Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Drawn and Quartered

I've been thinking lately about the stretching exercises God puts us through. Street evangelism, working with the handicapped, prison visits, and talking to the "weird" people after Sunday services. I've decided that He must know what He's doing...'cause I sure don't.

I'm from a fairly conservative theological background...not quite Pentecostal, but on that side nonetheless. In that environment I felt like the liberal of the group, based on my views pertaining to things Scripture doesn't speak on directly. At the time I felt like God was stretching me to remember that Jesus was radical. He ate with prostitutes, tax-collecters, and "sinners". I always thought it was funny that there were always quotes around "sinners" (might just have been my Bible). It's like he was looked down on for associating with people who were considered sinners, whether they were or not.

Anyway, I always felt like I was supposed to let people know that the old way isn't automatically the best way just because it's old. I mean, for us the old way isn't even the old way! Just a couple centuries ago our way didn't even exist. And a few hundred years before that the way we separated from didn't exist, and so on and so forth. New isn't necessarily better, but neither is old.

Well, I now feel the pull in the opposite direction. My new church is not the most liberal Christians denomination in America, but they are moving towards that end. Politics aren't a concern for me within the church, but theology is. And as time passes it seems that people are moving farther away from the basics and giving less and less authority to Scripture. Now I feel the need to stop and say, "New isn't better just because it's new!"

Just because something is socially acceptable doesn't mean it's morally right. And always remember, if you go to the Bible and something doesn't seem right, it's probably you.

Keep the main thing the main thing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Real O.G.

That's Original God, not gangsta.

I've been reading some forums lately that worry me some. Well, they don't so much worry me as make me aware of the depths of human limitations and it's contrasts to the heights of human pride. As a human, I am immune to neither, and have my bouts with both; I just want to share my thoughts on this particular subject, because it's way to important to back off of.

I've been reading about Open Theism. For the record, I think it has some serious problems, not the least of which is that God is held hostage by the future. Open theism limits God in a number of ways based on the human attributes ascribed to him throughout the Bible. To be sure, God cannot be limited to a human scope, or even a magnified human scope. He is so far beyond the bounds of humanity that we probably can't even see his range, let alone figure it out.

I was at tonight and I was reading some pretty seething remarks. I don't post on there very often, but I was compelled to do it this time. Here's my post, opened with a quote from one of the more subdued and thoughtful posts already on the board.


ORIGINAL: WesSavedByGrace

There are so many threads going right now in which people place limitations on God. I am going to try to put a thought in here that may help someone (hopefully!) see that God is not constrained.

Time is a creation for man to define the things he knows and to help him relate to all that is. God does not need time for any purpose. Since God is not constrained by time, would it not be easy to think of Him as existing in every moment past, present, and future? The year 2007 is not in God's future. He is not constrained by future or any other dimension that we are relegated to.

The Lamb was slain before the creation, and that was possible because God already knew. He could see the crucifixion then! He does not choose not to know. To take that view is to keep Him constrained to existence in the here and now. Remember: He is the Alpha and the Omega. His existence is eternal in both directions!

I agree that God is not constrained to time the way we are, and that he exists in every moment at the same time. But since we are made in God's image that means that He experiences emotions as well. Not the same way we do, because we are infinitely inferior, but emotions. If He planned every detail of every moment of an eternity that is laid out before him, moment by moment, how would he experience emotion? How could you be angry at the puppet you control? How could you be grieved by something you made happen?

Many of you will see this as putting limits on God. But aren't you limiting him as well? What you have framed here is a binary discussion, one that has only two possibilities: Either God knows nothing about the future, or he planned every second of every person's life. While one of those is possible, and the other is definitely unscriptural, aren't we talking about the God of infinite possibility?

We often talk about the "unfathomable" God, but then we break him down and try to make him fathomable. But, what if the unfathomable God was able to know and not know at the same time? To say that he might choose not to know doesn't constrain him to anything. He would be choosing not to know, and therefore free to know if he wanted to. What if he put up markers, major events in past, present, and future without filling in every moment? That doesn't mean he doesn't know how that space will be filled in, he knows, but maybe he didn't force it to happen. How does God make decisions if everything is already planned out? If you take this concept to it's logical conclusion, God doesn't even have control of anything because he would have planned out all of eternity before he even began to plan it in the first place! Doesn't he have the ability to change his mind, or to let people have free will?

