Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why I Chose My Blog Name

Barb at A Chelsea Morning has an interesting "link fest" to folks answering this question: The Name of Your Game.

My answer may be obvious - but whatever certainty my writing style makes it feel like I have I am almost always writing about something that gives me a "brain cramp": a mental problem that requires some massage to work out.

The first blog was created under the name Brain Cramps, but that didn't really tell the whole story. Most of my brain cramps are about God, and certainly I try to resolve all my brain cramps for God - but mostly I actively seek to challenge my mental comfort zone, and again that is for God.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Christian Carnival CXXXVII (137)

I want to thank Vaughn for his idea for this weeks structure:

what flashed into my brain when you said 'structure' was 'a house'... ie 'windows' for worldview posts, 'foundation' for Biblical themes, living room for family issues, front door for work/church related, etc
Hey, great idea. I will use my house. So, the door is open, come on in, I will get you a refreshment, and you can enjoy . . .

The Open House Edition

When you get to the front door you first go into
The "Formal" Living Room
Well, not so formal but the original idea was we wouldn’t use this room much, in order to keep our face to the world cleaner. Now, it is where my wife and mother-in-law (primarily) share their community life together and their faith - and we have realized our face will never really be clean.
* * * * *
Down the first hall on the left is
My Wife's Dressing Room
for putting on the armor of God to meet the world:
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
* * * * *
The Office/Library
where we research, write and study our own and other peoples ideas and beliefs
* * * * *
Also, our
The Bedroom
where we deal with rest from our weariness, and of course, our sex life as followers of Christ.
* * * * *
Last down that hall is
The Bathroom
where we can unload some of the baggage we have gathered, while cleansing and renewing ourselves, after being in the world
* * * * *
To the right out of the living room is the
The Kitchen
where concoctions of all types are prepared, and many of my children's science experiments were carried out.
* * * * *
Attached to the Kitchen, is the
Breakfast Nook
where we are fed.
  • Karen Marie brings us a prayer-meditation on
    John 6:67 So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" 68 Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."
    called "Domine, ad quem ibimus?" [Lord, to whom can we go?] From the Anchor Hold
* * * * *
From, there you can go out into
Our Backyard
where we do have some nature to get away in to decompress and appreciate God's creation.
  • Have you heard about the bridesmaid that traveled over 10,000 green miles from Ireland to Australia? Will a new appreciation of creation help you lose weight? Don at The Evangelical Ecologist has a lot more fact and faith-filled links from "Around the Web".

  • Don also points "green Christians" to a thoughtful essay by freelance Christian author Erica Henry: "And the Lord God Planted a Garden"
* * * * *
The other direction, is our
where we store many tools and accessories for our life's projects and recreations
* * * * *
From the living room again, you can go to
The Family Room
where we enjoy entertainments, recreations and games together.
* * * * *
Also, you go into
My Daughter's, or My MIL's, Rooms
where our lives are intertwined with generations of faith and love
* * * * *
We exit that front door to take action on
The World
both spiritual and secular.
Thanks for coming by. Please hang out as long as you like - you know where the goodies are now so please help yourselves.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Request: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

An exchange :

N: According to Marsha West, this is one of the things people should not be doing:
Wouldn't that aid the Holy Spirit to work within them?
It is not for people to have spirits work through them. That's what ministers are for.

Me: Whoa on that idea for me: the Holy Spirit is the helper Christ sent so we could understand and hear the voice of God since Christ was gone. Pastors should be pointing us to the spirit of God and certainly not be working through us.

WP: Bro, I'd really like to see you diary this (bold section above). YOUR diary, not somebody else's, though I'd also love to see links to other writings on the topic, which I'm sure you have at your finger tips.

Ok. As someone pointed out once (they were mean - waaaaaah) all of my ideas are derivative :-) - so I will do the best I can to have this be my post and not someone else's. It will, however, be extremely derivative of Christ and other parts of scripture.

The key scriptures for the highlighted statement above are:
John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

John 14:25 "These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.

John 15:26 "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

Paul: 1 Corinthians 2:10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

[Read Jesus's prayer for his disciples in John 17:1-24. Its not "on topic" per se but it is incredible]

All but the Paul quote are from the Olivette Discourse - Jesus' after-dinner final chat with his closest disciples the night He was arrested. Jesus tells the disciples He is leaving and they object (Peter: "Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You." ).

Jesus talks about many things in John 14-17. This teaching by Jesus is my favorite even compared to the Sermon on the Mount. This was the Jesus of Mercy and Grace consoling his disciples before His death: no millstones for those who harm little children in this chat. One major consolation, as seen in the scripture above, is that the disciples will be better off without Jesus than with Him. In this day of "What Would Jesus ------- (Do, Say, Think, etc)?" if He were here, this seems a radical concept - that not having the physical, incarnated, loving Master strolling around with us is to our benefit.

