Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Christian Carnival CCXXII (222)

I looked into making this the "Room 222 Edition" - but I couldn't think of a way to connect the old TV show to a Christian Carnival. Darn. So, the excellent posts are in the order received. Enjoy the rides!

Erich Bridges presents "Truth with a capital 'T'" posted at CounterCulture

Martin Luther King Jr. died 40 years ago this spring, taking a bullet to the head because he had the courage to stand for an absolute . . .
Rodney Olsen presents "The New Conspirators" posted at
There’s an old book on my bookshelf that was second hand when I bought it many years ago. The cover was already beginning to part company with the pages when I snapped it up for the bargain price of just three dollars. It was an early catalyst in helping me to see faith in a different light to the understanding I’d developed while being brought up in a conservative, traditional church.
FMF presents "Thoughts on the Bible, Tithing, Giving, and Faith" posted at Free Money Finance
Today we have a "guest post" from smr, a person who left several recent comments to my post titled "Tithe or Pay Off Debt -- Which One Should You Do First?" I'm posting all of the comments together as I thought they made quite a unique and interesting post.
Diane R presents "The Disabled and the Church" posted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet.
How should the church use the developmentally and physically disabled? Or should they?
Renae presents "Provision" posted at Life Nurturing Education.
The anniversary of the dreadful day has passed. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since my husband lost his job. We struggle with the temporary solution . . .
Doug presents "Watch Your Language" posted at Bounded Irrationality.
Many younger Christians are beginning to push the Christian cultural boundaries in using cuss words and vulgar language. Thankfully this blog post doesn't. We look into what the Bible says about vulgar language? Is there any room for it in a Christian's life? Are there some things that should never be said?
Richard H. Anderson presents "Exit polls" posted at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos.
“Sticks and bones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” -- The Pennsylvania exit polls have demonstrated that this nursery rhyme may not be accurate . . .
Paul presents "Wisdom is the Principle Thing" posted at Life is For Living.
Proverbs 4:7 -- "Wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get wisdom, and in all thy getting get understanding" . . .
Dana presents "How online communication has affected me" posted at Principled Discovery.
Christine, aka The Thinking Mother made a good point on my post looking at how our virtual lives affect our personal lives . . .
Paul Kuritz presents "CITIZEN KANE: Echoes of Eden" posted at Paul Kuritz: Opinions.
Consistently on top of the list of best American films, Citizen Kane is hailed as an exposition of the hollowness of the American dream—financial affluence and material luxury. Perhaps Orson Welles’ film receives its power from another earlier, exposition - human beings cannot create the Paradise they have lost . . .
ChrisB presents "Prayer and Action" posted at Homeward Bound.
Prayer: awesome privilege and occasional cop-out . . .
Jennifer in OR presents "The Intelligent Lizard" posted at Diary of 1.
My attempt to be funny. :-) About a controversial subject. Intelligent Design/Creation proponent here . . .
Annette presents "Flee and Pursue" posted at Fish and Cans.
1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness . . .
Mark Olson presents "Fear, Loathing, Death, Dostoevsky, and Zizioulas" posted at Pseudo-Polymath.
On fear of death, health-care, and the Christian life.
Jeremy Pierce presents "Sex and Duty" posted at Parableman.
Hugo Schwyzer argues against seeing sex as a duty for married couples. This post argues that in one sense he's right, but he's ignoring a perfectly legitimate sense in which sex among married couples is a duty, one commanded by Paul and implied by the teaching of Jesus.
Tom Gilson presents "Darwin-Nazi Link: Fundamentally Wrongheaded?" posted at Thinking Christian.
Was "Expelled" chasing a red herring when it said Darwin was partly to blame for Hitler?
Don presents "Earth Day Preachin' Misses the (M)Ark" posted at The Evangelical Ecologist.
Grist tries to faith-i-fy their Earth Day blogging with this sermon on Noah and the Ark by Ken Ward of the Unitarian-Universalist First Church in Jamaica Plain, Mass. Don Bosch at The Evangelical Ecologist says his reasoning for taking care of God's critters doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
Thom presents "The Security System: Everything Must Change" posted at Everyday Liturgy.
The final three parts of my five part review of Everything Must Change will deal more with the application of McLaren's theories to our contemporary world and how McLaren's thinking changes our Christian perspective of global crises by changing our interpretation from a modernist/capitalist/American narrative into a King Jesus/Kingdom of God narrative.
Barbara presents "Jesus must come first" posted at Tidbits and Treasures.
When we shove Jesus aside for any reason, we are letting the devil get a foot in the door. Jesus must come first!
Weekend Fisher presents "Scoring the books of the canon on historical attestation: part 1, the method" posted at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength.
Gospel of Judas? Gospel of Mary? Secret Mark? There is plenty of talk about secret writings, lost writings, suppressed writings -- how do we sort through it all? Weekend Fisher looks for a way to objectively evaluate the historical attestation of early Christian writings
John presents "God's Hands vs. Our Hands" posted at Light Along the Journey.
What does Little League baseball have to do with trusting and serving God? Find out . . .
John Hobbins presents "The War between anti-ESVers and anti-TNIVers: My Stand" posted at Ancient Hebrew Poetry.
John stakes out a pro-TNIV and pro-ESV position in the Bible translation wars, and gets caught in the crossfire [and see the comments!]

This was another great set of submissions. I hope you enjoyed the rides

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Arrogance, Elitism, and Opiates for the Masses II

[Continued from Part I]

I left the Left (or at least activism) in the late 70's for one conscious reason: I came to believe the radical Left would NEVER reach the working class that they wished to organize. EVER. Barack Obama's San Francisco speech about workers in Pennsylvania clearly shows why: we just didn't get the "culture" - and our philosophical, sociological, and political explanations about why "they" [key word that] just couldn't see why we were right were just not right. We were indeed, as Spiro Agnew called us, "nattering nabobs of negativity" and "effete intellectual snobs".

I left the Left for some unconscious reasons as well. I - not by design - "immersed myself in the working class": I got married to a fellow activist with four children aged 9-12 and I had to pay attention to my family, my job, and my life. I would swing a hammer as a carpenter for the next 15 years until I got injured on the job.

As PastorDan pointed out in "Rural Voters, Values Voters, And The Bitterness Of The Elites":

Even setting those issues aside, working class people tend to be somewhat parochial. I don't mean that as a criticism: it's just that they're focused on what happens at the shop, or at church, or in the neighborhood. The town board is pushing a plan to build a park. They also have a reputation for being a good-old-boys club. Both issues are keeping our neighbors up at night: the friendly biker across the road is mulling a run for the board, which we're encouraging for no better reason than that we like him. He also hates the bar down the street as much as we do. That's a good thing. But the point is that the focus around here is definitely on around here.
It goes deeper yet in my mind: the family, the neighborhood, the shop, and the church are inherently conservative, and organic, structures. Organic in that they are not "organized" [except the shop - yet it can develop an organic culture] - they arise naturally out of human interaction. Conservative in a non-political sense that parallels the political sense spoken of by Russell Kirk:
  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

  2. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes . . . equality of condition, they think, means equality in servitude and boredom.