I know this is confusing to read, it's confusing to write. But that's the point, isn't it? We don't have the capacity to understand God, and we never will. That's the mystery of the faith. We'll never understand how or why he does the things he does, and maybe we shouldn't try so hard.
Doesn't the presumption that we can figure out how God works seem just...well, human? How ridiculous would it be to think that we could understand the mind of God, who created us and everything else in existence? What ever happened to the idea of mystery? Why must we systematize and categorize everything into bits and bytes? Can't we just say, "God is great!" and live our lives for him? I'm all for scholarship and fighting to understand scripture, because we are called to do that. I don't want to be feeding on spiritual milk for a lifetime. But sometimes it seems like people are tring to eat nails, thinking their fries.

The O.G. was beyond our understanding. And he still is.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hold On Now, There's Enough Dictators To Go Around!

I will begin this post with a public service announcement: I had a higher college GPA than the President, and not by a little bit (Sure he was at Yale, but it still disqualifies him for the "Smart Enough To Be Prez list).

That being said, he's just a guy--a 70-watt bulb in a 100-watt socket--who is trying to do the best thing for us and for some other people. Because of his drawl and his inability to correctly pronounce the word "nuclear", he's an easy target. But he's no Nazi. We hear so many exaggerated and charges about things that can't even be alluded to, let alone proven, that I'm used to it: He just wants the oil, he's trying to make Halliburton rich, he's a cowboy, loose cannon...whatever. But I draw the line at comparing him to sociopathic idiots like that. Seriously, Hitler? He had a mustache...

Well, today I got the double whammy: not only did Bob over at I Am A Christian Too (nice grammar, by the way) compare Dubya to Hilter & Mussolini, but he said that Conservative Christians are oblivious morons. Ok, those are my words, but his aren't much better

These psychological studies developed a profile of the type of person likely to participate in immoral actions merely because a strong leader tells them to. These authoritarians tend to be submissive to authority and in favor of punishing the declared enemies of the authorities. Authoritarians conform to conventional behaviors, are hostile to minorities, and view themselves as more moral than others. They also aren’t very self-aware; it’s difficult for them to see their actions from outside the context of the authoritarian structure.

As you might expect, conservative Christians tend to score highly on this scale.

Then he goes on to exegete and analyze two out-of-context Scriptures very badly. He first takes a shot at Promise Keepers for saying that husbands should be the head of the household (Eph. 5:22-33). He cites Mark 10:28-30 as proof that Jesus isn't "interested in this hierarchical chain of command." But Jesus statement had nothing to do with a “chain of command”. It had everything to do with the fact that Peter was freaking out because Jesus had just told him that “For mortals it is impossible [to be saved."(10:27) Jesus was reassuring him that everyone who gave up their lives (read “lifestyles”) for Him would receive the blessing.

Then he says this, one of the most ridiculous things I have heard or read from a Christian in some time: "The Holocaust showed us that Paul was wrong when he he told the Romans that 'whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed'. Instead, our role models should be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor executed by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler. Or Martin Luther, who risked his life by defying the Pope. Or better yet, Jesus Christ himself, who defied the authorities by submitting himself to them, thereby redeeming the world."

Paul was wrong? No Colonel Sanders, YOU'RE wrong!!!! If you ever go to the Bible and think that it's wrong, you need to come at it a different way. What the Holocaust teaches us about following authority is that you follow God first, and if the authority wants you to do something that is against God's will, follow God. Paul wasn’t wrong to tell us to obey authorities. He was right. He didn’t tell us to blindly follow authority. He said follow the commandments, and obey the law (little "l"). This statement doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists within the framework of obeying God over all things.

Now on top of this, he's saying that Conservative Christians are blind and dumb for supporting President Bush, as he is this maniacal would-be dictator. But what would he and his progressive brethren have us do? The would have us give stuff to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il so that they'll be happy. Well, can you really be mad at us for supporting a guy who you insult by saying he's like a dictator, when you want us to give presents to real dictators who throw temper tantrums? That's just Il...sorry, ill.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Call That Protection?

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:



    `This Article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment'.


`Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.'.

Let me begin by saying that I believe God intended covenant marriage to exist between men and women. Since I can't cite Scripture taking it any farther than that, I will say that I think that one man and one woman should commit to each other fully, and solely, in order for marriage to work. But this just chaps my hide.