However, Jesus was not omnipresent (able to be everywhere at once) and the Holy Spirit is. Having Jesus "in us" and "us in Him" is definitely preferable to having to go find whatever mount He would happen to be teaching from and listen to Him there. Or, deal with the butchering of His message on the 5 O'clock News - or listen to the wagging tongues dissect the message after the talk. Nor, am I really fired up about the next group of people who would kill Him.

So, indeed, the answer to "What Would Jesus ------- (Do, Say, Think, etc)?" is in us all the time. We just have to listen and recognize what we are listening to - which is, of course, the HUGE rub in all of this. I do believe we hear all sorts of voices in our lives other than the Holy Spirit and our deep conscience - the famous three for followers of Christ are "the world, the flesh and the devil". The world gives us all sorts of messages about who we should be, how we should behave, and how we should treat others. Our sin nature (our flesh) wants to be satisfied and strives to warp most messages to that which is most self-satisfying, self-involved, and least sacrificial. I believe Satan and his friends and comrades exist and strive to undo the work of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit - "prowling like lions seeking those to devour". Even Christ had to turn Himself over to the "ruler of this world" [that was not the Romans] in order to defeat death, and that ruler, for the rest of us.

For the follower of Christ then, being "true to oneself" is only good if one's self is "being true to God"; or else it is one of the truly horrendous enlightenment phrases that opposes God almost absolutely: for almost all people our "self" is the thing we least want to be true to because for almost all people our self is the part of us least true to God. In fact, the small, still voice you may be listening to may not be connected to the Trinity at all and may be the last thing you should listen to.

Luckily, Jesus did promise that His sheep would hear and know His voice - and that voice is the Holy Spirit He sent as a helper to us. For the answers to how to sort through the voices to find His - and how to even want to follow that in order to

love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; and your neighbor as yourself
I can do no better than to point you Back to Basics and, particularly: I just couldn't avoid the words of others. I should say though that nothing in this post is "theoretical" or "theological" for me: I have experienced it all in myself and those closest to me.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Church Plant: The Road I Am On

One of the outgrowths of being involved in a new church being "grown up" is to being able to pass some of that on to others - since most followers of Christ will never be involved in such a thing in their lives. It also gives an insight into the vision that founds a church, motivates it, keeps it directed, and through which the church will live or die. It is like following someone's life from conception, through pregnancy, and on into their lives as they move toward a mature life of their own.

The pastors at Westport Church have completed the third of four sermons in a series titled Roadmap 2006 as they look back the "Landmarks" [MP3] on the road the church has passed - which will give us strength for the future; the "Compass" [MP3], or values, that will keep us on course; our personal spiritual "Gauges" [MP3] which tell us whether we are burning the right fuel for the journey, and whether our tank is full and how to keep it full; and finally the vision for the next year's "Journey" (this is next week - no link yet). This is an interesting series to listen to for any number of reasons.

Obviously, I cannot talk about the fourth sermon. I also am not going to spend any time on the first although God's provision in this process is amazing. I am going to focus on the Compass that guides us and the Gauges that allow us to do our personal spiritual checkups. These areas have interest for all followers of Christ.

The Compass
Paul Fleming, August 13, 2006

Westport Church has several core values that define us. These are the concepts that we wish to be distinguished by:

  1. Treasuring Jesus: We are a people who desire to make much of Jesus, and through Him, to glorify God the Father. We will emphasize the person of Jesus as our only true and lasting treasure, which motivates us for service.
    • Fill in the blank: I know I am treasuring Jesus because ____________________
    • Question: What evidences show that Jesus is your prize?

  2. Theological Emphasis: Theological foundation is essential for transformation. Theology will be emphasized through the passionate and creative communication of the Bible. Transformative Bible study will be modeled publicly, creating a passion for studying it personally.
    • Question: What is one significant thing you have learned about God in the last six months?

  3. Transformational Community: We are a people of authentic spiritual transformation – demonstrating love, purity, humility, hospitality, generosity and servant leadership. We value gatherings for worship, fellowship, learning and serving together.
    • Question: Who are you investing your life in right now?

  4. Team Leadership: We value leaders who value each other. All leadership roles are designed to function within the framework of a team. This includes our teaching pastors, elders, ministry leaders and members.
    • Question: What team are you currently serving on?

  5. Creative Ministry: We value the diversity and creativity that God has given each of us. Within the context of our passion, resources and gifts, we will explore and act upon opportunities to creatively do ministry together.
    • Question: How are you expressing your God given gifts in ministry right now?

  6. Community Service: As transformed people, we have been given a spiritual desire to serve the body of Christ, as well as our community at large. We value building bridges to our community through acts of service - acts without strings attached.
    • Question: Who are you serving and how?
    • For a current community service opportunity on Saturday, August 26th in Hillsboro, Oregon go here
    • To come serve with Westport that day go here
My answers, as my pastors know (you cannot hide in a small church) are pretty convicting. My wife and I have talked about the need for us to "defecate or get off the recepticle" when it comes to Westport; and these questions will help us get our focus back. How are you with these questions in your spiritual life and/or church?

