Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good Job Mayor Nagin!

I bashed him hard three years ago so it is only fair that I praise him just as hard now.

From the AP through Yahoo News: "New Orleans evacuates as massive Gustav bears down":

In New Orleans, Nagin used stark language to urge residents to get out of the city, calling Gustav the "the mother of all storms."

"This is the real deal, not a test," Nagin said as he issued the evacuation order Saturday night. "For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."

The mandatory evacuation of New Orleans is the first test of a revamped evacuation plan designed to eliminate the chaos, looting and death that followed Katrina.

Residents of suburban Jefferson Parish, swollen by residents who did not return to New Orleans after Katrina, were also ordered to leave in the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the entire parish.

The city will not offer emergency services to those who choose stay behind, Nagin said, and there will be no "last resort" shelter as there was during Katrina, when thousands suffered inside a squalid Superdome.

For residents with no other means of leaving the city, the last buses were going to leave at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Lines for the evacuation buses queuing up at the city's main transit center were much shorter Sunday than they'd been a day earlier.

To stop the looting that arose after Katrina:
Mayor Ray Nagin instituted a dusk-to-dawn curfew to take effect at sunset and continue until the storm has passed. The curfew allows officials to arrest residents if they are not on their own property.

"Looting will not be tolerated," Nagin said. "Looters will go directly to jail. You will not get a pass this time."
This time there are thousands of buses along with trains shuttling folks out of New Orleans, and efforts to move through the neighborhoods to find those who cannot get to the evacuation points on their own.

Thank you Mayor, and the rest of the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish officials.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Read more!

An Interesting View on Sarah Palin

The spin-fests have begun on Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee; and I, being who I am, am not just reading one or the other's spins -- I end up looking at both sides.

John Mark Reynolds, guest-posting at Evangelical Outpost, has a very interesting post that moves from some insights into what his wife Hope "does for a living", through a look a the spheres of activity culture is built through, and on to the qualifications for office of Sarah Palin

However, the interesting core of this article to me was this section:

Palin brings the home-truths to government, but also governs well. Her government experience is vital to indicate to us that she is ready for this bigger government job, but her outstanding success in civic, family, and business areas should not be discounted or viewed with a patronizing attitude.

She is a person whose life did not consist merely of being an outstanding community leader, family leader, and business leader, but it includes success in all those roles with proven competence in governance.

She is a Renaissance woman, but for some bigots if that breadth of experience was not gained in paid employment or only in government than it counts less or does not count at all. That is offensive, though hard-working women like Palin mostly ignore it and cheerfully go on being awesomely competent.

My wife is one of those millions of women and she sees in many sneers about Palin (reducing this brilliant woman to the "beauty queen") yet another example of some peoples inability to value her experience.
Certainly, for anyone working against the Republican ticket this may be a wise piece of strategic advice. On a larger level (separating Sarah Palin from the question): as women continue to shatter "glass ceilings" in business and government - are we going to value (as Reynolds put it)
bring[ing] home-truths to government

Read more!

Bible in a Year:
Week of August 31st

Many people have simply never read the Bible from cover to cover; and yet many people have many opinions about what is there. The first time I read it through the actual scope and flow of the Word became apparent - the underlying plan and it's unfolding.

The idea is that over the years this resource can grow as folks add their own comments, links to commentaries and other tools, etc in the comments to this index.

  1. Do you have a viewpoint on a particular piece of scripture? Go to that place and leave a comment.
  2. Heard or read a great sermon on a section of scripture? Link the audio file or text in the comments.
  3. The possibilities are many.

8/31: Ezekiel 11:1-14:11; D: 1 Maccabees 5

9/1: Ezekiel 14:12-16:63; D: 1 Maccabees 5

9/2: Ezekiel 17:1-19:14; D: 1 Maccabees 5

9/3: Ezekiel 20:1-21:32; D: 1 Maccabees 5

9/4: Ezekiel 22:1-23:49; D: 1 Maccabees 6

9/5: Ezekiel 24:1-27:36; D: 1 Maccabees 6

9/6: Ezekiel 28:1-31:18; D: 1 Maccabees 6

Things to look for each day:
  1. Lessons to be learned
  2. Examples to be followed
  3. Promises to be enjoyed
  4. Jesus to be revealed
A good journaling question: How will I be different today because of what I have just read?

