Saturday, January 24, 2004

Animals in Heaven

A while ago, my daughter, whose cat had just died, asked whether animals go to heaven.

Hmmm. I was a bit doubtful, but instead of giving an instant answer my wife and I gave it some thought. As we studied our Bibles, we remembered that in addition to heaven, God promised to create a new earth (And what better to have on a new earth than a nice orange cat sneaking through the warm grass?), and we read that someday the lion will lie down with the lamb and eat hay (Since lambs are still on lions' afternoon snack list and hay is not, I think this refers to new and improved lions inhabiting a new and improved earth). So anyway, we're hopeful that whether there are animals in heaven, that there there will be animals on the new earth (our cats, too, we hope).

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Evangelism and Missions

My church has historically had something of a focus on missions, by which I mean reaching people outside of my country with the gospel. I've really appreciated that focus.

But I had a talk with one of the leaders of my church today, and it appears we are considering redefining "missions" as meaning reaching people with the gospel, regardless of where they live.

In a way that sounds noble - after all, we want to reach everybody with the gospel - but it discourages me.

If, for my church, "missions" has meant "reaching people outside of the U.S. with the gospel," and now just means, "reaching people with the gospel," then I fear we will consider we are "doing missions" if we simply reach out to our community. Being in our face, lost people nearby compel our attention much more easily than lost people hundreds or thousands of miles away, but distant people are just as real. I fear that if we don't differentiate between near and far, that people will look at the missions budget and if it is a healthy percentage of the church's budget, they'll incorrectly feel the church is doing what Jesus commanded.

For that reason I prefer the word "evangelism" for reaching people nearby, and "missions" for reaching people far away, though some people feel if you cross cultural boundaries with the gospel, that's missions. I'm not inclined to argue that, but if people hold this view then I would insist on dividing missions into "home missions" and "foreign missions," or "A" and "B," or "cat" and "dog." I really don't care what the word is, I just want the concepts kept separate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

The Raj

I just finished reading an interesting book by Lawrence James called Raj, The Making and Unmaking of British India, about the time of British rule in India.

The British, starting from a trading post, acquired control of India in a higgledy-piggledy, unintentional sort of way, as a result of a mish-mash of treaties and wars, some defensive and some aggressive, and to a great extent determined by local commanders. I've heard the British acquired their empire "in a fit of absentmindedness," a description which seems to describe this situation fairly well.

Anyway, once they acquired India, despite plenty of black marks against them, the British seemed generally quite concerned about improving it's lot. I did not read the book for inspiration, but being a Christian, this summary quote in the Epilogue about the Raj (the name for the British-Indian government) caught my eye:

"It [the Raj] had been the most perfect expression of what Britain took to be its duty to humanity as a whole. Its guiding ideals had sprung from late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Evangelical Enlightenment which had dreamed of a world transformed for the better by Christianity and reason. The former made little headway in India, but the later, in the form of Western education and the application of science, did."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Armageddon and the Environment

I went to lunch with some co-workers today, and one of them said that it is the Christian belief in Armageddon that is spoiling the environment. His logic was that people who believe the world is coming to an end figure they might as well grab what they can get regardless of its affect on the environment.

Oh man! I kept quiet, but now I'm going to vent a bit.

First, I've been a Christian for a long time and I do not recall ever hearing that argument from anybody who believes in Armageddon, so I think this theory has little if any grounding in reality.

My strong feeling, based on my experience when I thought Armageddon was near (now I'm just not sure when it will be), is that when Christians are convinced Armageddon is near, it is far more likely to make them focus on heaven and their rewards there. After all, what's the point of grabbing a bunch of stuff that will just turn to dust in their hands? Further, Christians are encouraged to consider others more highly than themselves, and destroying the environment - and thus harming other people - is in contradiction to that, regardless of how soon Armageddon may occur. In other words, if Jesus was coming back tonight, would you want him to catch you torching someone else's house?

Further, I can switch this theory around and make a much more plausible argument that athiesm exploits the environment. Let me give it a try.

The athiest does not believe in God or an afterlife, therefore if he (or she) is going to get desirable things, it's gonna have to be in this life! The realization that life is temporary and there's no heaven leads athiests to try to grab all they can get regardless of its effect on the environment. Further, there are no athiest scriptures that enjoin kindness to other people, so there is no limit on their potential avarice.

I don't know that this is true, but I suspect it has a greater probability of being true than the "Armageddon destroys the environment" argument.

Monday, January 05, 2004


I was watching the Rose Parade on New Year's Day and recall hearing the announcer mention that the service organization, Kiwanis, the sponsor of one float, has as its goal the elimination of a form of mental retardation caused by lack of iodine, if I recall correctly.

This is the kind of thing that excites me: organizations that take on tasks that are tightly focused and where success is very measurable. My bet is that Kiwanis accomplishes its goal.

This reminded me of the time I attended a meeting of The Gideons, a group of mostly businessmen, which, as you may know, has as its main goal putting Bibles in hotel and motel rooms.

What struck me about these Gideons folks was how ordinary they are. Just regular people. But think what these ordinary folks have done! Probably most of the hotels in the world - at least most of those that are willing to accept them - have Gideons' Bibles in their rooms.

I suppose The Gideons could have done a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and done most of it poorly, but instead - either from humility or good sense - it has focused on doing essentially one thing, and has done it remarkably well. It's a very interesting model.