The Gauges
Jeff Bell, August 20, 2006

The fuel which fills our tank is the first core value: treasuring Jesus. Life does not allow our fuel level to stay static - it is either running down or filling up. There are warning lights in different areas of out life that help us know when our tank is getting empty; and there are ways to re-fill - all, of course, centered around treasuring Jesus. The four gauges Jeff Bell examined:

  1. Worship
    • Warning signs: lack of awe and wonder about who God is; depleted joy; worry
    • Filling the tank: Write our your prayers/journal; once a week get away, take a walk, and go sit somewhere and take in nature for awhile.

  2. Community
    • Warning signs: isolationism; lack of meaningful conversation with those close to you
    • Filling the tank: involve yourself in small groups; invite someone from your church that you do not know over for dinner and get to know them.

  3. Growth (spiritual)
    • Warning signs: decreasing sensitivity to your own sin; no times when you "step out on faith"
    • Filling the tank: Form habits - quiet time, prayer, bible/spiritual reading; find a growth/accountability partner to meet with (not your spouse).

  4. Impact
    • Warning signs: you have more concern for your lawn (job, golf, etc) than your neighbor; no one is asking you questions about your faith (if you were arrested for being a christian would it surprise the people around you)
    • Filling the tank: create a strategy for serving others; make a list of two people you wish to impact (pray for, serve, etc.)
Two tasks if you wish to accept them:
  • Look at yourself: what really fuels you (fires you up, excites you, energizes you)? Is that really the fuel God wants you to run on? Is it the fuel you want to run on?
  • What two things do you want to start doing to keep your tank full?
Take care.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Long Answer

[Crossposted from Street Prophets]

In this thread within this diary I had these questions asked:

A friend of mine is a geophyisist...she was called a stupid heathen by a Christian, in that same arrogant, pinched mouth way. Why? Because she is not Christian. So many times Christians really think they are loving and fair...when they are judgmental and exclusive. Why?
to which I could only answer
Because they are human
to which a certain prophetic werewolf said:
Nonsense. It's because many of them DO feel superior, as opposed to humble, grateful, non-judgemental and LOVING - yah know, like Jesus tells us to be!
My comment which has become my post is:

Again, that is because they are human and what Jesus "told us to be" is contrary to our basic human nature - you know, those things Paul mentioned that we all do:
God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful
He wasnt talking about "some" people here: the language was socio-historical. He was talking about all people here: he was talking about our sin nature - our "human" nature as opposed to what we actually know is right: our deep conscience which I think is God's voice inside us to counter this crap.

So, we end up with a serious internal tension, as Paul did:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
The Four Witnesses looked at the ways we know the "law of God in the inner man" or our Synderesis, or deep conscience. Also, it talked about the ways our Conscientia, or surface conscience, can be corrupted to ignore, or miss, what our deep conscience (God) is telling us:
  1. insufficient experience: we do not know enough to reach sound conclusions;
  2. insufficient skill: we haven't learned the art of reasoning well;
  3. sloth: we are too lazy to reason;
  4. corrupt custom: it hasn't occurred to us to reason;
  5. passion: we are distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully;
  6. fear: we are afraid to reason because we might find out we are wrong;
  7. wishful thinking: we include in our reasoning what we are willing to notice;
  8. depraved ideology: we interpret known principles crookedly; and
  9. malice: we refuse to reason because we are determined to do what we want.
We all do this stuff when it suits us on issues it suits us to do this on: you included brother. Which is why Paul said
Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
and Jesus said this:
You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
This really leaves us no room for hatred, or a "root of bitterness" against our enemy and those who hate.

This also brings us back in a loop to C.S. Lewis's discussion in "Forgiveness" on what it means to "love our neighbor (or enemy) as ourselves": specificially looking at how we love ourselves - and our willingness to love ourselves while hating our own sin.

I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues . . . I believe there is one even more unpopular . . . 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Because in Christian morals 'thy neighbour' includes 'thy enemy,' and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies . . . And there, right in the middle of it, I find 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us' . . . What are we to do? . . . I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition . . . One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbour' does not mean 'feel fond of him' or 'find him attractive'. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my, enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life - namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.

Ultimately, who really cares why people hate: we are to be "salt and light" in a flavorless decaying and dark world.

[Note: someone called me on 'flavorless' - correctly. I think "salt" is used as a preservative in the Bible and not a spice]

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Christian Carnival CXXXIV (134) is Up

The Heat Wave Edition

The introduction from Rev Ed at Attention Span:
Hello and welcome to Christian Carnival CXXXIV (that's 134 outside of Rome). My old friend, Heat Miser brings you greetings as well! Be nice to him... he's a bit of a hothead, you know.