The institution of marriage has been around a looooong time. It's survived centuries of men treating women as property. It survived the dark ages, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. It survived the War of 1812, the Civil War, the two Great Wars, and Vietnam. And it has stood strong through our society's turn towards cohabitation and parents who avoid marriage. But it's suffering some staggering blows.

The traditional family in the US has been on the decline for 40 years. It's almost rare for a child to be raised by both biological parents. People are choosing to stay single (but not celibate), and those who do get married do it much later and with much less committment than in past generations. Even when they're married they have a bag packed in case they aren't "satisfied". The marriage bond is weakening and prenups and no-fault divorce are just making it worse.

Thank God someone figured out how to protect this sacred institution from further damage; by focusing our energy on making sure gay people don't get married. "We can't let the sanctity of marriage be tainted," they say. "We hold it in high esteem and we aren't going to let it fall apart in this country."

My only question for these people is: are you blind? Marriage is crumbling all around us. How many divorcees do you know? I know a lot. More than I ever thought I'd meet. "I learned my lesson, I'll never do that again." Sure, you can blame it on youth the first time, because you were 21, but what about when the 2nd turn ends? or the 3rd?

I guess the worst part of it for me is that, when people talk about the end of their first marriage, or their second, they never seem repentant. They're hurt, and they may still be confused, but all are oblivious to the fact that, even if it wasn't their "fault", it's still a sin.

When you marry someone, your vows don't say, "I promise to love you as long as you don't tick me off or frustrate me, you keep me happy, you do everything I think you should in order to satisfy my wants (not needs), and you don't leave the seat up." At least mine didn't. I told my wife I would love her and cherish her until death parts us. Not the death of romance, or finance, or sex, or good health...I promised to be there for better or worse; worse in me, in her, in us. Marriage in this country doesn't need protection from gays, it needs protection from us.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Woman, thou art...woman!

My wife is a wonderful, intelligent woman, and a very hard worker. Last year she worked with a student from a local college, who we'll call Beth. Beth was a psychology student, and feminist. She wouldn't come right out and say it, but if you talked to her long enough, you'd know. My wife is still in college herself, working towards an education degree. She knows she'll need it, because I probably won't be topping any Forbes lists in our lifetime. But if you ask her what she wants to do, she'll tell you she wants to be a wife and mother.

This is NOT okay with Beth. According to her the desire to stay home is socialized thinking that comes from our demonic, patriarchal society, and every woman who goes along with it is sending women back to the dark ages. Women should be out taking advantage of all the opportunities gained over the last 100 years, not submitting to the male dominated social image of a smiling housewife. They should be doing whatever their hearts desire...except staying home.

This seems to be the opinion of most feminists, judging from the response to a group started on the campus of the University of Virginia in 2004 called the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW). Shortly after the organization was founded the school paper ran cover art of "a woman dressed in a perfectly ironed pristine shirt with a checkered apron, connected to a machine with 12 babies popping out while stirring her batter and reading her recipe with the headline 'Manifest Domesticity.'" Apparently if you disagree with a feminist you are a human version of Rosie from the Jetsons (without the quick wit).

I wonder what God thinks of the places of men and women in society? What did he intend? We know that women and men are different. Some people would have you think we aren't; others want you to believe we just found out (and we're totally surprised!); but we've known for all time. It's clear that men and women are created to play different roles in the world and in their relationships.

Example 1: women have babies. Not that that's their only function, but they do it. Men can't pull that off (except for Ah-nold). Because God created women with the responsibility of bearing children, he also equipped them with the natural ability to care for them.

Example 2: men have more muscle. Not all men, but men in general have a higher muscle:fat ratio, and more total muscle than women. And men are constantly wanting to hit, chase, beat, and wrestle things (just watch any group of 6 year-old boys...or 20 year-olds). Could God have intended for men to hunt things?

Of course, there are exceptions. Men love their kids, and some women hold babies like they're radioactive. Women play sports and some guys weigh 100 pounds fully dressed and soaking wet. But there's a natural order. Ephesians 5:22-33. The husband is commanded to love, and the wife to submit. This submission isn't one of servitude or inferiority, but trust. This tells women to trust their husbands, and in turn tells men to be worthy of their wives' trust. They are to love and protect their wives' as they would their own bodies.