Next Week: Week of September 7th
Index to whole series

Read more!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canonization of Scripture
II. Canonization of the New Testament

Part I ended with the five key questions a book had to face to become part of the New Testament canon:

  1. Was the book written by a prophet of God?

  2. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?

  3. Did the book tell the truth about God?

  4. Did the book come with the power of God?

  5. Was the book accepted by the people of God?
Also mentioned there:
The beginning of that development - which would take over 300 years to complete - can be seen within the very books that later became part of that Canon.
Certain works are referred to as "from the Lord" or described, and used, as scripture along with the Old Testament. ( 1 Thess 5:27, 1 Thess 2:13, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 2 Peter 3:15-16 ). Indeed, the first combined Old Testament quote with something from the New is in
1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture says, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," [Deut 25:4] and, "The worker deserves his pay." [cf. Luke 10:7]
Those five questions above played out over parts of four centuries as the canon developed, and was finally settled once and for all (sorta) in 367 AD. Breaking the period up into pretty arbitrary divisions:

First Century
the books are written and begin to be copied and disseminated

  • There are frequent exhortations in scripture for the community read the Apostolic [a key point in future canonization decisions] communications outloud when they meet.

  • In 95 AD Clement of Rome writes a Letter to the Corinthians where he shows familiarity with Matthew, Luke, Romans, Corinthians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter, and Ephesians

  • First half of 2nd century
    as they become more widely known and cherished, they begin to be cited

  • The first three great church fathers - Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius - used the bulk of the material of the New Testament in a casual manner - authenticated scriptures were being accepted as authoritative without argument. In their writings, only Mark, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and 2 Peter are not clearly cited

  • The Epistles of Ignatius (c. AD 115) have correspondences in several places with the Gospels and seem to incorporate language from a number of the Pauline letters.

  • It is in the Epistle of Barnabas (c. AD 130) that we first find the formula “it is written” (4:14) used in reference to a NT book (Mt 22:14). But even before this,

  • Clement, Barnabas, and Ignatius all draw a clear distinction between their own and the inspired, authoritative apostolic writings.

  • Polycarp, who had personal acquaintance with eyewitnesses of our Lord’s ministry, used a combined OT and NT quotation. Citing Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:26, where the apostle quotes Psalm 4:4 and makes an addition, Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians introduces the reference by “as it is said in these Scriptures” (12:4)

  • Papias uses citations from Matthew and Mark and uses them in exposition.

  • The Gospel of Truth, a gnostic work probably written by Valentinius, treats the Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, Hebrews, and Revelations as authoritaive

  • Marcion in his gnostic canon included Luke, and the letters of Paul (except the pastorals)

  • Justin Martyr places the Apostlic writings on a par with those of the Old Testament prophets. He freely used "it is written" in talking about the apostolic writings.

  • Second half of 2nd Century
    held a recognized place alongside "scripture", and began to be translated into regional languages and made the subject of commentaries

  • Irenaeus - a student of Polycarp who was in turn a student of the Apostles themselves - quotes from almost the entire New Testament as authoritative

  • Tatian - a pupil of Justin Martyr's - writes a harmony of the four gospels showing their equal standing.

  • The Muratorian Canon cites the four Gospels, Acts, thirteen Pauline letters, Jude, 1 and 2 John, and Revelation

  • Translations existed in languages from the east to the west of the church - only lacking 2 Peter.

  • Third Century
    the collecting of the books into whole "New Testaments"; and the sifting of Christian literature for that purpose

  • Revelations was generally accepted in the west, but had variable acceptance in the east.