It's August, and let's be honest -- it's been a sweaty mess throughout much of North America for the past two weeks. I myself have lost well over 600 pounds of water weight since July 4. Fortunately, I replaced the water weight with good old fashioned "fat weight" so I'm prepared for winter hibernation. But I digress...

With so many people still trying to recover from the affects of blazing temperatures and 300 percent humidity readings, I've decided to christen this edition of Christian Carnival, "The Heat Wave Edition". So, grabbing a frosty mug of root beer and a couple of salt tablets, allow me to guide you through this week's broiling hot posts, submitted from fine, sweaty bloggers throughout the blogosphere.

About Christian Carnival:

Contributing a Post to the Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this Carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought.

Posts need not be of a theological topic. Posts about home life, politics, or current events, for example, written from a Christian worldview are welcome.

Update: As the goal of this Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, entries will be limited to blogs that share that goal. Blogs with content that is focused on a business, that has potentially offensive material Christians may not want to link to on their sites, or has no reference to distinctively Christian thought may not be included in this Carnival. There are other Carnivals that would be a more appropriate venue for that material. I realize that this will be a judgment call on the part of the Carnival administrator, and being human she may make mistakes. However, as the Christian Carnival is getting quite large, and it is sometimes questionable whether the entrants are seeking to promote Christian thought, I find this necessary.

Update: We also expect a level of discourse that is suitable for a Christian showcase. Thus entries may be refused if they engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks, offensive language, or for any similar reason as judged by the administrator.
So, if you have a post in this framework - go here to find out more: Christian Carnival Participation Instructions.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A "Discussion" of Political Philosophy

Frankly, political philosophy is not something I spend much time on at all. Calling myself a conservative after a life when my sharpest and most defined political position was extreme left - commie indeed - is primarily a sense that government is not the solution to problems. Community is the solution to problems. Moreover, where government must handle problems - the government closest to the problem should handle the problem. This is a very conservative position.

Of course, I was a VERY well read Marxist. I have read Capital even. Tons of Mao, Lenin, Stalin, DuBois, and on and on. Indeed, I was as well read in Marxist political and revolutionary philosophy as I am now in the Bible. Actually, I haven't caught up quite yet in the Bible and theology.

If I was 20 or 30 something and my entire voting political life had been spent with neo-conservatives I would probably be a liberal as well. After all, neo-conservative philosophy grew primarily out of ex-Trotskyists who left the Old Left. I am not a neo-conservative. A root of my conservatism is that government should only spend what it makes. Tax cuts in the middle of the largest deficits in our history, and in the midde of a war, is not a conservative philosophical point for me: budgets should be balanced except in emergencies or perhaps to build necessary infrastructure for the future (thereby borrowing against that future is ok).

I would, for instance, support a modified flat-tax. Exempt the first $20,000 in income and everybody pay the same percentage. Lets say that is 10% (I do not know what the latest estimates are): I will make about $36000 this year, so I would pay my $1600 in taxes; and the guy make $120,000 a year can pay their $10000. Mr $1,200,000 can pay their $118,000. Understand this only makes sense if there are no deductions other than that first exemption - which could vary by family size and whether there were disabled in the family as it does now. I do not think graduated income taxes are fair particularly, and they have led to a plethora of deductions to whittle down the rich's contribution anyway.

But, I am not here right now to get bogged in those kind of details. Let us talk some underlying philosophy. I have a feeling that, like me, most folk's political allegiance and philosophy is not that deeply held or understood. It is more a matter of who "does the right things" in their eyesight: Liberals feed the poor, conservatives feed the rich; conservatives start wars and bomb babies, liberals hate war and love babies; and the such. For me, Christ has pointed out that the reasons we do what we do are at least as important as what we do. Christ views our heart and not just our actions. How and why you feed the poor is at least as important as feeding them: I have been on welfare and foodstamps and I know this is true.

In Joe Carter's world-class bash of Ann Coulter for her lack of civility [liberals might want to read through the comments to see how they are viewed from the right] he makes this comment:

Our political culture has truly become debased when even conservatives now accept what James Q. Wilson has described as the elevation of self-expression over self-control. (Perhaps it is to be expected, though, of a movement that has replaced the wisdom of Russell Kirk with the soundbites of Rush Limbaugh.)We have heartily embraced the leftist ideal that we have an inherent right to be as stupid and as banal as we want. As the legal scholar Stephen Carter says, "When offensiveness becomes a constitutional right, it is a right without any tradition behind it, and consequently we have no norms to govern its use."

This "right" does have a tradition, though, for stupidity has a pedigree that reaches back to our first ancestor. "Stupidity is a form of behavior," said the late media critic Neil Postman, "It is not something we have; it is something we do." Conservatism used to recognize this fact and even played a role in society by helping citizens to avoid moral stupidity.