  3. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked

  4. Faith in prescription and distrust of "sophisters, calculators, and economists" . . . Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man's anarchic impulse and upon the innovator's lust for power.

  5. 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 person must take Providence into his calculations, and a person's chief virtue . . . is prudence.
The shorter version: that family, tradition, land, and faith are the tap roots from which the vast majority of folks' in the world draw their strength and endurance - and not something they "cling to" [unless, of course, you think plants "cling to" their roots during draughts]: it is just part of what they are. As Rick Moran said - they are "embraced and welcomed into their lives". Even Moran, now an atheist, gets this:
Once a Catholic, always a Catholic – that’s me, alright. Despite the fact I have long since left the Church, God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost (changed to “Spirit” in my youth; so much for the immutability of the divine), organized religion, and the idea of the supernatural altogether, I am still a Catholic.

I think like a Catholic. My worldview has been shaped – though not dominated – by Catholicism. In this, the nuns, the priests, the brothers, and probably a monk or two have left their mark on my intellectual, social, and spiritual development. And I will thank them for it till my dying breath. There is great beauty to be found in the strands of logic and insightful, penetrating analysis of humanity by Catholic thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, and other Catholic theologians and philosophers.
So, the Left in my day failed to touch the working class with their ideology because they could not step into and embrace their world - they could not stand in their shoes, or share their roots, long enough to show them the correct direction to walk in them [assuming, of course, we even actually knew the right direction].

When the Apostle Paul gave his famous speech on Mars Hill he understood that point: he did not start from a point of criticism but by understanding the roots of that audience and who they were:
So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown god.’ Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you.
Of course, political activism tends to run counter to a couple of important "beautiful attitudes" at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them."

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
There are some that it coincides with as well:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
That assumes that your politics are bringing true righteousness, justice and peace as God sees those terms.

True political activism also requires a servant's heart - the first will be last and the last will be first. If you want to lead, you must submit yourself to the needs of those you lead - and, of course, understand what those needs are. The Left has always thought that was economic - it isn't. That is why folks vote against their "economic interests".

However, I really have come to the threads of my current life: evangelical Christianity (and sales). Everything said above applies to that as well. Folks outside the Body of Christ have also put down their tap roots into sources of strength and endurance - and you simply cannot tell them the source of their strength is "wrong". You have to come into their world as Paul did above and lovingly serve them where they are: you have to be part of their community, job, traditions, etc. - and then show them by your fruit that your roots are planted in a better wellspring.

For the sales aspect, I will just leave you with this commercial from an automatic group:

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Arrogance, Elitism, and Opiates for the Masses

I wrote after the "Race in America" speech that if I voted eventually for Barack Obama that speech would be the major positive - and that is still true. Nothing in all the discussions I have read since has altered my opinions expressed in that post.

His San Francisco fundraiser speech has now assumed the lead for the major reason I wouldn't vote for him. Neither of these are actually what I consider to be "issue oriented" - there is nothing I want the Federal government to "do" about either racism or hopelessness in the United States. Well, except . . .

The president can use the platform of the Presidency to project values to the country as a whole. Since Senator Obama is running more as a candidate of "change" and "unity" - helping us to get over the divisions of the last 20ish years in order to move forward with a common purpose - these two speeches really are "issue" speeches for him. That isn't a bad thing for me since I do not believe the President has a great deal more than moral authority. Even as Chief Executive, the huge Federal bureauacracy doesn't seem to be much under his control. Since I have no idea who he might appoint to run the elements of that Federal machine - I have no way to guage what kind of executive he might be. Well, except . . .

Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations. -- Senator Barack Obama; April 6, 2008
I have been waiting this long two weeks to say something about this for three reasons:
  1. To let my anger subside
  2. To mesh together some threads it stirred up in my own past and current life
  3. To hear the explanations - pro and con - about why this isn't just c__p
No one succeeded at #3 [it is c__p] - indeed I think it is only partisanship that keep PastorDan at Street Prophets from making Obama the "Wanker of the Day" for this comment; and SP - being a largely Barack Obama Zone - was pretty much a place where you could peacefully hear the crickets chirp after this speech [at least about this speech] - either they really agreed with Obama or they just want it to go away [it won't]. Two quotes just about sum up my attitude about the speech:
"He is saying people are weak, dumb and naive, and they are seeking religion as a way of getting through . . . He didn't help himself." -- quoted by John Hurdle
I’m sorry but I must disagree. Perhaps only liberals “cling” to religion. Most people of faith I know (I’m an atheist) embrace their faith, they welcome it into their lives. It is just plain wrong – in any reality – to say that Middle Class voters are scared little puppies cowering in their economically devastated communities, being swayed by the hypnotic fear mongering of Republicans with regard to guns (no one has to be scared into believing anything when liberals themselves constantly denigrate and mercilessly mock those who exercise their right to bear arms).

And Obama’s contention that Republicans jack up fear of “the other” to get votes presupposes that the Middle Class has no strong feelings about border security – that they are being manipulated by conservatives who use the issue to gin up racist feelings and not because people are passionate about the subject. This isn’t elitist thinking? This isn’t holding people in utter contempt who disagree with you?

Spare me.

The question isn’t whether these issues spill over into the realm of politics. Of course they do. The problem is Obama and much of the left believes people are so ignorant and easily swayed by GOP appeals to their values that the reason they don’t vote Democratic is that they are fooled into voting otherwise. In other words, these bitter, frustrated voters can be had simply by “throwing a flag in their face.”

Not recognizing why this is monumentally wrong is why the Democrats have such a hard time winning elections. The GOP connect(ed)s with voters on an emotional level while the Democrats refuse to engage. It is not by ginning up fear that the GOP succeed(ed)s it is because the party doesn’t dismiss their values as some kind of mental disorder to be cured by “right thinking.” You’re a stupid yahoo if you own a gun. You’re a superstitious moron if you take religion (and its teachings on abortion and gay marriage) seriously. You’re a racist hater if you don’t allow unfettered access to America by illegal aliens.

