Thursday, July 27, 2006


[First in a series including "Robbers and Thieves and Wolves - Oh My!" and "The Bible: Inspired and Inerrant?"]
[Crossposted at Street Prophets - where the comments are]

When my wife's brother was about 19 or so, he and she were at a shopping center at Christmas time. They were crossing a bridge over an ice rink pushing against the mad rush - when her brother stood on the railing and shouted at the top of his lungs: "SHEEP! SHEEP! YOU ARE ALL G-D- SHEEP!"

This brother is the most secular of the siblings and certainly a hard agnostic. He probably still thinks people are sheep (he is so much wiser); and my guess is he thinks the religious are sheep particularly. In my normal stream of consciousness mode, I thought of this story when I was reading a post and its comments at Street Prophets. The front page post by Pastordan was "53% of Churchgoers say Attendance is Growing". The poll PD was referring too was in an article by the same name at Rasmussen Reports. The part that Pastordan stressed to launch the discussion was this:

Fifty-three percent (53%) of American churchgoers say that attendance at their Church is growing. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 11% say attendance is declining while 33% see little change. Evangelical Christians are more likely to see growing attendance than other Protestant Churchgoers or Catholics.

Among those who believe the Bible is literally true, 57% say that attendance is growing at their Church. Among other churchgoers, just 44% see growth.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of all Americans believe the Bible is literally true while 32% disagree and 13% are not sure. Among those who attend Church at least once a week, 74% believe it is literally true. At the other extreme, 29% of those who rarely or never attend Church believe the Bible is literally true.

Now Street Prophet's followers of Christ are heavily in the group of the 46% of Christians who do not believe in the "literalness" and inspiration of scripture. Folks recommend Marcus Borg and many speak kindly of the Jesus Seminar. Many folks will argue that whether Christ actually lived; actually died; and was actually risen from the dead is irrelevant - it is the mythos and meaning around the story, and not its historical accuracy, that matters. I have heard it argued that the insistence on the actual occurance of supernatural events drives modern seekers away from God because they cannot buy faith that reason cannot test. Most are part of churches that are not evangelical, conservative, fundamentalist, etc.

The comments should be read. Pastordan was smart enough to not say what this poll meant; but the commenters were unafraid - and I am admittedly never "smart": B . . . (oops sorry). My little chat here was primarily driven by a couple of comments. I am linking the full comments because I have pulled out just that which is thematic to this post:

  • here:
    Literal truth??? . . . The Bible in the hands of the ignorant may not be a good thing. How do they deal with the question of translation? Oh--sorry, I forgot--that would involve thought.

    I have read statistics that church attendance is falling--are they delusional about that too? [actually, it is pretty well accepted that theologically conservative churches have shown growth]

  • and the key one that drove this:
    I think "evangelical" churches are growing faster than "mainstreams" because it's an uncertain world out there, and the evangelical/fundy groups offer a lot more black and white answers. The entire program for your life, from repentance to salvation to discipleship, is all laid out for you -- all you have to do is follow. You don't need to question or to think, and you get a large group of people providing emotional encouragement and support -- plus, of course, the certainty of eternal life in heaven. It's pretty attractive for people who are scared (most of us) and who would also prefer not to have to work out our own paths to enlightenment/salvation (more and more of us).
For me, this is "bible believers as sheep" meme: we mindlessly, ignorantly (and really foolishly) follow leadership that doesn't understand the Bible for what it really is - and probably had poor training (or poor understanding of that training) to get to the point of being bad leaders. In fact, for nearly 2000 years generations of followers of Christ have willfully or ignorantly just gotten the message of scripture wrong - or the message itself is wrong. It has taken the last 200 years for modern scholars to be able to correct the mistakes that 1st and 2nd century church leaders made in their understanding of their own primary written language; and those scholars have corrected the mistaken ideas about the Bible's authorship by folks who knew the alledged authors personally. I have had conversations about what "real" scholars believe about the Bible; what "real" seminaries teach about the Bible; and what the "real" Jesus "really" did and "really" said.

