Tag Archives: världen idag

What have same sex relationships and kleptomania to do with each other?

There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”

They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.

“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.

I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.

With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?

Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”

There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!

During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.

In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!

That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”

The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!

In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.

In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

Advertisements

Is this a storm of protest from viewers, or an underestimated programming/timeslot failure?

“A staggering blow” says Dagen in their headline about the prompt change of the broadcast time of “Guds Hus”, a reality show at TV8 about Christians in and “around” Centrumkyrkan in Sundbyberg.

The last weeks the different (Christian) media (here, here, here and here) has written a great deal about the program wondering about its purpose, its goal group and concept. Many articles were written about the importance of showing how Christian people live their lives and how we do- and experience “Church”.

guds-husI appreciate Centrumkyrkan. I decided to watch since a few of my friends were part of this ongoing series “Guds Hus”, I managed the first three programs. (By the way I strongly dislike the different traditional worship services from different churches and denominations which are presented on a weekly basis on Swedish Television).

This last week I was part of the overwhelming majority which did not tune into the program at the usual time since I was on my way to Norway to teach about church planting in Skien, a picturesque small town in the Southern part of the country.

As I told you; I was on a trip, therefore I was absent.

BUT, to be honest I don’t think I will return to the program again. Somehow it is really hard to make an interesting story within the given context. I feel I have given the program a chance but although I (was) a very motivated viewer I sense that there really is no challenge within the program; too many characters, too little story, too much music and song, too little “life”.

It must have been a real challenge and stress for the church and leadership team to facilitate this endeavor, and I know their motivation was to give people an honest insight in what Church and Christian life is all about. But, here again there is that “but” word, I felt that the edge was missing.

I am happy with every single person whose negative opinions about Church might have been challenged through this program and I am happy for every single one who might have find their way back to God and the church (which I know has happened!) But I feel that it was too clear-cut, too mono-cultural and too in-grown to make a difference among the Swedish viewers. I know the program was not meant to be for me, but in my mental state I was watching it through the eyes of the people that we meet in our church and it was not relevant to them.

Give us some in-depth life stories of people who have radical meetings with Jesus in their daily lives… some who might have been normal middle class “Svenssons” others from different backgrounds and cultures… It is not difficult to gather a crowd of such people who have stories to share about Jesus’ intervention that will blow the minds of people surfing on the highway of Television entertainment!

What is the reason of the landslide in viewer statistics?

If you ask me (who does?) the absence in front of TV8 Guds Hus is to be considered as a storm of protest. A silent protest that is, in Sweden we don’t say too much when we don’t like things or when we disagree; we just don’t show up!

That’s the Way I see it! (And not necessarily the right way!)

John

The confirmation of a vision – breaking down racism and xenophobia!

New Life Church received on Tuesday June 11 a prize for their ministry against racism and xenophobia from Stockholms Landsting (county council). The Stockholm county is comprised of 1.9 million people and 26 municipalities.

As representative of the church, I went together with four other members to the meeting of the county council where close to 150 political representatives were gathered for their monthly meeting. Here we were honored together with two other individuals and one other organization for our ministry against racism and xenophobia.

The terms “xenophobia” and “racism” are often used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race and ancestry). To understand the more in depth meaning of the term “xenophobia” read the explanation below the article.

I wrote in the heading: “The confirmation of a vision – breaking down racism and xenophobia!” for me this prize is an acknowledgement of a deep commitment that we have had as church to break down barriers between individuals and groups in our society through the power which is found in Jesus Christ. Part of our mission statement as church reads: “We see… a church that in tangible ways fulfill the unity in Christ by breaking down barriers and building bridges between different ethnic groups, cultures, languages, gender, social background, generations and personalities”.

Today people from over 40 different nations consider New Life their home while the majority remains Swedish. There is a deep commitment to Sweden and the city of Stockholm. For a more in-depth study on this subject I encourage you to listen to some of the sermons which are freely available on line:

(Check: 2004-02-15 – John van Dinther – A mind blowing urban theology for relationships, 2006-10-15 – John van Dinther – Working for the shalom of the city, 2006-09-17 – John van Dinther – Back to our roots)

Anyway, I just wanted you to know about our thankfulness and excitement to have received this prize; it is an encouragement to the whole church and it spurs us on to continue to be focused on one of our foundational values of being a multi-cultural church deeply rooted in Swedish society!

I hope to hear from you, and feel free to visit us!

God bless you,

John

For xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia. The first is a population group present within a society that is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, or in the worst case, genocide.

The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against individual persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. Isolationism, a general aversion of foreign affairs, is not accurately described as xenophobia. (According to Wikipedia)

Accountability in leadership… transparancy, protection and trustworthiness!

Some preachers have still issues with financial transparency according to Dagen (here, here and here) and Världen Idag… The request from US senator Charles Grassley to get information on the financial dealings of a number of influential and thus often financially well-off spiritual leaders and their ministries have caused many and long discussions and hesitancy on the part of some of the ministries involved. Bennie Hinn only recently submitted his financial records to be scrutinized (because that will happen!), others, among them Kenneth Copeland and Dollar ministries (what a name!) are opposed to the requests of the senator.

With the number of financial abuses in mind both in Sweden as throughout the world we should be more than willing to go beyond the required formal accountability due to national or organizational guidelines. Those involved in ministry should be wiling to walk an extra mile in regard of these matters to even remove the shadow of doubt over our economic dealings. Honestly speaking we need that accountability not only on financial matters but others too. The fact that some continue to argue against such openness make me more or less suspicious, there is no reason to withhold anything from public scrutiny… that’s part of the deal of being Christians!

Jack Hayford, a senior pastor of Church on the Way and presently acting as leader of the Four Square denomination has for years tried to build accountability into ministry. He strongly suggested already in 2004 for all ministries to become part of an International Council for Ethical Accountability.

Another interesting initiative is the national “ministry watch” in the US which tries to give update information on the financial dealings of the different ministries, they even give recommendations on financially accountable organizations, Interesting is that fact that quite some of the organizations refuse to inform this organization about their financial records!

Based on the initiative from Jack Hayford, a number of charismatic leaders got together in Orlanda and developed the following document (here). As we see there is nothing new under the sun and we can only hope that we will voluntarily submit ourselves to accountability and openness, not only within networks with friends, but even organized networks. (Let’s be honest, the loose informal networks don’t always do the job!)

That’s it for now…my appeal: let’s be more open, transparent and accountable! That’s the Way I see it!

John