And the left wonders why people don’t vote for them? --
Rick Moran
and, bonus quotes:
What’s most offensive? The condescension displayed here . . . ? The sheer breadth of the stereotype . . . ? The crude quasi-Marxist reductionism of his analysis, which he first introduced in his speech on race vis-a-vis the root causes of whites’ “resentment” — namely, exploitation by the bourgeoisie in the form of corporations and D.C. lobbyists? Or is it the shocking inclusion of religion, of all things, in the litany of sins he recites? What on earth is that doing there, given His Holiness’s repeated invocations of the virtues of faith on the trail? Note the choice of verb, too. Why not just go the whole nine yards and call it the opiate of the masses? -- Allah
It comes off very badly . . . They are things that I think in a liberal world sound totally normal, and outside of that world I don’t know that he appreciates how it sounds. And it just sounds very elitist, and it sounds like he’s looking down on people. -- Kristen Powers (quoted by Allah)
To quote Top Gun - "that should just about do it for the fly-bys"

That last quote, and PastorDan in his "Rural Voters, Values Voters, And The Bitterness Of The Elites", gives me the perfect lead-in for #2 above - threads from my past and current life.

And that will be in Part 2

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Life Beyond Regret: Part 2

[Number twenty in a series]

I am continuing to look at Chapter 8 ("Life Beyond Regret: The Practice of Confession") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. The study questions are from the back of the book, and were written by Kevin G. Harney.

The book is about spiritual disciplines. The most important thing I have gotten from the book about spiritual disciplines in general is that we should not do them just so we can check them off a list. They are not a barometer of spirituality or a way to earn favor with God. They are a way to enable the transformation God wants to make in your life.

Group Prayer Direction


James 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.
Spend time offering prayers of confession. It is important that group members understand that all that is communicated in a small group (including in prayer) is confidential

Living the Life

Identify where you might need to confess sin in each of the following areas using the seven deadly sins as a guideline or tool to help you.

Area of Sin:Confession:

Personal Reflection

Read this story:
Clifton Fadiman tells a wonderful story about Charles Steinmetz, a genius of an electrical engineer for General Electric in the early part of the twentieth century. On one occasion after his retirement, when the other engineers around GE were baffled by the breakdown of a complex of machines, they finally asked Steinmetz to comeback to see if he could pinpoint the problem. Steinmetz spent several minutes walking around the machines, then took a piece of chalk out of his pocket and made a cross mark on one particular piece of one particular machine.

To their amazement, when the engineers disassembled that part of that machine, it turned out to be the precise location of the breakdown.

A few days later, the engineers received a bill from Steinmetz for $lO,OOO -- a staggering sum in those days. This seemed exorbitant, so rhey returned it to him with a request that he itemize it. After a few more days they received a second, itemized bill:
Making one cross mark: $1.00
Knowing where to put it: $9,999.00
Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to examine your life. Where does the Holy Spirit want to put an X on your life today to show where there needs to be confession and repentant action?

Additional Small-Group Questions

1. Why is it so critical for us to seek the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit as we grow in our understanding of confession?

2. What possible extremes might we face if we confess on our own without the leading of the Holy Spirit?

3. Read Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love!
Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!
Wash away my wrongdoing!
Cleanse me of my sin!
For I am aware of my rebellious acts;
I am forever conscious of my sin.
Against you – you above all – I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
So you are just when you confront me;
you are right when you condemn me.
Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
Look, you desire integrity in the inner man;
you want me to possess wisdom.
Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones you crushed rejoice!
Hide your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!
Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!
Do not reject me!
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!
Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!
Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways,
and sinners will turn to you.
Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me!
Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance.
O Lord, give me the words!
Then my mouth will praise you.
you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit –
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.
Because you favor Zion, do what is good for her!
Fortify the walls of Jerusalem!
Then you will
accept the proper sacrifices, burnt sacrifices and whole offerings;
then bulls will be sacrificed on your altar.
What do you learn about the heart of true confession from David's prayer?

4. Restitution is the process of making things right with the person you have sinned against. If someone has stolen, they give back what they took. If someone has lied, they tell the truth . . . even if it hurts. Why is restitution essential for the confession and healing process to be complete?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Weekly Faith Roundtable

[This has been crossposted from Street Prophets - where it was a joint contribution that was part of a weekly discussion of different faiths represented by folks who regularly post there]

This is the combined work of JCHFleetguy (Evangelical Christian), quarkstomper (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod), and vesticular (Evangelical Christian). The final editing was done by JCHFleetguy.


I think Evangelicals are one of the most diverse religious segments within Christianity - in certain ways. Within any given church that would consider itself part of this movement, what they believe and do is probably crystal clear - however there is huge diversity of doctrinal beliefs as a whole.

If you want to understand what I believe - ask me. If you want to understand Evangelicalism as a movement - study. I am hopefully going to give you the beginnings of that research project.
I was raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and I identify myself as a member of that church. In researching my answers to the questions, I found some points where I'm not exactly comfortable with my church's positions; but I believe in the doctrinal principles that led my church to arrive at those positions. Maybe that means I really belong in ELCA instead.

Nah. Lutherans are also stubborn.
It’s probably safe to say that most of the community, especially the long-time members, are familiar with Fleetguy’s beliefs, based on the sheer volume of conversation everyone has engaged in. To that I will add that I seldom find myself disagreeing with him on doctrinal positions.

It’s possible that I may lean more slightly toward affirming the
five points of Calvinism, but I do so cautiously and with little certainty. Even that is based not on any extensive knowledge of the Scripture that the Arminians [JCHFleetguy: I would fall into the Arminian camp] and Calvinists have wrestled over—rather it is just based on my own subjective experiences. C.S. Lewis is my intellectual standard-bearer, so to speak, and he was not a Calvinist.

I know the previous paragraph probably bored everyone to tears, but I thought I’d piggyback on Uncle John to get the “What Doctrine I Hold” question out of the way if/until someone expresses more interest.

I. Where and when did we start?:

From "Defining Evangelicalism" [with a little structural revision]:
There are three senses in which the term "evangelical" is used today as we enter the 21st-century.
  1. to see as "evangelical" all Christians who affirm a few key doctrines and practical emphases. British historian David Bebbington approaches evangelicalism from this direction and notes four specific hallmarks of evangelical religion:
    • conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed;
    • activism, the expression of the gospel in effort;
    • Biblicism [a word I wouldn't use], a particular regard for the Bible;
    • crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross

  2. to look at evangelicalism as an organic group of movements and religious tradition. Within this context "evangelical" denotes a style as much as a set of beliefs. As a result, groups as disparate as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists all come under the evangelical umbrella-demonstrating just how diverse the movement really is.

  3. as the self-ascribed label for a coalition that arose during the Second World War. This group came into being as a reaction against the perceived anti-intellectual, separatist, belligerent nature of the fundamentalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Importantly, its core personalities (like Harold John Ockenga and Billy Graham), institutions (for instance, Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College), and organizations (such as the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ) have played a pivotal role in giving the wider movement a sense of cohesion that extends beyond these "card-carrying" evangelicals.
For most non-Evangelicals reading this, it is the last group you consider to be "what Evangelicals are" - and more importantly, if you have a political orientation, it is probably more related to the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family (and their political arm - Family Research Council), or Sojourners, etc.