  • Hebrews was the reverse.

  • Indeed, those books with less than full support still occupy the end position in the Bible today: Hebrews - Revelations

  • Fourth Century
    the church fathers stating that conclusions have been reached which indicate acceptance by the whole church

  • Eusebius, in his church history covers the status going into Nicea:
    • universally agreed: four Gospels, Acts, letters of Paul (including Hebrews - with questions about his authorship), 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelations;

    • admitted by majority: James, 2 Peter (the most strongly contested), 2 and 3 John, and Jude.
    Nicea was essentially a rubber-stamp on the Canon; and indeed it really wasn't entirely settled until later in the century - assuming you want to ignore Luther and Calvin's issues.

    Read more!

    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Canonization of Scripture
    I. "Literalist"? Er, No - and Introduction

    I got into a "tiff" with a guy I like a lot over at Street Prophets over the use of the word "literalist" or "literalism" when it comes to folks like me who believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God - and that it has authority both as a spiritual guide and in all it asserts (even historically). I am in no way confused that Solomon was talking about real baby deer attached to the chest of his wife. I am also not confused that the bulk of the Gospel accounts is reportage:

    Then turn to John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust; the unforgettable nv vuz (13:30). I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.
    So, I get what is "literal" and what is "figurative" - and I understand scripture has both types of writings. However, the "literalist" label - as generally used - isn't about the understanding of literary types. The general conversation (not the one with Russell) goes like this:
    Other person: "I am a Christian, but I do not believe [for example] that hell exists [or the resurrection or the Virgin birth or miracles in general] or "I am a Christian, and I think the foundation of Christ's teachings are the Beatitudes [but not the whole Sermon on the Mount] " or "I like the teachings of Jesus - but Paul screwed the whole thing up"

    The "literalist": "Great, but didn't Christ mention hell more than anyone else in the Bible" or "Great, but Christ said it was the Great Commandment" or "What about the more difficult teachings in the Sermon on the Mount about judgement and hell, divorce, etc" or "Paul was accepted by the Body of Christ as both an apostle and a great teacher about Christ"

    The Other person: "The Bible was written by men, living in a particular culture, and I just do not accept that God would [send someone to hell, do miracles, etc.]. You "literalists" just do not see the overall beauty and poetry of scripture because you are too concerned with facts - and we know the New Testiment is not historically accurate." or [the point of this post] "There are many other parts to Christian tradition than the Bible as canonized by Constantine in the 4th century"
    For those that are personally attracted to the spiritual aspects of the Bible (and not whether it is "real" or not) -- I am in no way diminishing their love of scripture, or the road that led them to Christ. NOT IN THE LEAST. I am talking about folks who toss out - in doing that or otherwise - all the criticisms of the historicity, authorship, etc. of scripture coming from the anti-supernaturalist scholars of the 18th century and beyond (as if that stuff is "just proven"); and imply that anyone who believes that scripture was written by who the 1st and 2nd century church thought it was written by (and believe in the reported miracles by a real Christ and/or God) are hopeless rubes unable to grasp simple modern scholarship and science - hence the inaccurate (and pejorative) "literalist" label. Those criticisms, unproven (and indeed many proven false) undermine - intentionally or not - the authority of scripture; and can place folks who listen in a position to misunderstand the direct teachings of Christ.

    I care about that for two reasons:
    1. For those seeking to follow Christ: they end up trying to follow not THE Christ but their Christ - the Christ their affections and beliefs are most comfortable following and not the Savior - rich, deep and real - of scripture. It is not the "literalists" who limit God and Christ by demanding that others take the full breadth of revelation into account - "inconsistancies" and all - but those who wish to narrow the scope of God's power and Christ's message.

      Modern "scholarship" - taken to it's worst extreme - is the Jesus Seminar voting on what Jesus really said and what he didn't. We do not really get to pick and chose like that in my view; nor do we get to limit Christ to what our modern sensibilities find "reasonable".

