If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

I hadn’t seen my old friend Terry in five or six years, but we had a good talk yesterday over lunch and afterward. Sure enough, the conversation came around to comparative religions (not my doing). He said he figured the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc., had just as good a shot as the Christians in getting their place in the sun (or wherever) after they died.

I asked why he believed that. For an articulate guy, he was a little slow answering so I suggested he was motivated by issues of “fairness.” Yeah, maybe so. He said it’s illogical—and a bit proud—for Christians to insist that their way is the only way. I allowed that he was right (about the pride bit), but when I asked him for evidence—even anecdotal—for the belief that one religion is as good as another, he wavered.

Jesus calls Levi. From book: The Life of Jesus...

Jesus calls Levi. From book: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth. Eighty Pictures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To give him something to chew on, I related a few examples of my experience with Christ Jesus. One concerned a dear friend, JoAnne, suffering from lupus. God spared her life within minutes of the doctors telling us that she had less than an hour to live. How do I know it was God? Her family and friends (myself included) prayed for God’s intervention that very hour.

It happened. Members of the medical team were dumbfounded by the immediate reversal of her condition. They said there was no explanation for JoAnne’s survival. Terry knows me well enough to tell if I’m making something up. I offered other examples of God’s intervention and shared my personal transformation (which is, thankfully, still in process).

Segue to yesterday evening … I called a Christian brother, Mike. He’d had a challenging day. His younger daughter’s boyfriend, Levi, was driving the previous day with his dad over in Central Oregon near Crane Prairie. Great fishing, hiking, camping, over there. As dusk approached, a deer bolted in front of their rig. Levi jerked the wheel—missed the deer—but a wheel skidded into a pothole, and he lost control. Their vehicle plunged over a cliff. Levi suffered a broken neck and his dad, a broken back + broken ribs, limbs, etc.

Mike had few additional details. Someone found the two injured men at the bottom of the cliff; got EMTs there who transported the two men to the Bend hospital. Saved their lives, for sure, even though Levi will be in traction for twelve weeks. His dad got a ticket for not having his seat belt on(!).

Back when I was a kid, a broken neck or a broken back meant sure death. Not so today. Lots of prayers went up for those two guys. To Buddha? Nope. Krishna? Uh, uh. To the God of Heaven. The Christian God, if you will. Why? Well, I’d expect it’s because he’s the only one people really think to call on when it’s Fort Desperation. Also, because he’s the only one who answers prayers. As far as I know, those other religions don’t have a place for intercessory prayer.

It’s certainly not cool or loving for Christian folks to label believers of other religions as stupid or misguided. If praying to God the Father in the name of Jesus for rescue, recovery, or renewal is what works, use it! That’s a good reason to claim Jesus is the only way.

But be humble and thankful, not judgmental. Think of your condition before God got hold of your life. Where were you? I remember how overwhelmed I was, walking around full of my own suppositions and plans when life came crashing in on my house of self-sufficiency and self-made rules. Out of the chaos and self-condemnation of my disasters, I had no choice but to thank the Lord for rescuing me from myself.

Our politically correct society takes a dim view of anyone claiming to have found truth. That’s classified as narrow-minded and possibly bigoted. But if that’s the only way that works, why play games?

If you would, take a minute to pray for Levi and his dad. For healing of the body and spirit. We have this promise: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations … Ephesians 3:20-21

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About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Changing the Rules, Finding Truth, Risking change/changing the risk, The Reality of God and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

  1. Jerry says:

    Thanks, Sam. I wasn’t searching for a particular version of the Bible, but merely saying I didn’t understand your meaning. Nevertheless, thanks. I have personally enjoyed John Dominic Crossan’s parallel readings of the Gospels, along with the probable source material for those Gospels.

  2. Jerry says:

    To your first question, you didn’t say that I had denigrated the divinely inspired New Testament. In what specific way do you think God was involved in the writing of the New Testament? Was He guiding the scribes’ hand in order to be accurate in every detail, or was the scribe writing of his own volition and knowledge and showing respect for the divine subject? Regarding the writings of Augustine or other more recent Christian writers, have any of them been divinely inspired in your opinion?

