Here’s a ministry idea. Vampire horror fiction writer, Anne Rice, underwent a spiritual conversion to Christianity a few years ago. She still has a lot of liberal ideas, but I find her testimony and some of her right ideas fascinating.
I read in an article that she spends several hours a day answering email. I wrote her a couple of times and she answered me. Go to her website and answer some of her questions to Christians. I’ll be interested to hear what you wrote and how she’ll respond to you.
The following questions are in blue and my answers are in black.
From Anne, May 31, 2007:
THESE QUESTIONS ARE PRINTED OUT AND DISPLAYED RIGHT BY MY DESK. YOU NEED ONLY MENTION THE NUMBER OF THE QUESTION IN YOUR SUBJECT LINE when you answer. I deeply appreciate your response, and…LOOK FOR MORE QUESTIONS IN THE FUTURE.
1 – Do you go to church, and if so why?
For many years, I found it difficult to find a church I agreed with. I was formerly a member of a campus ministry that split up in the early ’90s. I continued in the same vein of this ministry as a writer, editor and publisher of Christian literature in Rusian, Spanish, Chinese, etc. I have since become a producer of teaching videos and DVDs. A few years ago a customer recommended that I attend R.C. Sproul’s church here in the Orlando area — St. Andrew’s Chapel. The tradition of this church is classical Calvinism and is different from what I am used to. However, I feel I am being spirtually “fed” here in ways I haven’t experienced elsewhere. I drive over an hour to attend Sunday services and I don’t make it every week due the distance commitment. Recently, I committed myself to tithing at this church and want to grow with this church in the destiny that God has for me. You are probably familiar with The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul. If not, it’s a must read — it picks up in the same vein as J.A.T. Robinson and Kenneth Gentry’s thesis.
2 – Has organized religion brought you closer to God? Has it hurt you in your search for closeness to God? Can you explain?
I was brought to God through the Holy Spirit, but the church has played a vital role in my learning and growth. The church has hurt me in many ways — the very institution Christ left on earth to advance the Great Commission often puts too many restrictions on who may minister, how we may minister and often strives to maintain the status quo. Of course, some restrictions are biblically mandated, but most churches aren’t really involved in equipping the saints for works of service. On the other hand, there are a small minority of great churches who understand that the dominion mandate means fostering self-government and family government first by training individuals to become mature (perfect) in Christ. Then we can be the world changers we were called to be in the ecclesiastical and civil arenas.
3 – Has organized religion helped or hurt you in your own spiritual journey? Can you explain?
Helped mainly. The church is the avenue of everything I do. Well, not really the organized, visible church. Most of my projects and missionary efforts are independent of my local church. I look to the church for teaching, fellowship, spiritual experience in worship. This encourages me and puts me in touch with the Holy Place behind the veil. Otherwise, I would have no vision — neither independant nor within the organized religious structure.
I know that I am supposed to come to the church with an attitude of service and not wanting just to be “fed” — but too often I’ve had a hard time synching with the direction of the local church because their vision seems to be to build the local church. I believe in building the kingdom of God. As we strive to do that, God adds to the church. So I try to fulfill my passion for ministry independently and have stopped looking for an avenue through the local organized church.
However, “the church” as Luther described it — the invisible, mystical body of Christ — is always present whenever I work with my brothers and sisters and in everything I do. The “church” is present as I am writing this email to a sister in Christ and “wherever two or more are gathered in My name.” So in that sense the church is vital.
4 – Catholics: are you concerned about the looming priest shortage? Are you threatened with the closure of your parish? What do you feel isthe solution to the priest shortage, other than constant prayer for vocations?
I am a former Roman Catholic and my wife ands most of my family are Roman Catholic. Actually I am catholic, but just not Roman Catholic. My view of this is that we need good priests, not just more priests. Ditto for us evangelical Protestants. We have a serious shortage of clergy truly trained in biblical study. In fact, my view is that since we are all priests, then it’s the quality not the quantity. American Christianity has become 3000 miles wide and an inch deep. So just having more ministers of any stripe is not going to solve the problem.
8 – All religious readers: Do you have a gay son or daughter, gay in laws, gay friends? How do you feel about what your church teaches about gay people? How do you feel?
Yes, I have friends, co-workers, students and relatives who are homosexuals. I feel that as a Christian I must reach out to all people, love them and hope they will know Christ. My view is that all sex outside of marriage is fornication and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The commandment against adultery deals with all sex outside of marriage, not simply homosexual activity. My belief on “gays” is that biblically they do not really exist. It’s not a sin to feel a same sex attraction any more than it is to be tempted to have sex outside of marriage. We all deal with these temptations — so “gays” are not a special category or a “race” of some type. It’s been a big mistake of the church to recognize that there are “gay” people. I think we need to recognize that there are no people who are “born homosexuals” anymore than there are “born heterosexual adulterers.”
The practice of homosexual behavior ought to be condemned. However, a person who is repentant of a sexual sin should bear no stigma or be discriminated against. The key word is “practicing.” All have sinned. Are we practicing sin or striving against it? For instance, the idea of ordaining “non-practicing homosexuals” is ridiculous. We ought to talk instead about ordaining “non-practicing” sinners.
9 – All religious readers: Are you living with a mate outside of wedlock? Do you have a son or daughter who lives with a girlfriend or boyfriend outside of wedlock? Are your parents living together outside of wedlock? Do you have unmarried friends who live together? How do you feel about this? How does your church feel about it?
My pastor, R.C. Sproul, recently started to preach a series on marriage because there are so many couples co-habitating as church members in our culture — and our church is sadly no exception. We have many couples who want to divorce and remarry at will after “no-fault” divorces. I think that biblical illiteracy has caused this problem as well as the refusal of churches to practice church discipline. In fact, if you really want to see the low state of the church, you ought to spend a few Saturdays praying in front of an abortion clinic. I have some friends who do that faithfully, yet don’t get to church every single Sunday. Ironically, it’s a “church” experience like no other. You’ll see lots of Christians with pro-life bumper stickers and license plates (we have “Choose Life” plates in our state) lined up to get abortions on Saturday morning. When local pro-life activists have confronted the pastors of these women and their partners, they’ve basically held the line that abortion is a grave problem and we can’t solve it simply by disciplining these people. We should not condemn them. And so on. Some of our local abortionists claim to be Christians. Many of them think they are doing a service to babies by “sending them to heaven.” So when you write that there is no simple answer to abortion, I disagree. A good place to start would be to simply get the church to stop aborting its children.
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Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
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