Of course this irritates me. It is insulting; and it is meant to be insulting. There is no respect for what we believe, or the intellectual capacities of us who believe it. It is an insult to graduates of Moody, Dallas, Denver, and Multnomah seminaries and other fine conservative bible schools and seminaries around the country. I am getting used to this from secular and religious liberals - but it is still an insult and, from Christians, the type of division of the Body that John talks about in 1 John.

I was about to "go off" in this comment section. However, I remembered my wife's brother. And, I remember one of those parables which I am, in the spirit of the conversation, going to use literally:

John 10: 3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice . . . 14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."
S--t, we ARE sheep. Certainly, we are not to check our minds at the door, but we are to "Love God With All Our Minds", transforming ourselves by "renewing our minds" (making them young again - make them new) while "taking every thought captive for God". 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that the Holy Spirit gives us the "mind of Christ" - so that our shepherd can lead us. There is certainly no basis in scripture for us "working out our own paths to enlightenment/salvation" - we are to hear the shepherd's voice, recognize it, and follow it. We are sheep after all. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (sheep do fear and tremble after all) - but this is on a narrow path (not our own) where we need to be led safely by the voice of our shepherd because we are sheep. When we wander our own way (as I have often) we find ourselves at the bottom of ravines with broken legs surrounded by wolves. Luckily, the good shepherd comes and kills the wolves, carries us out of the ravine, binds our wounds, and patiently waits for us to fall into the next ditch.

For people in the thread on the poll there is no hint that many of the sheep just do not hear the shepherd's voice in theologically liberal churches. I think the comment is correct that, to some degree, we do not want to "question or think" but desire a God of authority and power; a shepherd who will lead us out on that narrow path; and lay down His life to keep us safe. We seek, as I once said in Al-Anon - and on my knees 11 years ago in Spokane, a higher power because we know we are incapable of controlling our lives - and that our concepts of right and wrong are "filthy rags". We know that our wisdom is foolishness, and that God's foolishness is wisdom. We seek power and authority and a sure shepherd because we are sheep.

Maybe the 57% who believe and teach the power and authority of scripture and see their churches growing are not delusional and/or overly optomistic - maybe their churches are growing because we are sheep and we at least think we hear our shepherd's voice there. They are growing too because people are not seeking their own God's and their own understanding - they are seeking power, wisdom, and authority for their lives. Liberal theology may tell them to seek their own way; but they do not need a pastor to tell them that and they may know their own way stinks and hasn't worked.

On reflection then, I can really only answer the charges that those that see authority in scripture must be avoiding the scriptural problems "that require thought" and/or that we need a program laid out that only requires obedience and "not the need to question or think" one way:


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Monday Tour: Appendix

A couple of things missed my attention yesterday - and I didn't want to wait another week.

  • At my FMO group last night I watched James Dobson's last interview with Ted Bundy before his execution. The text is here but you should try to find a copy of the video
  • Read "The Catholic Court Appeal" which examines the interesting fact that while 5 of the current 9 justices are Catholic (all appointed in last 20 years) - prior to that only 7 Catholics served on the Supreme Court in 200 years. It examines natural law, subsidiarity, and religious freedom as explanations for this phenomena
  • Finally, my email to President Bush on the stem cell bill:
    Subject: Please do not veto stem cell bill

    July 18, 2006


    As an evangelical, pro-life Republican I urge you not to veto the stem cell bill if passed.

    First, I think the United States should take action like Italy to prevent IVF lab wastage: 3 eggs harvested and fertilized and all fertilized eggs re-implanted.

    Second, I think umbilical stem cells offer a much greater hope - and should be funded to a higher degree.

    Lastly, parents allowing their currently frozen embryos due for destruction to donate their "bodies to science" is giving the possibility of good coming from this unneccessary waste. Frankly, I see no more ethical problem than bodies being donated to medical schools and medical research.

    I admire your stand on this issue - but the problem is the creation of surplus embryos in fertility clinics to begin with; and not what to do with those embryos when they are slated to die anyway.