This is essentially what Russell Kirk was getting at when he outlined his six principles of conservatism. The principle of moral order (a belief in a transcendent moral order to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society), the principle of prescription (a reliance on the "wisdom of our ancestors"), and the principle of prudence (public measures should be judged by their long-term consequences) are all means of preventing moral stupidity. [This led me to wonder who Russell Kirk was, and about his six principles - so I looked them up, but that is coming.]
Frankly, as a once very active member of the new left this criticism strikes me as accurate. In a desire to "question everything" and "question authority" we engaged in serious "moral stupidity". The "free love" of my generation led to death of countless number of people by AIDS. In 1972, at the height of the power of the Vietnam era radical left and those counter-cultural changes, AIDS was entering the gay community as a future killer. As they have discovered in Nigeria, abstinance and being faithful to one person are critical to stopping AIDS; and very conservative attributes. These attributes are universal goods and not just great ways to stop a killer disease.

The idea of universal truth, or universal goods, brings us back to Russell Kirk and the real point of this post, and where I would like the discussion to go. His six principles of conservatism:
Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogmata; conservatives inherit from [Edmund] Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time. As a working premise, nevertheless, one can observe here that the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors . . .; they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine. . .

I think that there are six canons of conservative thought--
  1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. A narrow rationality . . . cannot of itself satisfy human needs. . . . True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.

  2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves calls "Logicalism" in society [see "Civilization without Religion?" for more on Graves]. . . .

  3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless society." With reason, conservatives have often been called "the party of order." If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum. Ultimate equality in the judgment of God, and equality before courts of law, are recognized by conservatives; but equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

  4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic levelling, they maintain, is not progress.

  5. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" who would reconstruct society upon abstract desings. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power.

  6. Recognition that change may not be salutory reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman's chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence. . . .
In a revolutionary epoch, sometimes men taste every novelty, sicken of them all, and return to ancient principles so long disused that they seem refreshingly hearty when they are rediscovered. . . . The true conservative thinks of this process [of historical change and conflagration], which looks like chance or fate, as, rather, the providential operation of a moral law of polarity. And Burke, could he see our century, never would concede that a consumption-society, so near to suicide, is the end for which Providence has prepared man. If a conservative order is indeed to return, we ought to know the tradition which is attached to it, so that we may rebuild society; if it is not to be restored, still we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilization escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite.
and, as a counter-balance for the discussion, Kirk's Four Principles of Radicalism:
(1) The perfectibility of man and the illimitable progress of society: meliorism. Radicals believe that education, positive legislation, and alteration of environment can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity toward violence and sin.

(2) Contempt for tradition. Reason, impulse, and materialistic determinism are severally preferred as guides to social welfare, trustier than the wisdom of our ancestors. Formal religion is rejected and various ideologies are presented as substitutes.

(3) Political levelling. Order and privilege are condemned; total democracy, as direct as practicable, is the professed radical ideal. Allied with this spirit, generally, is a dislike of old parliamentary arrangments and an eagerness for centralization and consolidation.

(4) Economic levelling. The ancient rights of property, especially property in land, are suspect to almost all radicals; and collectivistic reformers hack at the institution of private property root and branch.

As a fifth point, one might try to define a commmon radical view of the state's function; but here the chasm of opinion between the chief schools of innovation is too deep for any satisfactory generalization. One can only remark that radicals unite in detesting [Edmund] Burke's description of the state as ordained of God, and his concept of society as joined in perpetuity by a moral bond among the dead, the living, and those yet to be born--the community of souls.
Since I am really a political philosophy novice, I am doing this as a learning exercise for me.

Have fun

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If A Quote Seems Crazy . . .

[Now that the political season is upon us (is it ever off) I thought I would bring this post over from Street Prophets]

. . . it just might be.

I find myself combating a lot of what I consider craziness about conservative evangelicals, and fundamentalists, especially lately about those that believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church [I do not know what I think about this] and their supposed disdain for the ecology, etc.

In fact, some of them [in most comments this feels like "all" - but isn't] are attributed with desiring death, destruction, and ecological disaster to speed on the coming return of Christ. This is something I have never heard out of the mouth, or seen in the writings, of a theologically conservative Christian. I see it stated about conservative Christians by liberal Christians, and liberals in general - but really have no clue where it comes from.

In the diary "Religious Groups Want... Apocalypse Now!" another example of the spread of "urban legends" and flatout falsehoods reared its head.

Since we [Street Prophets] are a website about "faith and politics" we seem to have a desire among ourselves to avoid attributing to people we are around here ideas and beliefs they do not hold. That is a good thing.