      There is plenty of scriptural reason to believe that just any belief about Christ is not adequate - that right belief about Christ is important.

    2. For those teaching such a Christ and such a view of scripture: they are placing themselves in the direct line of Christ's warning
      Matthew 18:6 “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea. 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! It is necessary that stumbling blocks come, but woe to the person through whom they come. 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into fiery hell.
    That should do it for now on that ugly word "literalist"

    * * * * *
    I have talked a fair amount about the historicity of scripture as well as Biblical authorship, particularly of the pivotal work in this whole argument - the Gospel of John. I have not really outlined what I see as the process of canonization of the New Testament. I see two general views:
    • that the canon of scripture was enforced on the Body of Christ from above by the hierarchy in order to drive competing (and possibly legitimate) theological views out of the church; and

    • that the canon of scripture developed organically within the Body of Christ - including through those great early theological battles - and that the leadership of the church finally rubber-stamped that view and sealed the canon.
    I believe there are some elements of both - but by far and away the second view is how the Canon developed. The beginning of that development - which would take over 300 years to complete - can be seen within the very books that later became part of that Canon. My ilk see canonized books - from reading the historical record - having had five questions to survive in order to become part of the canon:
    1. Was the book written by a prophet of God? In the case of the New Testament, this meant Apostolic authorship
    2. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? The primary Biblical purpose of miracles was to confirm the Word of God given through a prophet of God to the people of God.
    3. Did the book tell the truth about God?
    4. Did the book come with the power of God? This refers to the ability to transform the lives touched by it. The presence of God's transforming power was an indication that God was behind it.
    5. Was the book accepted by the people of God? Despite later discussions about canonization, when a book was recieved, collected, read and used by the people of God as the Word of God, it was considered canonical.
    In part II, I will examine how this played out in the New Testament canonization process.

    Read more!

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    "Christian Social Responsibility"

    I have been chatting about Evangelicalism as a movement - and this section from the Lausanne Covenant seemed like something worthy of a good conversation.

    A little background is in order: The Lausanne Movement formed the linked covenant in 1974; and also met in 1989 and agreed to the Manila Manifesto

    The following is Part 5 of the Lausanne Covenant:


    We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.

    Read more!

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Bible in a Year:
    Week of August 24th

    Many people have simply never read the Bible from cover to cover; and yet many people have many opinions about what is there. The first time I read it through the actual scope and flow of the Word became apparent - the underlying plan and it's unfolding.

    The idea is that over the years this resource can grow as folks add their own comments, links to commentaries and other tools, etc in the comments to this index.

    1. Do you have a viewpoint on a particular piece of scripture? Go to that place and leave a comment.
    2. Heard or read a great sermon on a section of scripture? Link the audio file or text in the comments.
    3. The possibilities are many.

    8/24: Jeremiah 46:1-48:47; D: 1 Maccabees 3

    8/25: Jeremiah 49:1-39; D: 1 Maccabees 3

    8/26: Jeremiah 50:1-51:64; D: 1 Maccabees 3

    8/27: Jeremiah 52:1-30; D: 1 Maccabees 4

    8/28: Jeremiah 52:31-Lamentations 5:22; D: 1 Maccabees 4

    8/29: Ezekiel 1:1-5:17; D: 1 Maccabees 4

    8/30: Ezekiel 6:1-10:22; D: 1 Maccabees 4

    Things to look for each day:
    1. Lessons to be learned
    2. Examples to be followed
    3. Promises to be enjoyed
    4. Jesus to be revealed
    A good journaling question: How will I be different today because of what I have just read?

    Next Week: Week of August 31st
    Index to whole series

    Read more!

    Frank Schaeffer's "Evangelicals Strike . . ." vs. Reality

    I haven't "fisked" anything for a while - and I originally was going to ignore this. Looking around, folks I respect have either ignored it or not even noticed it - Huffington Post isn't a big read for them - and so perhaps my first inclination was right. However - I am not going to leave it alone because it raises some theological points - and some common misconceptions - about Evangelicalism (whatever that is). It also allows me to give some folks some means to research the movement a bit deeper and gain some insight.