    To your second question, I couldn’t tell what you meant to say about various interpretations of the Bible.

    To your third question, I have a reverence for the Bible unlike other literature, but I look to other literature to understand the Bible and the intent of the ancient writers.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, you’re asking for my opinion on things that I have little knowledge. Here’s link that I find credible: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1158-what-is-bible-inspiration
      Your question about Augustine is quite provocative. Let’s see what we can discover in ensuing conversations.
      Various interpretations, or versions? I like the NIV, NASB, and NKJ. Go to Biblegateway and compare them.
      To your last comment, I would say this: A “study Bible,” such as the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, or Nelson Study Bible (which my wife uses) is generally much better to understand scripture than using “other literature.” My reasons? The study Bibles are put together by teams of biblical scholars who rigorously review, comment or give background on scriptural passages; whereas, other literature often but not always is composed by one or two individuals with an axe to grind. An example is Bishop Spong, who seems driven to prove the Bible is a false document.
      Thanks for your comments.

  3. Jerry says:

    I think that I’ve gone about as far as I can go with the conversation, Sam. I try to be clear, but we are on separate wave lengths, apparently. I have not tried to denigrate any truth found in the New Testament. I would stand by the existence of varying interpretations of parts of the divinely inspired New Testament by theologians more knowledgeable than you and I, though. I like your word trenchant, since it illustrates the possibility of two meanings by the use of one word. It can mean “vigorously effective and articulate” or “caustic.” As a reader, which should I interpret?

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry–I intended the former meaning. I didn’t know it could mean “caustic.”
      You find more difference between us than I intended. Who said you tried to denigrate any truth in the NT? And, of course, theologians will have varying interpretations; did I infer otherwise?
      And as to human interpretation: I simply made the point that the divinely inspired word of God sets it well above our feeble literary efforts. You suggested that if I were to read your “most recent post 2000 years from now, (I) might have really had some trouble interpreting it.” I took exception to your attempt to equate scripture with your (or my) compositions now or 2,000 years from now.
      The eternality and power of God’s Word lifts it high above uninspired human writing, don’t you think?

  4. Jerry says:

    If you had read my most recent post 2000 years from now, you might have really had some trouble interpreting it. Likewise, the 2000 year-old New Testament has many parts, in my opinion, which were written to a particular local audience time for a particular local purpose and time in a vernacular and hyperbole that may not be understood in the 21st century as well as it would have been in the time of the writing. It is my job today to try to understand it. There are many variations of meaning interpreted by legitimate theologians for the New Testament writings. For you and me to have one and only one interpretation doesn’t seem to be quite logical. The essence of the Bible for me is that God is love. Where I see love in the world, I see a reflection of God. Where I see hatred or prejudice, I don’t see that reflection. Jesus was the physical manifestation of that love and continues to be a spiritual manifestation of that love today.

    However, the first few verses of John are some of my favorite and most meaningful verses in the Bible, and I presume that you and I have the same interpretation of those verses.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry–more trenchant comments. I’m glad you see us agreeing on the first five vv. of John; otherwise, we’d have some spadework to do.
      Not to denigrate your writing but there is a uniqueness about holy scripture that sets it well above any compositions by mortals such as me and thee:
      First, it claims to be the inspired Word of God. There is a timelessness about it that has carried its impact across the centuries. Nothing you or I can quote from Caesar, Socrates, or even Augustine can show that heft of inspiration. Think of it–inspired by the Creator of the Universe!
      Secondly, it is powerful; Jeremiah quoted these words from God: “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘And like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'” (Jeremiah 23:29) I (Sam) have personally tried to make a point to a skeptic with little success but often, when I would quote scripture, the entire room would fall silent. And then these two favorite vv.:
      [God said] “My word that goes out from my mouth…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
      The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
      Consider it for what it claims for itself. Of course, John 1 claims Jesus is the Living Word.