Now, when I challenged a quoted Moyer speech because the end-times scenario he quoted was held by no group I can imagine - it illicited these comments:

Because he's actually done research and investigated these cultural groups in-depth and you haven't?
Bill Moyers is an ordained minister who was educated at seminary, I do believe. He knows theology -- and is an able critic.
and finally, the one one that sent me to a search engine:
But with all due respect, I don't think you read carefully -- because the information is there. Did you see the quote from James Watt in one of my own blockquoted comments? . . .
Ah, the James Watt quote from 1981:
"after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
Watt never said it, Grist and Moyers both apologized for it - over a year ago - but here it is again.

Look at the search I linked: In the summary of the fourth 5th link down it says Watt never said it.

So, I invite folks who believe that any significant number of Christians of any type believe this - pardon my french - shit to read what James Watt had to say as part of this, and this, comment in the . . . Apocalypse Now! diary:

If such a body of belief exists, I would totally reject it, as would all of my friends. When asked who believed such error, where adherents to this "false gospel" might be found, the NCC turned to its theological sources, Moyers and a magazine called Grist, which had also apologized to me. I then contacted the chairman of the NCC task force and asked him about the "some people" who believe this false gospel and the "proud preachers" advancing this false gospel. He could not name such persons.
Bill Moyers, in the speech in question:
warned his audience about people blinded by their ideology and religious beliefs. The combination, he said, can make one "oblivious to the facts."
And, it can make us not realize that if a quote is too crazy to be true, it might not be.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Christian Carnivals CXXXI (131) - CXXXIII (133)

My bad:

CXXXI (131) is up at the Evangelical Ecologist
CXXXII (132)
is up at the Faith at Work Blog
CXXXIII (133) is up at Anchor Hold

About Christian Carnival:

Contributing a Post to the Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this Carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought.

Posts need not be of a theological topic. Posts about home life, politics, or current events, for example, written from a Christian worldview are welcome.

Update: As the goal of this Carnival is to highlight Christian thought in the blogosphere, entries will be limited to blogs that share that goal. Blogs with content that is focused on a business, that has potentially offensive material Christians may not want to link to on their sites, or has no reference to distinctively Christian thought may not be included in this Carnival. There are other Carnivals that would be a more appropriate venue for that material. I realize that this will be a judgment call on the part of the Carnival administrator, and being human she may make mistakes. However, as the Christian Carnival is getting quite large, and it is sometimes questionable whether the entrants are seeking to promote Christian thought, I find this necessary.

Update: We also expect a level of discourse that is suitable for a Christian showcase. Thus entries may be refused if they engage in name-calling, ad hominem attacks, offensive language, or for any similar reason as judged by the administrator.

So, if you have a post in this framework - go here to find out more: Christian Carnival Participation Instructions.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Bible: Inspired and Inerrant?

[Third in a series after "SHEEP! WE ARE ALL SHEEP!" and "Robbers and Thieves and Wolves - Oh My!"]
[Crossposted at Street Prophets - where the comments are]

This has turned into a series on my views of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. What does it mean: Inspired and Inerrant? Inspired is really captured by this famous passage:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

The word "inspired" is translated from the Greek word qeopneustoß which comes from the roots qeoß
a deity, especially (with 3588) the supreme Divinity
and pneo:
to breathe, to blow
The traditional definition of inspiration is "God breathed". One description of that is:
What it says of Scripture is not that it is "breathed into by God" or is the product of divine "inbreatheing" into the human authors, but that it "breathed out by God" or "God-breathed." In a word, what is being declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them.
This comes from a pretty academic look at the Greek: "Inspiration & Inerrancy". This is a thorough conservative look at the inspiration of scripture and inerrancy, which is:
"a theological deduction from inspiration"; and
"not demonstrable empirically because of:"
  • Human finitude
  • Human sinfulness
  • lack of complete data
Inerrancy applies to the autographa, not to copies or translations of Scripture. This qualification is made because we realize that errors have crept into the text during the transmission process. It is not an appeal to a "Bible which no one has ever seen or can see." Such a charge fails to take into account the nature of textual criticism and the very high degree of certainty we possess concerning the original text of Scripture.
Read the article.

Now, at one time (Brain Cramps and Street Prophets) I gave a list of 6 books offered by my pastor, Carl Palmer. Norman Geisler, in When Skeptics Ask, talks about a Bible student's attitude to the Bible:

There are real problems in the Bible, but there are also real answers to those difficult passages [see When Critics Ask, by Geisler]. The burden of proof rests with the critics . . . As long as we can show there is a possible solution - that their objection "ain't necessarily so" - then the conflict has been resolved. Like any American citizen, the Bible should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Like a reliable friend, it should be given the benefit of the doubt. A scientist always assumes that there is an explanation when faced with some unexpected and unexplained anomaly. In the same way, a Bible student assumes there is a harmony in the Bible in light of what appears to be contradictions. The pressure of these types of problems motivates the student to dig deeper and find information that otherwise he may never have come across
One of the books gives these principles for approaching apparent difficulties and discrepancies in the Bible:
  1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable
  2. Fallible interpretations do not necessarily mean fallible revelation
  3. Understand the context of the passage
  4. Interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones
  5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages
  6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics
  7. Just because a report is incomplete doesn't mean that a report is false
  8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact
  9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records
  10. The Bible uses everyday, non-technical language
  11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers
  12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices
  13. An error in a copy doesn't equate to an error in the original
  14. General statements do not necessarily mean universal promises
  15. Later revelation supersedes previous revelation

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Robbers and Thieves and Wolves - Oh My!

