Thursday, October 01, 2009

Three Important Life Lessons I Learned in Seminary

That’s right. Little known fact about me, but I graduated from seminary. If you’ve been reading my blog lately about my support of Gay Marriage and Why I Hate Praise Music, you’re probably surprised that I have a Masters Degree in Christian Education. And not from a liberal seminary. My degree comes from a very conservative seminary. I will keep my school nameless in order to protect the seminary, but all of my friends know which one it is.

So have I turned my back on my religious training? No, I haven’t. I may be “an instrument of the devil,” but I certainly have not turned my back on my training, nor my faith.

You may ask, how can a praise-music hating, gay-loving Christian, still call himself an “evangelical.” It’s easy and I learned it all from seminary. Here are a few truths that I learned in seminary.

God Hates Legalism

Jesus showed compassion and judgment. The problem is that the evangelical church today has it backwards.

Believe me I’ve studied the Gospels for a long time. Please do what I did and look at times when Christ interacted with the lost and when he interacted with the religious leaders, the people who represented God.

Christ showed nothing but compassion to the lost. He NEVER EVER showed judgment to the lost. In John, Jesus meets the woman at the well. She had numerous husbands and was living with a man. Christ came down to her level and told her about living water. She was trying to feel complete in her life through love and sex. Instead, Jesus told her that only God could fill that emptiness in her life. Jesus pointed out that he knew why she felt empty inside and that she used love and sex from numerous men to fill that emptiness.

You also see in the gospels that when Christ healed the sick so that God would be glorified. Christ never had a pre-condition when it came to healing. He did not expect the lost to repent and then be healed. He healed and exclaimed “go and sin no more.”

Christ showed nothing but judgment to Religious Leaders. To the men, who had “God-given Authority” Christ has the harshest words. Why? These men had taken God’s law at this point and interpreted the law to fit their own need and lust for power or as a way to keep themselves on a higher pedestal than their flocks.

The classic is the Sabbath. Being a Religious Leader (the Pharisees), meant that your followers had to listen to you to understand the law. Stop there for a second, that’s a lot of power right there. People come to you to tell them what God says. Whatever you say, people will believe that is what God thinks you should do. My friends, that’s POWER.

The Pharisees criticized Christ for healing the sick on the Sabbath. God can only heal 6 out of 7 days? Christ fed the masses on a Sabbath.

I learned in Seminary that whenever the New Testament uses the term “false religion” the writer was always referring to Legalism (with the exception of 1 John). Christ hated legalism to such a degree that he labeled it false religion. Legalism is the idea the salvation comes from following a set of rules. The Religious Leaders at the time not only had God’s Law from the Old Testament, but over time had twisted and mangled the Law to meet their self need for power.

The Letter of the Law vs. the Spirit of the Law

When I became a Christian in high school, I did not really know that much about God. I didn’t know what it meant to be good. Sure I had ideas, don’t hurt others, don’t lie, etc. but aside from that how was a Christian supposed to act?

I had friends at my church tell me what to do. Here’s how you pray. Start with “Heavenly Father” and end with “In Jesus Name, Amen.”

I was at chapel and I had a stack of books to carry, I was told to place my Bible on top of the stack. This way I was respectful of the Bible.

I was told to dress up every Sunday and wear a tie. I was told that I needed to be baptized. I was that rock music was un-godly. I was told to only listen to secular music. I was told that Amy Grant back-slided because she produced a rock album.

So I rebelled. I wore tennis shoes instead of dress shoes to Sunday service and in my most controversial move, I played Contemporary Christian Music during our High School fellowships end of year slide show for which I was never allowed to choose music again.

If I loved God with all my heart, mind and soul, why was wearing tennis shoes a sign of disrespect? Why was the use of drums and an electric guitar in songs a sign that the artist didn’t love God.

I just protested by saying don’t question my faith because I won’t wear what you want me to wear or listen to the music that you want me to listen to.

Sure plenty of scripture was thrown at me. Many of it had more to honoring God than telling me that dress shoes was more appropriate to tennis shoes. (p.s. this church I attended today uses drums and the majority of people don’t wear ties to worship.)

What about the law? Jesus said that He came not to do away with the Law but to fulfill the Law, meaning he died to free us from the Law. But at the same time the law existed for a purpose. The Law illustrated to us how we could live a Godly life. The problem is that there were thousands of rules to follow and we’d go nuts trying to comply with the minutia of each verse.

God understood this and sent Jesus to come to earth to show us how a person can live a Godly life. Christ lived a sinless life, to show that it was possible. He never violated the law.

This still doesn’t help. I’ll explain. Christ’s example in fact simplified the law down to two important tenants. Once, Love God with all your heart, mind and soul. Two, love your neighbor as yourself. Your interpretation of the law and scripture should be measured on these two tenants. This is why we can eat pork and shellfish without fear of sinning. We should only fear the heart attack and mercury poisoning.

I describe the usefulness of the law this way. The law is a series of brush strokes. As each brush stroke is applied to the canvas slowly the image of God appears. When all of the brush strokes and used and you step back you see a good representation of God and living a Godly life. Up close the individual stroke means very little. But has a whole, we have a good idea of how God is.

Evangelism and Spreading the Word

Ironically, as an Evangelical Christian, this last point should hit us. The Book of Acts tells us to “Go into all the world” preaching the Gospel (or Good News). This Gospel is a message of Salvation and a message of Love that God showed through dying on the cross for our sins, because we were unable to save ourselves.

As people, we have one job. Live a Christ-like life.

As Christians, though, we have one job. Share the Gospel and let other know the joy of the Christ-like life.

I bring this up because on a global level the tale of man’s history, the fate of world so-to-speak, is completely in God’s hand. We have not influence over it. Whether we blow ourselves up in World War III or drown ourselves because of Global warming, this is God’s plan and nothing will change it.

Our job is share the Gospel with God’s children (which is everyone on the planet) and help them grow in their faith. Our job is not to create a Christian world, because I will guarantee you it will not happen. I’m not being pessimistic. Read Revelation and you know a Christian world not nothing going to happen anytime soon.

This is the main reason, why I am for Gay marriage and why I’ve resisted the urge to say whether I believe homosexuality is a sin or not. Because it doesn’t matter. All people are created by God. God desires that all people come to have a relationship and receive salvation. No exception.

You will not find examples of Jesus standing at a street corner holding a “Yes on Prop 8” sign. You will not find Jesus showing up on television calling homosexuality an abomination.


I have not been in a paid role in Ministry for a long time. In fact, I don’t know a ministry that would hire me based on things I’ve written in my blog. That’s fine with me. I have a wonderful wife and family and I hope to raise this family as Christ would.

My hope in writing this is that you understand the stances that I take and things that I do are consistent with everything that I’ve learned and believe about Christianity.

I invite your comments. Even that negative one. And yes, I reserve the right to publish or not publish your comments. This is America for crying out loud.