I would give some blended definition of #1 and #3. Number one is the closest to a theological definition of both Evangelicalism - and "theologically conservative" - and in my opinion is anchored right in the 1st century and pre-Nicene church. By that sense, we began at the Cross (or more accurately at Pentecost - which is when the followers of Christ was bathed in the spirit and became the Body of Christ).

Definition #3 really gives the only organizational anchor for Evangelicalism - and the only way to talk about its origins in any modern sense. From that: the split between the Evangelicals and the Fundamentalists started in the mid-1900's - and exploded post-World War I. Evangelicalism really got going when the Scopes trial made Fundamentalists look foolish and they withdrew into the woodwork.
A 16th Century monk named Martin Luther was plagued by doubts about his own salvation and feelings of unworthiness before God. He found his answer in the writings of Paul, emphasizing salvation by Faith. But this doctrine was at odds with certain practices and teachings of the Catholic Church, most notably the selling of Indulgences. He criticized the Church, the Church pushed back and before you can say “excommunication” he was at the head of a theological revolt.

There had been other reform movements in the Middle Ages, most notably that of John Hus, but several factors helped Luther’s. For one thing, the invention of the printing press helped spread Luther’s ideas far beyond his native Saxony. For another, by Luther’s time German nationalism was beginning to take hold and the princes of the region had both the desire to gain some independence from Rome and the power to make it stick.

Other reformers arrived in Luther’s wake, some of whom Luther quarreled with as much as he quarreled with the Pope; and Christendom wasn’t reformed as much as it was shattered into dozens of different sects. In response, the Lutherans eventually compiled the Book of Concord, which set out the essential Lutheran teachings of doctrine.

Decades of bloody religious wars followed, resulting in a theological patchwork in which the official church of any given state, duchy or principality was determined by the religion of its ruler. It also resulted in the Enlightenment, which in many ways was a reaction against all religion.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod began, like many other groups, because some people were dissatisfied with the church in their home country and came to America to worship they way they wanted to. In this case, it was a group of German Lutherans in Saxony in the early 1800s that were unhappy with their state church. They felt that the church was becoming too influenced by Enlightenment rationalism and was bending towards non-Lutheran practices and teachings. So in 1847, a group of them came to America and settled in Perry County, Missouri. Under the leadership of C.F.W. Walther, they joined with other like-minded Lutherans to form “The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States” (later abbreviated to “Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod)

Many other American churches of the Nineteenth Century experienced a similar reaction against the Enlightenment and the series of documents known as
The Fundamentals were written to express the core Christian beliefs they wanted to return to. The Lutherans already had their version of The Fundamentals : The Book of Concord .

The LCMS remained predominantly German until the First World War, when anti-German sentiment in America encouraged the church to switch to performing services in English. In the South Wisconsin District of the Synod, official business was still transacted in German as late as 1940.

In the mid-1970s the Synod underwent a crisis when Jacob Preus, the newly-elected Synod president, instituted a crackdown at its St. Louis seminary against teaching of “false doctrine”, specifically the historical-critical method of biblical scholarship and liberal theology. This resulted in a good chunk of the faculty and students walking out and establishing their own seminary: the “Concordia Seminary in Exile” or “Seminex”. Although Seminex lasted little more than a decade, the schism hardened the conservatism of an already conservative church and the more liberal theologians and pastors we lost eventually became a part of ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which was formed in 1988 from the mergers of the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. ELCA is now the largest Lutheran denomination in America. Not that we’re jealous. No, we’re not.
The commonality: the rejection of Enlightenment-inspired, antisupernaturalist biblical scholarship and the liberal theology that arose from it.

II. What are our basic tenets/dogma/creeds/etc?:

We all agree these things are central to both our beliefs and the beliefs of our churches: quarkstomper:
  • Lutherans confess the Triune God: the Father, Creator of all things; Jesus Christ the Son, who became human to walk among us, whose sufferings and death paid the ransom of sin for all people and whose resurrection opens the gate of life everlasting for all; and the Holy Spirit, who quickens faith in the hearts of people through God’s Word and the Sacraments.

  • There are three core principles at the heart of Lutheran doctrine:

    • Sola Gratia - Grace Alone: The salvation and the blessings we receive from God are not due to any merit on our part but solely because of God’s undeserved love.

    • Sola Fide - Faith Alone: Christ did everything that was necessary to win our salvation. We don’t have to perform any additional actions to earn it. Faith in him is sufficient.

    • Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone: The Bible is God’s Word in which he reveals his Law and the Gospel of Salvation. It is the sole source of Christian teaching.

    • Oh yeah, we talk about that Luther guy a lot, but we emphasize those teachings of his that have grounding in the Scriptures.

  • The central teachings of the Lutheran Church can be found in the Book of Concord, a compilation of creeds and doctrinal statements compiled shortly after Luther’s death to try to unify the various branches of Lutheranism. These are:
  • First, from quarkstomper's list

    • Trinity: check

    • The Solas: check . . . with a caveat. There is a division, reflected in this belief of my church
      We believe that some gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healings were temporary. We believe that speaking in tongues was never the common or necessary sign of the baptism nor of the filling of the Spirit, and that the deliverance of the body from sickness or death awaits the consummation of our salvation in the resurrection (Acts 4:8, 31; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 13:8).
      on the ministry of the Holy Spirit that relates directly to "Scripture Alone". As my previous pastor pointed out, this standing away from the charismatic gifts of the spirit has led some to step away from the Spirit's ministry to the Body of Christ when it comes to scripture and revelation. I would re-word this:
      Scripture, as led by the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, as checked against scripture.
      I am not sure even most Evangelicals would trust that phrasing.

    • Everything else, even the Creeds: not really. Not to say we do not believe in the content of the creeds - we just do not profess them.

  • The other two Solas of the Reformation:

    • Sola Christus - Christ alone: Our sole mediator and intercessor before God.

    • Soli Deo gloria - to God alone the glory.

  • an emphasis on the conversion experience, typically referred to as being "born again" or experiencing a "new birth". Both vesticular and myself know the dates of our "spiritual birthdays": his is May 11th , 2004 (he hadn't thought of it in those terms until I asked) and mine is today - April 9th, 1995

  • So, what does a creedal statement look like for Evangelicalism of the third sort. So, my church's "short version":

    • Trinity: yep

    • Bible: inerrant

    • Man: By man, we mean male and female. Man is created in the image of God, which means that ALL persons have value. We were created innocent, but we have all sinned in Adam when he sinned at the Fall in the Garden of Eden. As such, we are naturally separated from God and need to be redeemed.