[Second in a series including "SHEEP! WE ARE ALL SHEEP!" and "The Bible: Inspired and Inerrant?"]
[Crossposted at Street Prophets - where the comments are]

In a comment to "SHEEP! WE ARE ALL SHEEP!" (see Brain Cramps or Street Prophets) tobendaro asked some (to me) rich, rich questions - which I hope to do some justice too. This post started as one of my typical long-winded comments until it got too long-winded for even me.

A couple of things before that:

  • Since it is becoming less and less common for folks to capitalize pronouns and words connected to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit (and I do) - it should be said that the Shepherd in that other post (and any capitalized Shepherds in this post) are about the Good Shepherd of John 10: Jesus Christ. I know pastors are considered to be the shepherds of their flocks, and refer to themselves that way at times - but to me, theologically, they are not. They are the hired hands of the real Owner (God) who try to keep our eyes on the real Shepherd - Christ. When they forget that . . .
  • That brings us to the verses in John 10 I left out because I didn't think they were on point in the other post; and I wanted to save space. That was a mistake, and I apologize. I think this covers those who approach us sheep outside the person and teachings of Christ. [Karmakin: Please note this places your wolf analogy in very good company]
    1 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep . . . 5 "A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. 7 So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 "He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.
My placement of pastors as the hired hands, and not the Shepherd, of this passage is intentional: pastors are not our shepherds. Our elders are not our shepherds - nor our Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and yes, the Pope. If they teach us poorly and turn our eyes and ears off the person and voice of our True Shepherd where our trust must be placed - then they are leaving us for the thieves, robbers, and wolves of this passage. I at first thought Christ a little harsh here - surely some hired hands would fight off the wolves. Ultimately though, it is not true. If we place our trust in people, even our religious leaders (even the best of our religious leaders), we will eventually be let down. Our ears must always be turned, and continually tuned, to the voice of our Good Shepherd. The good hired hands do that, and never allow the trust of the flock to be placed in them so that when (not if) they become weak and flee, the wolves do not tear the sheep apart. Now to tobenaro:

As with everything, there are two sides to sheep. The fact that they follow a leader (shepherd) blindly and the nice feeling of being in a similar group of like thinkers who do things as a unit to produce comfort. Sorry if the metaphor of following bothers you but we have all experienced many people who follow blindly and that is not a good thing. I have no problem with people who want authority (shepherd) to tell them where to go, when and how to think. I realize the comfort and security that provides. They are welcome to that way and God Bless the simplicity.
God does bless the simplicity - remember "becoming as little children"; or "Blessed are the poor in spirit". Little children follow blindly and the poor in spirit seek the voice of God. The key to me here is that all people desire a source of wisdom that they can trust 100% of the time in all circumstances for the right answer. That is that God-shaped hole in each of our hearts. All humans are sheep; and frankly anyone that disagrees with that is intellectually dishonest - and I am sure they will quote some philosopher or other spiritual source, or themselves, to show me I am wrong. The difficulty is having a source for that knowledge; having certainty it is right; and then having it available all the time. Followers of Christ would love to have our savior at our elbow to give us the answers:

  • "Give him two dollars - he will use it on food";
  • "Don't give him two dollars he will use it on booze";
  • "Give him two dollars - he will use it on booze but you should have seen his morning";
  • "Don't pick up that hitchhiker, he will kill you";
  • "Pick up that hitchhiker, he is the reason I had you drive down this road"
My contention then is that we all seek someone who loves us, who is wise at all times, and that we trust so we can indeed follow blindly as children - we are all wired that way by God. The question has always been "who?" or "what?" we place in that position. Our wiring has been screwed up by the fall and our sin nature; our treatment by other humans; the philosophies of the world; and, of course, Satan - to name a few; but we are all wired to seek the voice of a shepherd.

I don't quite understand your defense of sheepish behavior. You are obviously not a sheep. You have educated yourself; you have searched and found a way comfortable and compatible with your personality. You have found your truth and you believe. Sheep leaders do not want that for their flock. They want to tell you what to believe and what to do . . . My thought on shepherds is they are not concerned of their flock but on their own ego's.
I hope I covered all this already. The core answer: the Good Shepherd is of course not concerned about His ego. His hired hands will of course struggle with their egos every day of their lives and all will fail at times in that struggle.