    The article is "God Against Obama: Dobson, Osteen, Corsi, [sic] the Evangelicals Strike Again" by Frank Schaeffer. In going through the article, I will try to stay out of the sewer Frank dives into whole-heartedly by ignoring these admonishments by Paul:

    Ephesians 4:29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. 32 Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.

    Romans 2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?
    First though, what section (yep, there are sections) of Evangelicalism were Frank, and his father Francis, a part of when they were leaders in the Evangelical movement (and Dobson, Osteen, Corsi ,etc. for that matter). These two analyses help dissect that:
    1. Scot McKnight:
      Three groups today threaten to destroy the fabric of historic American evangelicalism:
      • The Religious Right, which seems to think all evangelicals have the same political views [a disease the critics of Evangelicalism often display];
      • The Neo-Reformed, who think Calvinism is the only faithful form of evangelicalism [this is where Frank Schaeffer "lived"]; and
      • The Political Progressives, who like the Religious Right think the faithful form of evangelicalism will be politically progressive.

      . . . Now a few words of explanation: Evangelicalism is essentially “gospel ecumenism” instead of “theological conformity.” Evangelicals unite around the gospel but tolerate all kinds of diversity theologically . . . evangelicalism has agreed to agree on the basics — the gospel — but has been willing to let theological confessions be what they are: church confessions for local congregations. Instead of haggling over theological confessions, evangelicals have agreed to agree on the gospel.
    2. The Moody Handbook of Theology:
      These fundamentalists shunned Billy Graham, not because he was a liberal but because he talked to liberals. Billy Graham was accused of destroying Scriptural mass evangelism through his "spirit of inclusivism."

      The neo-evangelical label on people, schools, or organizations meant disassociation; thus, neo-fundamentalists refused to cooperate with Billy Graham in his evangelistic campaigns, rejected the journal Christianity Today, and excoriated schools like Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary for inviting certain evangelical speakers.