    • Salvation: Salvation is a free gift of God, offered by grace through the death of his only Son, Jesus Christ. Because man is fallen, we are unable to obtain salvation by our own merit. We believe that God first calls us to Himself, enabling us to respond in faith to Him. Our faith is in the risen Christ, who now lives in heaven with the Father.

    and the full expression. Note that the doctrinal statements reference no creeds - ancient or otherwise - and are intentionally rooted in scripture for their support.

III. Our view on other religions and on alternative viewpoints internal to Christianity:

The commonality is, that within Christianity itself, the Catholic Church still is the doctrinal opposite of conservative Protestant theology. That is interesting, since the Catholic church is equally conservative doctrinally - if not even more conservative. The short list of those differences:
  • Hierarchal leadership - we have mostly congregational polities

  • Position of the Pope

  • Position of saints and Mary

  • The usefulness of intercessors other than Christ

  • Indeed, any of the five Solas are aimed at the Catholic Church
Outside of Christianity, Sola Christus - Christ alone - is a tough nut to crack. We all think he is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. C.S. Lewis softened this
Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.
as have the Catholics - a doctrine I can also follow - but we are thinking that, whoever Christ chooses to let into Heaven, He will indeed act as gatekeeper for everyone. However, we cannot in good conscience affirm to someone that their "alternate road to God" is going to bring them to a position of being "saved through Christ". We know what has been revealed to us as a sure way - everybody else is taking their chances. Oh, and we all believe both Heaven and Hell exist.

They’re wrong and we’re right. That isn’t very helpful, is it.

We recognize other denominations that confess the Trinitarian Creeds as fellow Christians, although we may differ in other points of doctrine. Some of these points are:
  • Baptism: Like other Lutheran churches, the LCMS follows the traditional practice of infant baptism. We cite a few proof passages from Scripture to justify this, but I think the real reason ties into our view of Justification. Faith is kindled by the Holy Spirit and is not dependent upon anything that we ourselves do; therefore it is not necessary for a person to make a conscious Decision for Jesus before he can experience the benefits of the Holy Spirit.

    Or maybe we kept the practice because the Catholic Church accused Luther of being a heretical Anabaptist and Luther said “No, I’m not!”

  • The Lord’s Supper: We practice what is called Close Communion; (sometimes referred to as “Closed Communion”); meaning that we limit the celebration of the Lord’s Supper to those who share the same beliefs about it that we do. Which excludes practically everybody. But Lutheran understanding of Holy Communion differs from both Roman Catholic Doctrine and most mainline Protestant denominations. Luther rejected the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, that the bread and wine of the Sacrament are actually transformed into Christ’s Body and Blood, and the view that the Sacrament actually re-enacts Christ’s sacrifice on the cross; he also rejected the view of Zwingli and the Swiss reformers that the bread and the wine of Communion only symbolize the Body and Blood. Luther taught that “Bread is bread”, but that the communicant also receives the True Body and Blood “in, with, and under” the physical bread and wine of the Sacrament.

    LCMS goes further and excludes from Communion even other Lutheran churches if they do not follow our strict view of Close Communion. That’s the official policy, but I’ve never been in a church where visitors were required to state their views of the Sacrament before they were permitted to come to the altar. In every church I’ve been in, if a person comes to the Lord’s Table desiring the Sacrament, he gets it.

  • Justification by Faith: Justification by Faith is a biggie. Not too long ago, the Catholic Church and several Lutheran Churches signed a joint statement of agreement on the subject of Justification that was hailed as some as a breakthrough between the two churches. The LCMS refused to sign the statement, on the grounds that the document never actually defined what the Catholics mean by Justification, therefore the agreement is meaningless. (And if you ask, no, I can’t give a good definition of Justification either).

    What it comes down to is that Salvation is not something we earn by saying enough Hail Mary’s or by Deciding to Let Christ into Our Life; rather it is a gift, freely given by God without any merit or worthiness on our part. This was important to Luther because he was acutely aware of his own unworthiness and struggled long and hard with feelings of guilt and despair.

    Our emphasis on Grace, that is, Undeserved Love, makes us suspicious of anything that smells like “Works Righteousness”, the doctrine that we have to do something before we can achieve Salvation. (Once in college I went ‘round and ‘round with an earnest Born Again on this issue; he kept talking about Letting Jesus into One’s Heart and my Lutheran instincts kept saying “Works Righteousness!”)

  • Doctrinal conformity: The LCMS has a high regard for conformity. The word “synod” means “walking together” and the whole purpose of the Formula of Concord was to be a formal statement of what we all agree on; so it’s generally assumed that within our church body everybody’s going to be on the same page, doctrinally speaking. The church holds the power to excommunicate members who stray from orthodoxy, but stresses that this should be a rare action used as a last resort. And if a person differs with the church teaching that much, he generally quits on his own.

    The Synod insists that its pastors, and the teaching staff of its seminaries, subscribe to the church’s doctrines. (This insistence, as I mentioned, is what led to the Seminex split). Things are a little more relaxed at the parish level. We have a congregational rather than an episcopal structure, meaning that local churches are run by the congregations themselves rather than by a hierarchy of bishops. This isn’t a doctrinal thing; it’s just The Way We’ve Always Done It. The pastor is not the ruler of the congregation, but an employee hired to preach and perform other pastoral duties. To a certain extent this dilutes the Synod’s power to enforce Doctrinal Purity on its members, relying instead on deference to the pastor on matters spiritual and the inertia of tradition.

    I was once a member of a church whose pastor supported the idea of women in the clergy, contrary to official LCMS position. He retired about the same time as we joined, so I don’t know how outspoken he was on this subject or if he ever got into trouble because of it. That congregation was a fairly liberal one, for an LCMS church, so that might have had something to do with it.
Outside the general things above, there is not much more for me to say. There are some disagreements in this section between myself and Quarkstomper. I understand the idea that the Holy Spirit can inhabit who He wills to inhabit regardless of our decision, but infant baptism just doesn't cut it for my herd of ilk. Even then, that is a parental decision/action or a church decision/action - especially since there is no sign of a changed life in an infant. That idea of that the moment of rebirth will be an inward change that brings outward change is too central to us. Indeed, the conversion story, or testimony, where one shows the way they have changed in Christ are foundational. We have commitment ceremonies where the parents commit to raising their children in a Godly way. We do not see the "decision for Christ" as our action:
We believe that God first calls us to Himself, enabling us to respond in faith to Him.
Indeed, no sacrament imbues life - none is a "means of grace":
no baptism or other ordinance however administered, can help the sinner to take even one step toward heaven; but a new nature imparted from above, a new life implanted by the Holy Spirit through the Word, is absolutely essential to salvation,
Communion as well is simply, as Christ said, something we do in remembrance of Him until He comes again

IV. A few general social or political issues considered important by us and why?:

To deal with the social conservative hot buttons, all of our churches are pro-life. None of our churches would marry a gay couple; and we believe homosexuality is a sin. From our general practice at Street Prophets, it is clear that we all agree with this statement:
We should always approach judgment and/or condemnation of people based on scripture with "fear and trembling" - or better yet just leave this job to God. We think the wisest thing for Christians to do about homosexuality is to love the sinner; and hate the sin - but keep their mouth shut about the second part in most cases.
and this from C.S. Lewis:
The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.
None of us are opposed to at least some form of state recognition of some kind of gay marriage and/or civil union, and we do not think the way to end abortion is by making it illegal. Our churchs of attendance do not take positions on what secular society should do on those issues; and, most likely, if they did would not agree with us as individuals.

