifice other Christians on our altars to appease our theological gods. When we start tossing around the term “heretic” for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to our form of orthodoxy we are treading along thin ice.

The Bible is an incredibly complex and nuanced book, and anyone who has spent serious time studying it should readily admit this fact. As I have studied it over the years, I am amazed at the wide differences of opinion among decorated scholars over fundamental issues of theology and interpretation. We cannot ignore this. We cannot pretend like our little group, or big one, has the market cornered on theology and simply dismiss everyone else out of hand and label them all heretics.

We are all human and all of our interpretations carry some measure of error no matter how many letters follow our name. As we interact with others, especially those who profess Christ as Lord, we would be wise to remember this. Recall the story of Jesus restoring Peter and then noticing John was following them. Peter was irked that John was eavesdropping and indignantly pointed to John and (I imagine this line in an accusatory tone) says, “Jesus, what about HIM?!?”

Jesus’s response should be enough for each of us, and it should cut us to the quick and remind us of our proper place in things. Jesus turned to Peter and said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow ME.” The Word goes on to say that a rumor started because of what Jesus said to Peter. Since the scripture only says that John, Peter, and Jesus were present when He made this statement, one wonders which of the three started the rumors…I have a guess.

Orthodoxy is a necessary part of our lives. Everyone lives with some form of orthodox belief system, even if they are not Christian. Humans require boundary lines and we invent them for ourselves if we reject those God has designed. However, our theological views should not lead us to degrade others even if the other person is wrong.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned suicide and pain and the darkness surrounding us all. When we follow Jesus we become light-bearers, the only beings on earth capable of dispersing the darkness and replacing it with beauty and goodness. By focusing on “being right” we are covering our light with a basket, becoming those who are more concerned about attacking those who disagree with us rather than shining into the darkness.

Should we, and will we have orthodoxy in our beliefs? Absolutely. But can we be kind to others even when we disagree with them? Without a doubt.

If Christians spent a little less time hammering away at each other and a little more time focused on the fruit of the Spirit, those things that actually matter, we might dispel even more darkness than we ever thought possible.

Just remember that some of what you believe isn’t true. You do not have all the answers. You do not understand everything in the Bible. No human does, has, or ever will. God’s revelation is accessible but never fully comprehensible because His full revelation is greater than humanity…and that’s how it should be.

See, He designed us so that we could each carry a portion of Him but never all of Him. Because of this design, we require Jesus and each other. God created humanity to live in community with one another and with Him. We are designed to live as a family.

So the next time you see someone bashing another person because of their views, move along. Find those who will be respectful of others and their beliefs. Connect with those who desire to live a life of love and kindness first and put orthodoxy second. Live within God’s defined boundaries, but do so in a way that spreads light rather than accusations.

Above all things, seek Jesus first and His Kingdom and then everything else will flow into your life. He tells us what the results of life with Him entail: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Jedi Theology

Last night my family and I saw the new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. I thought it was a good addition to the franchise and enjoyed the film. Reflecting on one of my favorite fantasy worlds, the theology of Star Wars began to emerge. Now before you get concerned, there are NO spoilers ahead.

Almost everyone on earth has heard of Star Wars at least tangentially. People from numerous countries were shown a silhouette of Darth Vader and recognized the character immediately. Star Wars is modern mythology, a story of such magnitude and universal appeal that it transcends cultural barriers and touches the heart of humanity.

But what should Christians do with the themes of the film? How do we respond to the theology of Star Wars?

In this post I’d like to deal with some major themes brought out in all the films and relate them back to Christian thinking so we can know how to respond and how to parse the elements presented throughout the film series.


Nothing makes Star Wars more universally accepted than its primary theme of good vs. evil. From the very first film (chronologically), we are introduced to a massive, seemingly all-powerful Empire of pure evil. Facing down this Goliath are our heroes, the weak and underfunded Davids of the story. Every major epic in human history deals with this theme.