      Other writers have identified the neo-fundamentalist movement with fundamentalist leaders like Jerry Falwell, Tim La Haye, Hal Lindsey, and Pat Robertson. These leaders have spoken out publicly,
      offering an answer for what many regarded as a supreme social, economic, moral, and religious crisis in America. They identified a new and more pervasive enemy, secular humanism, which they believed was responsible for eroding churches, schools, universities, the government, and above all families.They fought all enemies which they considered to be offspring of secular humanism—evolutionism, political and theological liberalism, loose personal morality, sexual perversion, socialism, communism, and any lessening of the absolute, inerrant authority of the Bible
      The Moral Majority, with its political action, is also seen as a further aspect of neo-fundamentalism. -- Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (619). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.
    Frank was an integral part of that pressure on Evangelicalism to become theologically focused, rather than gospel focused; and the neo-fundamentalist pressure to fight - including on a political level - the inroads of secular humanism into U.S. culture. In McKnight's view, Frank has gone from being part of group #1 and #2 - to standing outside of Evangelicalism with criticisms that again fall into a mirror of group #2 and support for group #3. Let's see if that comes through in his article:
    Evangelicals [all of us?] have a problem: they want to involve themselves in politics -- for instance by praying that the Obama speech at the Democratic convention is rained out, as James Dobson of Focus On the Family called for. Some evangelicals are embarrassed by such antics. What can they do? Nothing because their theology acknowledges no central authority. Evangelicals don't "do" structure. They don't do government, or bishops or tradition. They just do "me" and "I" never we [actually we do "Body of Christ" alot]. So their individualistic and narcissistic village idiots - Dobson, Robertson, Osteen etc.- are in charge by default.
    The entire underlying theme of Schaeffer's piece falls apart in the introductory paragraph:
    1. Evangelicals acknowledge no authority - they do not do structure; yet
    2. Some Evangelical leaders are put in charge by default
    In charge of what, and put there by who? Those are self-contradictory claims. These leaders have no authority over Evangelicalism, and are leaders of no recognized structure with authority over Evangelicalism. That they may place themselves in the public spotlight (perhaps because they are "individualistic and narcissistic") really only makes them leaders to certain groups:
    • The people who follow them because they grant them moral authority
    • The news media that seeks those with big mouths when they need a "leader"
    • The people who pick them out as a leader because they wish to bash Evangelicalism (they did have other choices after all)
    He is right - as a movement we define ourselves by the Gospel - and not theological conformity; and not within a structure that requires bishops, liturgy, etc, but across denominational lines. It is the neo-Fundamentalists like Schaeffer that demanded, as the Moody article put it:
    "secondary separation," — avoidance of other conservatives who associated with liberals.
    Now, of course, he demands that the theological and/or political liberals within Evangelicalism engage in "secondary separation" from (at least) the political conservatives within the movement. Moving on:
    . . . This is a departure from historical Christianity centered on a liturgical tradition that had to do with faith lived in community and beliefs defined by tradition,
    Frank would be hard pressed to prove this contention from the life of the Apostolic 1st century church, or even the 2nd century church. Prior to the organization in the 2nd-3rd century of a structure of Bishops and the convening of whole church councils - the history of the church was indeed house-based churches focused on the Gospel with the evangelists traveling place to place attempting to keep the churches from devolving into splits based on non-Gospel liturgical and theological arguments. They were, as McKnight points out about the Evangelical movement now, focused on:
    the Bible, the cross, conversion, and active Christian living.
    Continuing with Frank:
    Evangelicals reject all traditions and structures, other than their very own personalized interpretation of the Bible, so there is no there, there to appeal to. Evangelicals can't police themselves or call one of their own a nut . . . Each has a "personal relationship with Jesus." So maybe Jesus told that guy to put his pants on his head!
    Of course, this is true to a large extent - encouraged by Jesus (he could only point to relationship with God) and then the Apostles - Paul particularly:
    Romans 14:1 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for himself and none dies for himself. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For this reason Christ died and returned to life, so that he may be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But you who eat vegetables only – why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything – why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
    and is a deep part of the traditions of the church until the 3rd and 4th centuries when theological and liturgical correctness began to overcome the simple message of grace and obedience to the Spirit and Word of God. Back to Frank:
    Evangelicals get direct messages from God [Darn, how did I miss out?] . So who needs tradition, let alone government? [ooh, watch this little transition . . .] That is why Evangelicals are opposed to all structure. They hate government, and they hate the idea of bishops telling them what it means to be a Christian.. They hate the idea of health care for all [. . .church government to secular government . . . as if it just naturally follows] that might involve someone (other than voices in their heads [ooh, the Holy Spirit as schizophrenia]) telling them what to do. And they want the "right" to own guns [do you trust the U.S. government enough to let it remove your right (oh those silly courts) to own guns], raise kids on myths [. . . and decide what "myths" I get to raise my kids on] and own that SUV [. . . and government mandates on size of vehicles. Of course, this couldn't be enforced without limiting family size - ever crammed 6 people (or more) into an econo-box] and believe that more drilling for oil will bring down the price of gas [supply and demand - pffft].
    Incidentally, I have never heard any of that preached in any church I attended; nor has Frank given any indication on how it follows from the four anchors of Evangelicalism. All he can do is point to the political positions of some folks who call themselves Evangelicals. Now, giving the government the right to direct whether I can own a gun, what myths I can teach my kids, what kind of vehicle is best to haul my family around in, etc. are ideas I hope do not appeal to "progressives" either -- especially since they are not very enamored right now to the motives of secular government; and that kind of government power has never worked out ANYWHERE. Frank goes back to church governance:
    They also want God to speak directly to them, never mind a community of faith.
    The idea of hearing God's voice, and will, in one's life is probably one of the dominating themes in scripture - and the idea that "communities of faith" lay burdens on their communities that God did not ask for or desire is a principle theme of the teachings of Christ and the rest of scripture. There is a reason the Catholic Church discouraged the reading of scripture by the laity for centuries. Frank:
    . . . Look how big their churches are! They measure up to the only real Evangelical creed-the ability to make money and be successful in commercial terms.
    First, in examining the (I suppose) unreal creeds [start here and here as examples] there is no mention of commercial success and the ability to make money. It hasn't occurred to Frank that the size of the churches is based on the lack of rigid liturgy and burdens placed on the community by the organizational structure of the church; and by attempting to "go and make disciples . . ." (again, that Christ guy talking). Of course, the next is a danger and can occur:
    Evangelicalism is a series of personality cults masquerading as religion. (As I demonstrate in detail in my book CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All -- Or Almost All--Of It Back.)
    By the way, notice that phrase - "the elect" - and remember McKnight's comment about the problems to Evangelicalism from the neo-Reformed (Calvinists) that are part of the movement: "the elect" is a Calvinist concept.
    That's because Evangelicals say they believe in "sola scriptura" in other words the Bible only [actually there are four "solas"] . . . Each pastor and individual becomes their own pope.
    Snark aside, that is correct: the earliest traditions of the church made it the responsibility of believers (not community) indwelt by the Spirit of God to read scripture guided by the Holy Spirit. Darn that "priesthood of the believer" stuff anyway -- and that whole darned reformation thingee. Then, another leap in logic . . .
    That turns pastors into nothing but glorified entertainers, wherein the hottest ones pull the biggest congregations. Success-measured in attendance and dollars-becomes the metaphor for spiritual wisdom . . .
    Notice that transition -- if you think it follows naturally from the "priesthood of the believer" to "glorified entertainers" . . .
    The Historic Church by contrast never held the Bible up as a magic book that could solve all your problems but rather regarded the Bible as just one element of a liturgical tradition based on community, worship and participation.
    I do not think the Apostolic church got this memo - I think it was written later by a church seeking to gain control of its membership. The 1st century church, and the Apostles, were very keen on the Word of God, both written and incarnate in the form of Christ, as a guide to action. Of course, the "magic book that could solve all your problems" line is just incendiary -- only some small splinter believed that now or then. Now comes his undisguised pitch for the post-Apostolic and pre-Reformation version of the church:
    It never was about grandstanding entertainment, but about a liturgy that was the same wherever you went within Christendom; up until the church split in 1054, into Western and Eastern churches and then the later fracturing of the Reformation followed by the era of Protestant chaos and lastly American-style Evangelical every-man-for-himself insanity.
    ooooh, the Protestant chaos. Darn them reformers once more. Now, Frank finally at least narrows the Evangelicals he is talking about (I think):
    Since the Evangelical right wing movement cannot speak with a prophetic (let alone single) voice . . .
    I know theologically liberal Christians, especially the politically liberal version, like this "speaking with a prophetic voice" language a lot - but Evangelicals don't use it much. That is primarily because Christ made it doubtful there would be any more real prophets - and being a prophet implied a person (not a community) with direct connection to God (not a "community of believers") hearing God's voice ("in their head") directly (not a church hierarchy). Only the "nutcases" among us claim that; and we do not largely trust that. For instance, Evangelicals are largely not charismatic - we do not believe in the "gifts of the spirit" such as speaking in tongues and prophecy.