    This was sent today through a really interesting site: which will link you to the email addresses of all your federal representatives from the President on down by zip code - and give you the tools to compose a letter or email. Also, you can post what you sent on site to be read by others.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Monday Tour: 7/17/06

It's been awhile; but I am touring again
Normally I start with the current Christian Carnival and highlight a few of my favorite posts. Since I was the host this week I will tell my favorites. Just read a bunch of them.
Michael at Boundless tells Christian men (and by implication women) to "Stop Test-driving Your Girlfriend" (HT: The Evangelical Outpost.)

Joe at Evangelical Outpost has a couple of essays on embryonic stem cell research this week also. I think there needs to be an Italian-type system for restricting the creation of embryos in IVF labs; but I do not have Joe's problem with (given parental permission) using IVF embryos (that would be flushed down a toilet anyway) for research. I consider it analogous to organ donation when we die. Of course, I do have a problem with creating embryos for the purpose of research - ever. Joe Carter will always present a coherent argument that will make you examine your assumptions - if you want to examine your assumptions that is.
Mohammed at Iraq the Model asks for
"No More Half-Solutions" in Lebanon - with some analysis of the similarities to the situation in Iraq.
Bonnie at Intellectuelle goes where Michael went above at Boundless with a
"Follow-up to 'Thoughts on Christian Singleness'". The post being "follow-upped" on is here.
WorldMagBlog tat tips:

  • Ah, a counter to the vast right-wing conspiracy: ". . . Great Left-wing Conspiracy". Now the left can line up for their secret millions from liberal financiers too.
  • ProgressiveU's "The Evil of Christianity". Pretty good example of insult to Christianity from a secular "progressive" (sorry, no tolerance in this post - hence not a real progressive)
  • Someone at Street Prophets thought women who were pro-life had adopted chattledom due to the influence of the religious right. For anyone confused, this is really slavery of women: "Flesh For Sale"
  • The "Religious Right" supposedly hates immigrants and immigration reform: Chuck Colson supports a proposal by Mike Pence (R) from Indiana which may be a basis for "An Immigration Compromise".
Ah: another American reporter embedded in a military unit in Iraq; but the wrong one:
"The New York Times - Enemy of the People". Joao Silva is rightfully bashed by Rick Moran

Rick has also returned the
"The Carnival of the Clueless"

Finally, Rick has a number of pieces on Lebanon - including tearing up a guy from the Weekly Standard who thinks the US should enter the current conflict in Lebanon on the side of Israel.

That is good for now. Next week?

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Christian Carnival CXXX (130)

I am going to list the posts in the order they were received, with mine last. I had a plan for structure but those reading my post at the end will see why this Carnival is going to be a brick shy of a full load.

In Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the spirit:

Galatians 5:22 . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
These were going to be the divisions this week, and I was going to extend it some. It is not that we walk in a vacuum or we walk in the Light: we either walk in the dark or walk in the Light - as I have discovered in the last two weeks. Above this point in Galatians are some "bad fruit" we can see when we walk in the flesh:
immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these
Imagine I have counter posed the good and bad fruit and then divided the posts into the sections.

Some of these are obviously ugly; and some of these are all too common, and perhaps excused, in the Body of Christ: ". . . enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions . . ."
Anyway, on to the Light of this weeks posts:

* * * * * * * * * *

Ruth at Journal of Ruth writes on "Why Do We Stay Away From Church?"

Buzz Brockway at The Buzz Blog thinks that
"Sometimes Life is Hard"

Michael at Tantalizing if True wonders if calmness is a "fruit of the spirit" while making
"The Case Against Calmness".

Jack Yoest tells us that the
"GodBlogCon is Coming Soon" (and about his wife Charmaine's involvement).

Dave Lorenzo at The Career Intensity Blog examines what we must do when asked to make
"Bricks Without Straw"

Veracity at The Way thinks we need to get away from this "anything goes" notion and emphasize that how we
"Dress" matters to Him.

Martin at Sun and Shield presents
"Thoughts on Submission and Slavery, Part 1"

John at Part-Time Pundit hears
"Hollywood to America: You Must Watch Our Smut"

Barbara at Tidbits and Treasures believes we must, as Christians, learn
"Forgiveness" as Jesus taught through His example.