  5. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the reply, Sam. Scripture is interpreted or filtered through the reader to determine the truth intended, don’t you think? So, each of us reads the scripture and interprets a meaning. As I have mentioned, I am not a biblical literalist, which has caused some differences of opinion between us. Maybe God will have patience with each of us in our interpretations.

    • samuelehall says:

      And thank you, Jerry.
      You present a dilemma. If I were not a literalist, I could, for example, interpret your comment an infinite number of ways. That when you ask, “don’t you think,” you’re really saying, “Sam, you’re stupid! Don’t you ever think about the impact of what you’re saying?”
      Another example: “Maybe God will have patience with each of us” could be interpreted as “Maybe God” is the name of your deity — or — “Maybe God will” is a typo which even the Dead Sea scrolls haven’t clarified and that you really meant to say “May B. Goodwill” as the subject of your last sentence.
      However, I don’t take those interpretations. I have had a considerable experience with you, my friend, and understand the nuances of your phrasing and thought, which–by and large–is pretty straightforward.
      Have you ever looked at scripture that way?
      If we take the first 5 verses of the Gospel of John:
      1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
      There are some weighty things here. Divide them into 3 categories–what you believe, what you don’t believe, and what you’re not sure of.
      Sometime, let me know what you get, and why or why not the other.

  6. Jerry says:

    Sam, your comment, “I believe that these manifestations you mention were given as signs to unbelievers….” may contain the kernel of truth that I would like to consider. “I believe” is the basis of many of your arguments, from what I have read over the years. The miracle of healing which you mention in your current posting cannot be proven to be an act of God brought about by your prayers, but you believe it to be true. I respect that belief, based on your interpretations of the scripture and your own life experience. Your interpretations may or not be the truth, but they are the truth as revealed to you, at least. Your mission, as I understand, is to spread the word that your interpretations are the truth. However, we are all charged to wrestle with the scripture and with the world in general to determine what the truth is to us. Perhaps, then, we will develop our own beliefs, which may or may not be the same as yours. What it all means in this world and beyond is to be determined, except as what has been revealed to us to date. I wish us all well in our search for the truth.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Jerry, for your comment. Indeed, why depend on my “belief”?
      I should have left out the phrase, “I believe,” and stated it as truth.
      First Corinthians 14:22 states, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers …” However, if you are uncertain if scripture is truth, that may not be enough for you–and perhaps for others.
      To investigate it further, you can appeal to the written record of eyewitness accounts. There is, first of all, scripture itself: Acts 2 gives an extended description of what appears to be a supernatural event before the existing group of believers (~150 people) which resulted in an immediate addition of 3,000 added to their number. The remainder of the NT shines with consistency, and dramatic growth and sacrifice in showing this coming of the Holy Spirit to be an extraordinary turning point in the church. The timing of the event–Pentecost–had brought God-fearing Jews from every nation to Jerusalem. Therefore, why should God, in his wisdom and love for his people not use tongues as a sign to those people of many languages? Verbal explanation of something happening right before their eyes seems best to me (only my opinion, of course).
      Other possibilities for your investigation could include other historians of the period.
      But what it comes down to, for anyone to accept anything, is faith. Faith in scripture, faith in believing the word of the TV commentator, a broadcast speech of any politician, or even faith in believing the words of your wife when she tells you that she loves you or that she’ll gas up the car. Science simply doesn’t cover everything.
      I applaud your point that “we are all charged to wrestle with scripture and the world in general to determine what the truth is to us.” Excellent. We should all be as the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

  7. Jerry says:

    And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. Mark 16:17,18

    We Christians don’t seem to qualify for all of the signs, do we? Do we pick the signs for which we will be known? I don’t cast out devils. I can’t speak in tongues. I don’t want to handle poisonous snakes or drink poison. Healing by laying on hands seems more favorable, but I still don‘t qualify.

    Some modern-day clinical studies have shown prayer to be more effective in medical improvement of patients compared against patients who were not included in prayer. Even seeds in soil have been shown to grow better with prayer than seeds without prayer.