Religiously speaking, this theme winds its way through every major religion on earth. Because good and evil inescapably exist in human reality, all religions handle this theme in some way. To save space, I do not wish to examine other religions views here, only to focus on what Christianity actually teaches on the topic.

In Star Wars the “force” is the energy that binds the universe together and is split into the “Dark”, i.e. evil, side and the “Light”, i.e. good, side. Dark and light are two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked together for all time. Balancing the dark and light sides of the force is actually a powerful underlying theme of all the films thus far. Hinduism and Buddhism along with several animistic religions see good and evil this way.

Christianity views good and evil quite differently. Indeed, it is the only world religion to deviate from the view of good and evil as two equal yet oppositional forces we must balance between. Rather than seeing good and evil as two equal forces, Christianity describes a God who is purely good with no darkness or evil within Him at all. God, in the Christian view, is incapable of evil. Evil exists only where God’s creation has deviated from God’s pure goodness by exercising its free will.

Therefore, in the Christian view good and evil are not equal opposing forces. Good is the driving force of the universe encapsulated within the beauty and wonder of God Himself, but available to His created beings through submission to Him and His will. Evil is the absence of good, occuring when we abandon God in favor of ourselves and make decisions apart from His light.


The force in Star Wars is everywhere. While good and evil are inherently intertwined into the force, the force itself is ambiguous. The force drives and powers all living things, even existing in inanimate objects like rocks, but it is neither good nor evil. It is both. At its heart this relativizes good and evil making ethical implications of our actions dependent on circumstances and the whims of the force.

Christianity takes a very different stance. In one sense, we do see an all-powerful force filling the universe and holding all things together. We call this force God because the Bible says that He holds all things together by the power of His Word. Jesus, the son of God, is described as in all things, through all things, and the creator of all things. Sounds quite a bit like the force with one major exception discussed in point one. In Christianity God and Jesus are purely good with no darkness in them at all.

For the Christian, while we recognize the universal power holding all things together, we deny the duality of that power, recognizing the teaching of the Word that God is all good and pure light. It is important that we see God as the universal power holding all things together because it helps us relate to all the other world religions and begin a conversation with them about Jesus. Then we can draw the distinctives that separate Christianity from all other belief systems.


Star Wars would be pretty boring if the light side of the force dominated things. After all, there would be no conflict at that point, and any writer worth their salt knows that conflict is central to great storytelling. Modern news outlets tend to appeal to this same false narrative of the universe. By focusing on the evil in things, we have great and compelling stories that get people to sit up and listen, but the reality is quite different.

We cannot ignore evil, but we must not offer it more credit than it’s due. Star Wars has almost all-powerful evil forces constantly dominating the galaxy for dramatic effect and to give our heroes something to fight against. In reality here on earth, evil is not the dominant force because God’s divine light shines through creation and through His people and His Word.

Just consider that the average murder rate on earth, according to a recent calculation, is around 7.5 people per 100,000. This means 999,992.5 people are not murdered each year. World hunger rates and poverty rates have steadily dropped over the past three decades. We have more cures for sickness today than at any point in human history. Of all the eras in history we could live, this is the best one for almost every inhabitant of earth.

Do not mistake my thinking here. We still have myriad issues. We still face evil on a daily basis here on earth, and we will until Christ establishes His kingdom here on earth permanently. But evil is not a monolithic, all-powerful force. Good is. God is the all-powerful force in the universe and He contains no darkness. So we should not fear evil, for it is simply the momentary shadow eclipsing the immovable, immutable, eternal being shining upon us all.


Star Wars is an amazing world that has produced incredible films appealing to people all over earth. I love it. It’s easy to love because its central themes are universal. But as Christians we must know where and how we differ from the picture of reality painted by those living outside the pure light of Christ. By knowing where we deviate from the false narrative presented by those still living in the shadow of darkness, we will know where to aim the light to pierce through and shine hope and love.