John at Light Along the Journey explores what does it mean to be like God, and why do humans desire it in
"Of Eve and X-Men"

Eric "Funky Dung" Williams at Alex Rarus starts
"An Exchange on Gay Christians (Part I)" - the first of four posts on his half of an open debate on whether there is room for gay marriage in orthodox Christianity.

Chris at Welcome to the Fallout has a humorous courtship-themed rap parody:
"Eminem on Courtship"

Anthony at Fides et Veritas thinks we ought to be wondering "What Would Jesus Say" when talking to others in
"Stay, Tongue, Stay"

Polly at Life is a Buffet says to
"Clean Up Your Act" so that people can really see what is important in your life.

Lisa at Crossblogging learned from the "Esther" veggie tale movie something about
"Women in the Church"

Leslie at Lux Venit is discovering that
"You Can't Judge a Church by its Sign"

Katy at Fallible asks: Can you
"Imagine" how wonderful it must be to throw a cautious brand of generosity to the wind and have its place taken up by a radical life of giving?

Jeremy at Parableman reviews a number of
"Leviticus Commentaries". Considering how often I end up picking this book "out of my teeth" after someone has thrown it at me - it is nice to have a list of Christian views of the book.

Penitens at Penitent Blogger looks at the insidious phenomenon of
"Self-made Religion"

And I examine Ephesians 4:17-32 in the light (or dark) of my
"Moving Back to the Hovel"

* * * * * * * * * *

Hope you enjoyed the rides. For past Carnivals see the links on the bottom left

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Moving Back to the Hovel

This is going to be a tough post. It has been a tough week.

I am a sexual addict; and am involved in a ministry called For Men Only (FMO) because of that. My MSM account is parentally controlled with reports sent to my wife's email address. The defenses are pretty strong; but so is my will so I found a way through last week and have been wallowing in internet pornography - and got caught by my wife (not, incidentally, because of the email reports). While she said that she felt violated and unloved, she showed me grace in saying that she was sorry I had to struggle through this. That came to a head Saturday night.

Sunday morning came my pastor, Jeff Bell, teaching through:

Ephesians 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. 25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
I am not going to try to cover the teaching - you can listen here (and you should - it was a great job). Since the teaching performed a 2x4 operation to the center of my forehead, I thought I would talk about that.

The word teaches that we can go to God when we sin and ask for forgiveness and be forgiven. James (5:16) teaches that we should confess to one another, and pray for one another, to be healed. Forgiveness from God, but it is confession to one another that brings healing. Now, I have FMO to go through that process in; but I feel like confession is necessary on a wider level - because pornography and sexual addiction are a huge issue among men, and women, who follow Christ: one that not enough churches are taking seriously and providing support and counseling for. People need to break the silence on this within the Body of Christ.

The analogy Jeff used to thread his teaching together was the TV show Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition on CBS ABC. For those unfamiliar, a home is picked for some reason - one that is usually unfit for a family to live in anymore for some reason. It could be mold, water damage, pestilence, etc. Usually the house is bulldozed or gutted while the family is away, and completely rebuilt or remodeled in order to make it a decent place to live. Jeff posited the idea that suppose instead of bulldozing the house, a new one was built next door. How many people would leave the new, clean residence with adequate space and facilities and move back into the squalor, filth, and lack of facilities next door.

I did that this week: moved right out of the light of God's grace and right back into the squalor of my sin nature and lusts. I damaged my marriage and hurt one of God's daughters - my wife. I believe my daughter knows; and therefore I have given a horrible example to my 13 year old child. For two weeks I have ignored other Kingdom, family, and work responsibilities to focus on viewing pornography.

I have repented (turned from) this activity; closed the holes and hopefully sealed the cracks. God has forgiven me; and I ask you who read this to pray for me so that I will be healed as James promised. I also ask you to press for FMO-type programs for your churches if you do not already have them: this is a critical issue standing between followers of Christ and their walk in the Light.

Resources: Please feel free to add your own resources in the comment section.

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