When the LCMS was first formed, it declined to support the Abolitionists on the issue of Slavery because the Bible did not give a clear command, pro or con, on the matter. (Those of us who compare Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott Decision might want to keep that in mind). Generally speaking, the LCMS does not make official doctrinal statements about political issues.

Most Lutheran Churches, especially in the LCMS, are Pro-Life. The LCMS’s official position condemns abortion, but recognizes that there are cases where it is necessary to save the mother’s life. Official policy permits forms of birth control that do not prevent the implantation of fertilized ova, (IUDs are recognized as a grey area), but prefers they be used by married couples who are already “fruitful” and admonishes against using birth control as an excuse for indiscriminate sex.

On the subject of war, the LCMS subscribes to the Just War Doctrine established by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Although a lot of us are politically conservative and have backed the Bush war, the LCMS has no official position as to whether the Iraq Invasion and Occupation meets the criteria for a Just War.

The LCMS officially endorses Creationism, which is not surprising given our emphasis on the infallibility of Scripture; but does not require acceptance of Creationism as a requirement for membership.

Like many other churches, the LCMS puts a lot of emphasis on social ministry like schools, counseling programs, and poverty and disaster relief, often working with other Lutheran churches. This isn’t preached from the pulpit, though, as much as it is performed through auxiliary organizations such as the LWML, the Lutheran Layman’s League and Lutheran World Relief.
From "Defining Evangelicals":
During most of the 20th-century, American evangelicalism as a movement was generally reticent about politics because its sights were focused on what seemed more important tasks: evangelism, missions, and nurturing the faithful. All that seemed to change, however, in the 1970s when evangelicals "re-entered" the national spotlight with the rise of Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter, a devout Southern Baptist layman who unabashedly claimed to be "born again." But the most visible aspect of this new political sensibility was the appearance of right-wing organizations like the Moral Majority and Concerned Women for America. This new "Religious Right" was credited with playing a major role in the "Reagan Revolution" of 1980 (and the ironic ouster of the evangelical President Carter, for the much-less obviously pious Reagan). In retrospect, it now seems clear that the part these organizations played in this outcome was not as great as either the news media or conservative evangelicals once believed. Unarguably, however, there was a new evangelical interest in political participation, which subsequently gave birth to a new generation of "Religious Right" organizations, such as the Christian Coalition.

The reasons for this resurgence are many, including: a natural desire to have a positive impact on culture and society (a subtle indication, perhaps, of the decline of some types of evangelical prophetic interpretations that emphasized an imminent Second Coming); concern over abortion and changing sexual mores in society; and dissatisfaction with the content, direction and power of the mass media and popular culture. However, what seems to have been the single overarching factor has been the post-WWII expansion of the Federal Government into areas and responsibilities that were previously the domain of the state and local government, the individual, the family, and the church. Yet, it must be made clear that there is no monolithic consensus among evangelicals on politics, any more than there is on theological matters. While the movement is conservative in many regards, there are many evangelicals who would identify their political orientation as liberal and some, like the
Sojourners community in Washington D.C., which are leftist in nature. In terms of party affiliation, the movement has been traditionally perceived as Republican. This impression, however, reflects a bias that centers on the Northern, midwestern evangelicals of the NAE "card-carrying" variety. When the huge numbers of Southern white and black evangelicals are factored in, it is probably more accurate to say that in the years before 1970 the "average" evangelical was more likely to be a Democrat. With the defection of large numbers of white Southerners to the Republicans in recent decades, the political make-up of evangelicalism has changed. Today the overall political tenor of the movement could be described as moderately conservative and predominantly Republican
Lately, of course, committees organized by the National Association of Evangelicals have been involved in environmental work and come out strongly against the use of torture by the US government. Also, it seems to be theologically conservative Christians in the forefront of the efforts to end the genocide in Darfur; and the international trafficking in slaves - the vast majority of which are children and women pressed into sexual bondage. Willow Creek Association and folks affiliated with Rick Warren have been very active recently in working on the AIDS epidemic and poverty in Africa.

My own churches have had strong social ministries: missions, the poor, community service, etc. My last church continues sending work crews, and providing money, to the Katrina area. They have not been political from the pulpit; and there has been the availability of politically-conservative voters' guides in the lobby. The churches have not been involved in anti-abortion demonstrations (although I know members probably are); and the church has supported positive organizations like Pregnancy Resource Centers.

V. What do you most like and most want to change?

Most of all, I like the music. Unlike some of the Swiss reformers who felt that music in the church distracted from the Word of God, Luther loved music and considered it, along with flinging inkpots and the occasional fart, to be the best way to drive out the Devil. Luther left us a singing church and we are richer for it. (Oh, and J.S. Bach had a bit to do with it too).

As for what I’d change, I think I’d most like to moderate our knee-jerk antipathy towards ecumenicalism. I don’t think we should ignore the doctrinal differences we have with other denominations, but at the same time neither should we forget what we have in common, nor should we avoid opportunities to join with our fellow Christians from other parts of the Body of Christ.

I also wish we could be more flexible on gender issues. This is largely why my wife doesn’t go to church anymore. On the whole, I think our emphasis on the Bible as the true and faithful Word of God is one of our strengths, but our strict interpretation of certain verses about the role of women and about homosexuality clash with the greater message of the Gospel. I don’t know how this contradiction can be reconciled, but I want to believe it must be possible.
The big one is epitomized by this quote from A.W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God:
Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. [See 1 Kings 18 for the allusions.-ccp] But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the `piercing sweetness' of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.
There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.
All the little ones flow from there.

Read more!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Life Beyond Regret: Part I

[Number nineteen in a series]

I am beginning to look at Chapter 8 ("Life Beyond Regret: The Practice of Confession") of John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted. The study questions are from the back of the book, and were written by Kevin G. Harney.

The book is about spiritual disciplines. The most important thing I have gotten from the book about spiritual disciplines in general is that we should not do them just so we can check them off a list. They are not a barometer of spirituality or a way to earn favor with God. They are a way to enable the transformation God wants to make in your life.

Small Group Discussion Questions

Some years ago we traded in my old Volkswagen Super Beetle for our first piece of new furniture: a mauve sofa. It was roughly the shade of Pepto-Bismol, but because it represented to us a substantial investment, we thought "mauve" sounded better.

