Jesus and Universal Healthcare

Jesus and Universal Healthcare

I am again hearing people say that Christians should support or lobby for universal healthcare…because Jesus would have. Somehow, to be unpersuaded is to be rather unChristian.

To my mind, healthcare is a good but is not a right. And that leaves me conflicted. However, I do not have the right to demand of anyone that they provide me healthcare unless it has been contractually promised.

Of course, a government may promise universal healthcare and then be obligated to such promises. But governments are notorious for growing bureaucracies, lining their own pockets, equivocating, hesitating, and rationing. And the latter shouldn’t surprise us as the relevant resources are radically limited; they are scarce.

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Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

Do and Don’t: The Golden Rule and Its Negative Version

Kevin James Bywater

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While at a British New Testament Conference in 2007,  I participated in a number of seminars focused on interpreting the New Testament in light of the literature of Second Temple Judaism. One presenter discussed the positive and negative formulations of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It was noted that most often in the literature of the early church the rule appears in a negative form: “Don’t do to others what you would not like them to do to you.”

Now, some have proposed that this negative form has a more limited force since it merely discourages doing harm to others rather than encouraging the doing of service for them. As such, the negative version may lend itself to a more restrictive application (e.g., “Hey, I didn’t hurt anyone!”). Also, it is conceivable that someone could use the negative form to justify inaction. However, others have proposed that the two forms imply each other. For me, while I could see the positive formulation implying the negative, the opposite is more difficult to manage.

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Of Religions and Relationships

Not a Religion but a Relationship?

by Kevin James Bywater

It is common commonly said that “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship.” I see this as a false dichotomy, in essence, though, as an emphasis, it can be quite instructive. Permit me to explain.

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The Religion Ditches

A while back I was speaking with a friend. He explained that many of the youth with whom he works fall into one of two ditches along their path of life (my metaphor, not his): some see Christianity as a religion in which one gains favor with God, and a place in heaven, on the basis of good works; others see Christianity as a religion in which, due to the righteousness of Jesus being imputed to us, our actions have no bearing whatsoever on our relationship with God, let alone our eternal destiny.

As we discussed these troubling missteps, it became increasingly apparent how helpful it is to see that our Christian faith indeed is a relationship with Jesus, a friendship, even a marriage.

When we see that our relationship with God is neither a works-based religion where we merit divine love, nor a license to do whatever we please, then we crave some clarity about just what it is. To my mind, it is much like other important relationships. Let us explore these for a couple of minutes.

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Do Muslims, Mormons, and Christians Worship the Same God?

Do Muslims, Mormons,
and Christians Worship the Same God?

Kevin James Bywater

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I would like to explore an important subject with you: the worship of God. I beg your patience as this is a longish post. The inquiry deserves careful and sustained attention. My thoughts are informed yet exploratory. So, with your permission, and with your patience, join me as we explore a very controversial subject.

Do Mormons and Christians worship the same God? How about Muslims and Christians? These questions occupy time in the minds of many just now.

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Introduction

Since 9-11 it has been common to hear that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, especially given that these three religions are commonly called “Abrahamic religions.” And some would add in Mormons, since Mormonism also resides in what could be termed the Abrahamic tradition.

When I ask Christians this question, most quickly answer in the negative. But a few answer in a hesitating affirmative.

What is the correct answer to this question? Or, alternatively, what if we have asked the wrong question?

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Unity in Words and Works

Unity in Words and Works

A Sermon on Unity in John 17

Some months ago I was asked to preach on the topic of unity, specifically the unity of the church. A text from John 17 and another from Ephesians 4 were selected for me. For months I read and prayed and pondered over these passages, and the books in which they reside. Frankly, I did not know what to say that had not already been said many times, and thus threatened to be redundant, if not simply commonplace or even trivial. Mind you, I’m no fan of novelty for the sake of novelty. But I was not sure what I could say that actually needed to be said; that I could say, that had not already been said time and again. 

As the time approached, my level of concern enjoyed a bit of an uptick. The one thing I wanted to avoid in preaching on unity was being unduly divisive. Then again, perhaps that could be the calling of our day, a day when so many preach about tolerance without truth such that we seem to have lost what is distinctly Christian. Our so-called “unity” orbits somewhere other than around Jesus Christ himself. In other words, we can so easily lose the biblical and christological shape of our faith.

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Why Write So Much about Mormonism?

It is no secret that I have written a good bit of material about Mormonism over the years. Some people wonder why. Some actually ask. Permit me to offer a brief explanation.

This coming December will mark the 25th anniversary of my departure from the Mormon Church. More importantly, it will mark the time when I was embraced by the grace of Jesus Christ, and when I, in turn, by faith, embraced him.

Now, this might sound striking, perhaps even befuddling, or even offensive. After all, the name of Jesus Christ is in the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, that is true. But it also is true that what the Mormon Church has taught about the nature and identity of Jesus Christ departs rather dramatically from both biblical revelation and historic Christian doctrine. Not only has the Mormon Church taught deviant doctrines about Jesus, arguably it has offered deviant doctrines about God, about human nature, about sin and salvation, about temples and baptism and marriage and more. In fact, so different is r from biblical revelation and historic Christian convictions that it is right to conclude that while they use Christian vocabulary, they use a very different dictionary.

So, why have I written so much about the Mormon Church?

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