Assumptions & Choices

One of the great divisive elements in Christian theology centers around assumptions and choices. No matter which theological camp you claim, certain assumptions and choices go along with that position. The decisions you make and accept regarding those things will align your thinking and theology in a certain direction.

An example is needed. Consider the weighty issue of salvation, specifically whether one can lose salvation once attained. Christianity is divided into two camps here: those who believe “once saved, always saved” or the “security of the believer”, and those who believe salvation is tied to sanctification and requires us to “maintain” it somehow meaning we can lose it.

Both camps have scripture to support their position. Rather than presenting arguments for both sides, just spend some time googling the two views and you will find interesting arguments both directions. The point of this post is not to focus on that particular issue. The point here is that we all must choose one or the other. Either you choose to believe you cannot lose your salvation or you choose to believe you can lose your salvation.

Whatever you choose will determine how you interpret a whole bevy of scripture, and that’s the point. When we begin studying the Word, we are forced to make many decisions that naturally affect our interpretation and theology. Someone who believes one can lose their salvation will see Hebrews 6:4–6 completely differently than one who believes in the security of the believer.

Our failure is to respect the choices of others. Some are capable of this, but most are not. Rather than respecting the choices another believer makes, we attack them because their position differs from our own. We do this while operating in self-preservation mode. If I am a “security of the believer” person and a “lose your salvation” person is making a persuasive argument or leads me to a convicting scripture, I react negatively because I’m afraid of what might happen if they are right and I am wrong. So the only thing left to do is to start tossing around the word “heretic” to get free of it.

This is our issue. We are hammering away at one another all while making the (false) assumption that we are completely right. But, as my mother is fond of saying, “Here’s a hot news flash for ya…” no one, NO ONE, is completely right. Only one human in existence was ever completely right and He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father.

As we journey with Jesus through life, we must learn to recognize our choices and assumptions and be at peace with them. Please understand that I am not advocating for relativism. I do not believe that each person makes their own truth. There is a universal truth we can know, but that truth is unending. We will never, for all eternity, reach the end of it. When all the millennia of time have passed to the nth degree, we will know one half of one percent of all there is to know about God. This is how majestic He is.

So when we get on our theological high horse and begin browbeating others because they’ve made a different set of choices and assumptions from us, let us recall our own position. We must always remember that we hold only the smallest fraction of divine revelation and we need others to help us see other facets of God. Indeed, this was always His plan. Jesus established His body to work together to reveal Him.

You’ve made assumptions and choices and so have I. They are based on our current revelation of Christ. Let us walk in what we have received, but let us not be content to sit and wallow in our little droplet of truth when there is more to taste. We can challenge one another. We can sharpen one another. We do not have to agree on everything. It’s ok if we make different choices and assumptions.

There is a small body of truth that must be adhered to for us to even be Christian. We must be in submission to Jesus. We must honor Him as God and Lord of the universe. We must recognize the authority and power of the revealed Word in written form (the Bible). We must accept and believe the miraculous.

Beyond those core beliefs, little else is self-evident no matter how clever your reasoning. In the end, to reach almost every conclusion in Christianity required either an assumption or a choice. So let us respect one another. Calvinists and Charismatics can learn to get along. Episcopalians and Baptists can fellowship together. Mystics and Methodists can share ideas and pray for one another.

We can find unity if we are willing to accept one another even as we disagree. Perhaps if we spend some time considering another viewpoint we can at least understand how someone reached their conclusions, even if we cannot share their convictions. Because in the end, it is possible we may both be wrong about whatever we are so certain about now.

And when we cross over into the glorious riches of grace Jesus has prepared for us, do you really believe any of our thinking is going to be fully accurate? Is anyone actually arrogant enough to believe that, standing in the pure light of Christ’s truth and love you will be able to say, “See everyone, I was totally right about all my theology!” And would you even want to?

Make your choices. Live with your assumptions. But have the humility to know there will always be more you don’t know. Always something else you can learn. Always another facet of God you haven’t seen yet.

As the great Bard wrote in my favorite play, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That goes for all of us.