The man at the furniture store warned us not to get it when he found out we had small children. "You don't want a mauve sofa," he advised. "Get something the color of dirt." But we had the naive optimism of young parenthood. "We know how to handle our children," we said. "Give us the mauve sofa."

From that moment on, we all knew clearly the number one rule in the house. Don't sit on the mauve sofa. Don't touch the mauve sofa. Don't play around the mauve sofa. Don't eat on, breathe on, look at, or think about the mauve sofa. Remember the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden? "On every other chair in the house you may freely sit, but upon this sofa, the mauve sofa, you may not sit, for in the day you sit thereupon, you shall surely die."

Then came The Fall.

One day there appeared on the mauve sofa a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain.

So my wife, who had chosen the mauve sofa and adored it, lined up our three children in front of it: Laura, age four, and Mallory, two and a half, and Johnny, six months. "Do you see that, children?" she asked. "That's a stain. A red stain. A red jelly stain. The man at the sofa store says it is not coming out. Not forever. Do you know how long forever is, children? That's how long we're going to stand here until one of you tells me who put the stain on the mauve sofa."

Mallory was the first to break. With trembling lips and tear, filled eyes she said, "Laura did it." Laura passionately denied it. Then there was silence, for the longest time. No one said a word. I knew the children wouldn't, for they had never seen their mother so upset. I knew they wouldn't, because they knew that if they did, they would spend eternity in the time-out chair.

I knew they wouldn't, because I was the one who put the red jelly stain on the mauve sofa, and I knew I wasn't saying anything. I figured I would find a safe place to confess-such as in a book I was going to write - maybe -- John Ortberg
1. We all have our own mauve sofa story of when we had a chance to confess, but chickened out. Tell about a time you stood on the edge of confession, but just couldn't do it. What is it that makes confession so hard and painful for us?
The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grand, parents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion. A woman who for years envied her more attractive and intelligent sister might worry that this sin threatened her very salvation. . . . In today's group confessionals it is harder to tell. The newer language of Zion fudges: "Let us confess our problem with human relational adjustment dynamics, and especially our feebleness in networking." Or, "I'd just like to share that we just need to target holiness as a growth area." Where sin is concerned, people just mumble now. -- Alvin Plantinga
2. What are some of the euphemisms for sin that we use in an effort to keep from calling sin exactly what it is? Why is it so important that we learn to identify sin in ourselves and call it sin?

3. When writing about confession, John Ortberg says,
When we practice confession well, two things happen. The first is that we are liberated from guilt. The second is that we will be at least a little less likely to sin in the same way in the future than if we had not confessed. Sin will look and feel less attractive
How have you experienced the liberating power of confession? How have you seen confession reduce your desire to continue in a sinful practice in your life?

4. John Ortberg says,
At the heart of it, confession involves taking appropriate responsibility for what we have done.
What are the consequences of confessing but refusing to take responsibility for the impact of our sinful choices? How can taking responsibility help us turn away from sin and walk in deeper places of holiness?

5. When we see sin through our own eyes, it is easy to excuse ourselves and justify our sin. When we see sin through the eyes of those we have sinned against and hurt, our perspective begins to change. When we see through the lens of God's vision and heart, we get a whole new perspective. Why is it essential for us to learn to see our sin through eyes of those we have sinned against and through the eyes of God?

6. How can God use tears, mourning, and brokenness over our sins as a tool for his will to be done in our lives? John Ortberg talks about the "gift of tears." Have you ever experienced this and how did this gift make you more the person God wants you to be?

7. Describe a time when you hurt someone through a sinful choice, humbly confessed, and saw God bring healing and restoration. How did this experience act as a catalyst for future obedience and willingness to confess when you recognized your sins?

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Touring the Net

My "weekly" look at some of my favorite places:

  • "Christian Carnival CCXVIII" (218) is up at A Kiwi and an Emu. There were more than three I wanted to link - but that is my limit:
    • In "Cherishing Fidelity", at Light Along the Journey, John relates
      Proverbs 3:3 Do not let truth and mercy leave you;
      bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
      which is about fidelity to God, to fidelity to his wife

    • David at Boomer in the Pew continues to blog his discipleship class at his church with "Growing as a Disciple of Jesus Christ (Part 2)":
      In that last post, we learned that as Christians we live in "that thick middle stage of a believer's second life (on becoming a Christian) sandwiched between two thin slices of grace and glory". Sanctification sandwiched between justification and glorification.

      We further learned that sanctification is a process. In Christ we are set apart and we are to move forward on the journey towards holiness. on earth do we do that?
    • Don at The Evangelical Ecologist explores the marriage habitat - specifically the love language of the wild male of the human species - in "A Menaissance Wanted":
      Most guys are cool with being softer around the edges especially when we connect it to loving our wives and daughters in ways that are meaningful to them. But our culture has fallen into the trap of thinking husbands are supposed to love the way they do. We’re supposed to be our wife’s best girlfriend, with a winkie and chest hair added as a bonus. After all, we rationalize, it’s our wives who understand what love is all about, and men who don’t climb on board their way of thinking are dufuses or oafs and are certainly not interested in the relationship

      But that doesn’t really cut it, does it guys. That’s not what you really want either, is it gals. A girlfriend that sometimes leaves the toilet seat up
  • Jeremy at Parableman was surprised to discover "Hillary the Evangelical Theonomist Conspirator" (I was too) and posted this comment at Moderate Voice that he has yet to get an response to:
    I'm wondering what the fuss is supposed to be about. This looks like a typical evangelical group. They study the Bible and believe in influencing those around them (and therefore indirectly the world) through personal relationships infused with godliness and what they as Christians believe to be the truth. I realize that some conspiracy theorists associate any language about influencing the world with conspiracies about controlling people through theonomistic enforcement of Christian beliefs on those who reject such teachings, but anyone remotely familiar with evangelicalism should know that this is simply standard salt and light kind of stuff from the Sermon on the Mount. So what is it exactly that Hillary is supposed to explain? She is a Christian. Is it surprising that she wants to live her beliefs rather than pretending they don't influence her life?
    Can you help him out?

  • Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House
    • In "America's Shame", Rick rips into John Yoo's memo for the Bush Administration justifying torture.
      From what I’ve been reading for years on other conservative sites, I know that many of you believe that any treatment we hand out to terrorists is too good for them, that they deserve to suffer and besides we need the information that only torture will elicit. Beyond that, there is a troubling rationale used by many conservatives that posits the notion of reciprocity; that because the terrorists treat prisoners in a beastly manner, it is perfectly alright for us to do the same to them.

      . . . Why this aspect of American exceptionalism escapes my friends on the right who don’t hesitate to use the argument that we are a different nation than all others when it comes to rightly boasting about our vast freedoms and brilliantly constructed Constitution is beyond me . . .