Is the crux of it that many do not take the Bible as literally as you do? Why does that bother you? If one is coming to God, what does it matter what path or beliefs he uses to do that.
This is the best of the good questions here. Do I care how you come to the Word of God; or God Himself? Yeah, but it's not a huge deal. Do I care if you follow the right Shepherd? Of course I do, I believe in eternal consequences (very good and very bad) for our good and bad decisions in how we relate to God. Again though, ultimately you, personally, will sort this all out - if I can influence that for the good great, but it is not under my control - and I am not your shepherd for sure.

Now, are you a hired hand in charge of part of the Good Shepherd's flock? That is a whole other story. Then we are talking about millstones and leading children astray; and hired hands leaving the flock for the wolves, thieves, and robbers. Since I am a minister of reconciliation (another hired hand, bought at a price) for God, seeing one of the Good Shepherd's hired hands pointing the sheep to the wrong voice is a definite issue. Also, what I say here makes this post not just about me; but about whether I am leading the sheep to the Shepherd's voice; or away from it - and that means it is no longer just about my personal walk. This is Karmakin's point that once I open my mouth in public I am fair game - and I cannot say "Gee, that is my walk and you cannot criticize it". If I am attempting to influence other sheep, I have responsibility to the rest of the flock - and certainly to the owner (God) and His Good Shepherd (Christ) for whether my din helps the sheep hear Their voices better or not.

How do we discern the real Shepherd's voice? Really only two ways:

  1. We know part of what He said; at least the part His direct followers and their companions (first split) were inspired (second split) to write about (third split?). Since we do not get to have Jesus following us around telling us which hitchhikers to pick up and which panhandlers to give money too - we first have to rely on His words and act in faith. The only words we have are in the Bible. That is just it.

    I personally believe any follower of Christ (Jesus Seminar, the 1800's and after German school of text criticism, etc.) publicly undermining the authority and inspiration of scripture is leading the sheep (intentionally or unintentionally) to a different shepherd than Jesus - and Jesus is the only Good Shepherd. These are hired hands leading you to the wolves; or leaving you to the robbers and thieves. Ponder why the German church of the 20th century was left, as Bonheoffer pointed out, with no Truth to stand on in facing the rise of Hitler. It was left that way because of the German theology of the 19th century which bowed to modernism - theology that is still cited today and continues in the "critical" schools. And folks ask why the US church seems to have no Truth to stand on in facing the actions of its government - while liberal theologians take jack-hammers to the foundation of the Truth and inspiration of scripture. This is, primarily, a mistake of liberal Christian theology (but not all liberal theologians of course)

  2. The second way we discern the Shepherd's voice is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus recognized He couldn't be at each of our elbows physically:
    John 14:16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

    John 16:7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

    The Bible is not living - the Holy Spirit is the Good Shepherd's voice and it is living - in us. It will lead us to the truth of a passage in whatever context we are in. It shows us what is history, parable, directive, precept, etc because scripture is spiritually discerned - without the Holy Spirit to "read it to you" you will not "get it".

    Reading the scripture without the leading of the Holy Spirit leads to legalism; and the mistake of the Pharisees in turning the truth and love of God into the restrictions and rules of men. This is a primary mistake of conservative theologians (although, again, not all of them). As Carl Palmer pointed out:

    . . . Many in our church come from conservative backgrounds where talk of the Holy Spirit was divisive . . . These were arguments over what the Holy Spirit did; what gifts it gave; and did all of this pass-away in the time of the Apostles. There were seminars and teachings over all the things the Holy Spirit no longer does - and we divided up - and the evil one just cackled. He cackled because he got Christians to divide up over God's Spirit, which is one of the stupidest things imaginable. Instead of being the source of loving one another, Christians were divided and angry with one another over the Spirit of God . . . The Holy Spirit is the thing that unites us together. We are baptized together into Jesus Christ through the Spirit. The Spirit is what makes the Body of Christ one . . . We need figure out what the Holy Spirit does do; and what He does for us; and His purpose for us; and what His gifts are and how we receive them; and how do we get the filling of God? We need to be powerful, spiritual people the way Jesus intended us to be.
This is not an "either/or" but a "both". Scripture gives us grounding to know whether the "voice" in our heart, or head, is the Holy Spirit or not - because the Holy Spirit will not contradict scripture. The Holy Spirit gives us God's love to apply God's word to our lives; and allows us to understand, as sheep, where we are to follow.

That is why I am a "Biblicist". And, that is why I will get irritated when the authority, power, and truth of scripture is attacked by Christians. I think they are dulling the voice of the Shepherd and allowing the wolves into the flock.

As Paul said, what non-Christians do about the Bible is not my concern.

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