    However, I don’t want to conclude that my religion is better or more authentic than another’s religion because of the effectiveness of prayer in my religious sect. Perhaps the most avid believers in intercessory prayer don’t go to the doctor first. Instead, maybe they just use prayer, if they avidly believe in healing. A while back I read an interesting excerpt from a novel by Mary Doria Russell, in which a doctor in the novel said “If a patient dies, they blame the doctor, if he lives, they thank God.” So, the positive outcomes may confirm our beliefs, while the negative outcomes may be ignored by the believer.

    I understand that the Quran indicates that intercessory prayer presumes that God is not omniscient and does not know all of the problems in order to make a proper decision but, instead, needs our guidance in the matter.

    It’s an interesting discussion item, anyway.

    • samuelehall says:

      Jerry, your thinker is working overtime! Very interesting points. Let me make a few comments first about your first 2 paragraphs:
      **I believe that these manifestations you mention were given as signs to unbelievers–to get them to realize that there is something supernatural going on; i.e., manifestations of the presence of God, so that outsiders could be diverted from their preoccupation with worldly things and perhaps be drawn to investigate for themselves. Acts 2 describes the coming down upon the assembled believers “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind … tongues of fire … All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues …”
      It then describes how it attracted the attention of God-fearing Jews from every nation and they heard their own language proclaiming the message of Christ. Amazed, they sought answers. Peter spoke up by quoting a passage from the O.T. prophet Joel (which he and many of them knew by heart). He told them that Jesus, the Son of God, had come to save them from their sins and that they should repent and be saved. As a result of that remarkable event, “… 3,000 were added to their number that day.” Exciting!
      **Every believer was not to be able to manifest all of these signs. For example, in I Corinthians 12:4-11, Paul says that tho there are different kinds of gifts of the Spirit, not everyone will have a message of wisdom, or the gift of knowledge, or of healing, or of miracles, etc. As he writes in verse 10, “… to another the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues.”

      I see you are very careful not to suggest that your religion is better than someone else’s b/c of apparent answered prayer. Okay. You are a sensitive person, wishing not to offend. But answer me this: If you are with a group deep in the wilderness on a hike and a child is bitten by a rattlesnake. You have a snakebite kit; another person fervently believes in fried beans for such conditions. Do you use all your powers of persuasion to allow the use of the snakebite serum, or do you risk alienating the fried beans guy?

  8. Terry says:

    Sam – This is your old friend Terry responding to your blog with no aspersions to try and correct or revised what you have already written about our long-over-due visit recently. However, since you saw fit to share it with me I felt compelled to clarify some matters regarding my perspective of the day.

    As a matter of course I religiously try to avoid discussions about religion, knowing full well that the subject might be(come) explosive especially among those who are deeply committed to their beliefs as I know you are. So “coming around to a conversation on comparative religions” is something that I zealously try avoid (if I can).

    I do not intend to try and explore or justify the reasons that I think and feel the way that I do. because I believe that it would only serve to confound our lengthy friendship and mutual respect. Suffice it to say that we have a differing opinion about religion and matters of faith and belief. I do not question or mock yours and would ask that you respect mine. Be well my Christian brother and stay strong in your faith.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Terry, for your thoughtful words (and for the phone call today). For our other listeners, Terry and I go back a ways. We both want to respect the other’s positions and reputation. Hence, my delay in responding to his comments.

      That said, I believe (and feel that you likewise do) that each of us can be reasonably transparent with one another re our deeply held beliefs even tho we may disagree on the issues. To do otherwise is to not really have a friendship. Being friends means that we don’t have to hide from one another; we can be honest and straightforward.

      That’s not to say I’m going to bear my soul about everything, nor do I expect you to, either. Some things are better left unsaid for awhile. Let them simmer, and at the right time (if that right time ever arrives) the discussion on the sensitive issue (most of them having to do with social mores and heartfelt personal beliefs) can come out and we can review it, consider it, express why it doesn’t gel with our worldview, or whatever.

      May our friendship continue … in integrity, respect, openness, patience, and compassion for one another.

  9. james dickie says:

    As usual great points to think and meditate on Sam. Thanks for the good works.
    Jim Bob Dickie…

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