      Let’s be clear on this; John Yoo’s memo does a tap dance around the Constitution, the UN treaty banning torture, and domestic laws prohibiting our public officials from engaging in acts that cause bodily harm to another person.
    • He also rips into Barack Obama for being "An Easy Liar":
      We’ve just spent 16 years dealing with Presidents who proved to be less than honest on big issues. Can’t we do better this time around? . . .

      Most politicians are pretty good liars but Obama, like Bill Clinton (unlike George Bush who is a horrible liar) is very, very good at it. And what’s even worse is his ability to turn 180 degrees and embrace the truth when he is discovered while barely acknowledging or ignoring the lie.

      I will probably end up doing a post soon on McCain’s whoppers as well. The guy can’t keep his story straight about his support for amnesty, the Iraq War, or campaign finance reform, or any number of issues he has dealt with over the years. McCain doesn’t have quite as much to lie about – or at least about his personal associations.

      For two guys running on how honest they are, it’s depressing to think that if these guys are the straightest talkers we have in the political class, our republic is in deep trouble.

    Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost:
    • addresses prison rape - "Between Smirks and Silence: Ignoring the Epidemic of Prison Rape":
      In 2004 the corrections industry estimated that 12,000 rapes occurred per year—more than the annual number of reported rapes in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York combined. In a 2007 survey by the U.S. Department of Justice, though, more than 60,000 inmates claimed to have been sexually victimized by other inmates during the previous 12 months.

      First-time and non-violent offenders are often targeted by prison gangs for sexual servitude. Once an inmate is forced into sexually submissive role, becomes a ‘punk”, the gangs treat him as chattel. While prison guards turn a blind eye, the gangs use these men as sexual slaves.

      Although the majority of these inmates are eventually returned back into the general public, their sentence could turn into a death penalty. HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C are up to 10 times more prevalent in correctional institutions than in the outside population. The repeated abuse these inmates receive makes it almost inevitable that they will be exposed to one of these fatal diseases.
    • Picks a few neat things for this week's "Thirty-three Things". Two of my favorites:

  • Dan at Cerulean Sanctum gives the one-verse answer to a great sex life (married of course)
    As a married man, I’ve learned a lot about sex over the years. The greatest truth I’ve learned on the topic, the one guaranteed to drive one’s partner wild with ecstasy, comes right from the Bible. If explored to its depths, every ramification plumbed, I can guarantee this Scriptural admonition will lead to a most exhilarating sex life.

    You ready? Because here it is:
    The great thing is - it is not an 8 part series: "Let's Talk About Sex - or Not". BTW: I agree with Dan - Paul hit it with this verse. [HT: The View From Her]

  • From World on the Web:
    • The Onion News Network's coverage of the "9/11 Truth" theories:

    • "The Anti-war, Pro-life Dilemma":
      For conservatives who oppose the Iraq war, does John McCain — thoroughly unconservative to many of them — offer any compelling reason to vote for him in November? Right now, a majority probably believes he does. But reasons for thinking he doesn’t are gaining currency. McCain’s pool of voters shrunk by two last week when a couple notable conservative Catholics defected and endorsed Barack Obama. The surprise endorsements have since propelled the conservative blogosphere into an introspective reflection about whether McCain is in fact a good gamble.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    "Divine Will" or "Will of the People"? - Part II

    I examined one side of this idea in Part I - I am going to examine the other (maybe "next") part here:
    What does control of the US government by the "will of the people" look like?
    I am going to have to go to the idealized concept of control by the "will of the people" because certainly few in this country believe that their will controls the government; nor am I sure very many folks believe some will of "the people" in general controls government.

    Indeed, the modern nation state resembles these remarks to me:
    . . . important decisions in society were being made in remote, or at least highly inaccessible places like Washington and London. The growth of bureaucracies in capital cities and the remoteness of the centers of power increased the feeling of alienation from those who make truly adult decisions in society . . .

    . . . once the institutions of government have outgrown the individual and the neighborhood, so that the very scale of governance no longer permits effective action for most people, then those people are more likely to take to the streets and address their grievances in destructive ways . . .

    . . . [government] power is a prophylactic against violence
    Assuming that in an ideal world, the modern western nation-state still has the ability to be directed by some general "will of the people" - how does that occur? The United States is not a true democracy - it is a representative republic. Also, most folks who have really thought it out really do not believe in "majority rule". The bottom line is that we expect our elected and appointed leaders - who are closer to being the actual people the government bows to the will of than us - to be ethical, moral and "do the right thing"; and that has nothing to do with the "will of the people" because we really do not care what the majority thinks if that majority opposes what we believe to be ethical, moral, and right. C.S. Lewis:
    I now go back to what I said at the end of the first chapter, that there were two odd things about the human race. First, that they were haunted by the idea of a sort of behavior they ought to practice, what you might call fair play, or decency, or morality, or the Law of Nature. Second, that they did not in fact do so.
    This oddity is both the basis of natural moral law, and one of the important theistic arguments.

    So, I believe there is a universal moral code, and that this is a general universal revelation from God to all of humanity. Lewis again:
    I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

    But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called
    The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

    But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' . . .
    I have mentioned a number of times this list of reasons why - even if our conscience tells us to "do the right thing" - our faulty moral reasoning may corrupt our moral agency:
    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.

    This is why believers in natural moral law hold that, even though it flows from God to everyone, it must be strengthened, supported, and trained. That strength, support, and training comes from whatever ethical and moral system the person subscribes to - typically religion for 85% of the world - and it really must be pursued proactively. This includes our elected representatives.

    Since I believe most ethical and moral systems on the planet are rooted in the divine nature, I do not expect those people elected to be Christians - that is a specific (not general) revelation. I do expect them to believe in Right and Wrong - and I expect them to be held to that. I also expect them to place their duty as an elected official, and as a representative of the people, higher than themselves: I expect it to be a vocation:

    1. The idea of a call implies an agent outside of the one who is subject to the call.
    2. The summons is often against the will of the one who is called into service.
    3. the calling involves in almost every case hardships that must be overcome in order to answer the summons.
    4. from the point of view of answering to the summons, the greatest danger appears not in this kind of resistance, but in the possibility of being diverted or distracted from the goal.
    That vocation should have them work to analyze and improve their moral reasoning for the sake of strengthening their moral agency; and serving their constituents better by being more moral, more ethical, and doing the right thing more often.

    And, in my opinion, their actions - by doing so - will be rooted in the "will of God" and not the "will of the people"; and it is exactly in the will of God (as reflected in doing Right and avoiding Wrong), and not the majority (the only logical definition of the "will of the people"), that their actions - and the actions of government - should be rooted. If - because they "do the right thing" against the will of the majority - they are removed from office by "the will of the people" then so be it.

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