I could try to stir up some controversy by letting you think that I believe all women need a man to tell them what to do, or that men should always be in charge. But that's not the case. Each couple has the responsibilty to find Godly balance in their relationships. Society's problem is that it continues to ignore the differences that are staring them in the face.

What ends up happening is that women, ignoring and even shunning their femininity, begin to act like men, in order to succeed. Some of these women actually believe that considering traits "masculine" and "feminine" is a construct of society, and we shouldn't believe in that. But I don't buy that. Sure there are some things that society, possibly unjustly, assigned to one side or the other, but the sides, and most of the traits assigned to them, are rooted in truth. The real women's movement should be encouraging women to embrace their femininity in healthy and constructive ways. We know women are just as smart, just as capable, and just as hard working as men. You don't have to act like us, too.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just a guy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Music

My wife and I love to sing. Above every kind of singing we love the harmony and the stir of praising God a cappella. I'm from the Church of Christ, and that's just how it was. My first encounter with worship was in a sanctuary with 600 people who all seemed to know their parts. The basses tuned it in and the sopranos carried the melody, while the tenors and altos made it all flutter. I loved it.

My wife is Episcopalian, so she didn't get a lot of that growing up. But when she came to our Church of Christ college she was in awe. There's just something amazing about hearing people sing to God with all of their energy that you can't hear when instruments are involved. Not to say that instruments are bad. I love leading worship with guitar. But it sometimes feels like I'm competing with the guitar's voice, and it's harder to connect with the people around you if you can't hear them.

My students, even the ones in choir, are pretty wary of singing without some accompanyment ("You want us to just sing? Yeah, right."), so I try to always have a guitar around for worship. But I miss those times in high school when we were on the van going to this event or that, and we just started singing. Or at camp when a few of us would get together in an impromptu session and belt it out. I miss the songs like "Someday", and "O Lord, Our Lord", and "Mansion, Robe, and Crown" that you can't do unless you sing it with parts.

Instrumental worship, though, has a lot to offer that I had no idea about before. Like the ability for people who can't carry a tune to carry their praise to God without worrying about the person next them hearing. And it gives the opportunity for musicians who wouldn't be able to share their gifts with the church to do so. As Bart says over at emergentHouston, we're all from a tribe, and there's always something we love about where we come from.

What about where we're going?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Avatar

This isn't me, it's a baby my wife used to take care of. I wish I was that cute.

What in the world?

Life is strange. Youth ministry is supposed to be one of those things that people get into to serve God, disciple and encourage teenagers, and support families. That's why I did it. Well, I like video games and lock-ins and acting like a 15 year-old, too; but that's just gravy.

Looking around at the things that are going on in the sheltered, isolated, bubble-realm of youth work though, I'm tempted to ask God and everybody else, "What in the world?". In the last week I just learned of two youth ministers in churches my friends attend to used their position to take advantage of the teens in their care. I think there are a total of 15 girls in all whose innocence, whether given or taken, was lost to the very people expected to protect it. These men, whose call was to spread the Gospel and teach young Christians to become strong followers in the faith, instead allowed the poison of their selfishness to destroy all that God wanted to build through them. Well, they didn't destroy all of it, because God's work will continue, but these scars will last.

I don't ask that begging question though, because it answers itself. The "what" is revealed by "in the world". One of my friends, who sat with his former youth minister while he revealed to his wife the secret life he'd been leading, said this: "I know he's just a man..." That, of course was followed by "but", but I was so amazed at his reaction. We are all fallen and unworthy of the grace God gives us. It takes a real man to realize that. It takes a true, ardent follower to stand by someone who is facing this type of disgrace. I know he's just a man...

In the midst of all this controversy I heard an unsettling story from a veteran youth worker, we'll call him Al. Apparently a youth minister in his town had recently revealed himself as a homosexual, and was removed from his position. Shortly thereafter, Al's group was going on a planned trip to a waterpark. The mother of one of his student's decided that she didn't know Al very well, and wasn't comfortable with her son going on the trip, so she kept him home. Al was confused as to why things have to be this way. Foolishly I tried to explain it...but in the end I had to say, "I'm just as confused as you are." The real truth is that only God can change hearts, but we can guard them. Evil doesn't seep in unless we let it.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

1Peter 5:8-9