    The rest is pretty much just a politically motivated screed aimed at those Evangelicals who oppose Obama and support McCain - which is back to those two of those three forces tearing at the gospel-oriented core of Evangelicalism: folks on the political left and right who want to make the movement reflect their political ideology.

    Read more!

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Bible in a Year:
    Week of August 17th

    Many people have simply never read the Bible from cover to cover; and yet many people have many opinions about what is there. The first time I read it through the actual scope and flow of the Word became apparent - the underlying plan and it's unfolding.

    The idea is that over the years this resource can grow as folks add their own comments, links to commentaries and other tools, etc in the comments to this index.

    1. Do you have a viewpoint on a particular piece of scripture? Go to that place and leave a comment.
    2. Heard or read a great sermon on a section of scripture? Link the audio file or text in the comments.
    3. The possibilities are many.

    8/17: Jeremiah 22:1-24:10; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/18: Jeremiah 25:1-27:22; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/19: Jeremiah 28:1-31:40; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/20: Jeremiah 32:1-34:7; D: 1 Maccabees 2

    8/21: Jeremiah 34:8-37:21; D: 1 Maccabees 2

    8/22: Jeremiah 38:1-41:15; D: 1 Maccabees 2

    8/23: Jeremiah 41:16-45:5; D: 1 Maccabees 3

    Things to look for each day:
    1. Lessons to be learned
    2. Examples to be followed
    3. Promises to be enjoyed
    4. Jesus to be revealed
    A good journaling question: How will I be different today because of what I have just read?

    Next Week: Week of August 24th
    Index to whole series

    Read more!

    Evil and Natural Moral Law

    In the series The Problem (?) with Evil I have focused on God's disconnect from the cause of evil - us actually. It really isn't part of the question of whether the existence of evil proves the non-existence of an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God - but the question of what God does to promote good and discourage evil amongst the creatures that were "made in his image" is an important one.

    Obviously, as Santiago put it in the Street Prophet's comment threads, it would be "less than satisfying" if God just sat back and watched while we used our freedom to do evil to each other. Not only that, there has to be mechanisms by which God uses us to accomplish his aims even in, and using, people who do not believe in him. So the question here is:

    Does God Actively Encourage Good and Constrain Evil?

    I believe God does. Two of the four witnesses God uses are forms of conscience:
    According to theologians of the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century), the conscience is divided into two parts. Synderesis (probably a misreading of suneidesis) is the faculty in human beings that knows God's moral law; this faculty remained unaffected by the Fall and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Conscientia is the faculty by which human beings apply the moral to concrete cases; it dictates what should or should not be done under particular circumstances. Whereas synderesis cannot err, conscientia is fallible - Encarta
    • Synderesis, or deep conscience: Cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every single human being. The only way to tamper with it is by self-deception - to tell yourself you really do not know what you know. It includes the knowledge of inviolable goods like friendship; of formal norms like fairness; and everyday moral rules like "Do not murder".

      Deep conscience is the reason a person who says they do not believe in right and wrong may shrink from murder; why even a man who murders may have pangs of remorse; and why even if the man has deadened himself to remorse shows other symptoms of deep-buried guilty knowledge.

    • Conscientia, or surface conscience: J Bud gives "at least" nine ways surface conscience can be blurred or err (and asks you to compare Aquinas's Summa Theologica, Prima Secundæ Partis, Question 94, Articles 4 and 6):
    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.
    However, even if we twist our deep conscience at the surface conscience level in the above ways it still is there to point us the right direction and convict us of wrong actions.

    Conscience has a number of faces:
    • In cautionary mode, it alerts us to the peril of moral wrong and generates an inhibition against committing it
    • In accusatory mode, it indicts us for the wrong we have already done.
    The most common way this happens is through the first fury: remorse . . .this is the least of the furies: we do not always feel remorse when we do wrong, and some people never feel it. Even if we do not feel remorse, guilty knowledge generates objective needs for confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification. These other furies are the greater sisters of remorse: inflexible, inexorable, and relentless, demanding satisfaction even when mere feelings are suppressed, fade away, or never come. This leads to the most harrowing mode:
    • In avenger mode, it punishes the soul that does wrong but refuses to read the indictment. How this works is easy to grasp. The normal outlet:
      1. of remorse is to flee from wrong;
      2. of confession is to admit what one has done;
      3. of atonement is to pay the debt;
      4. of reconciliation is to restore the bonds that have been broken; and
      5. of justification is to get back in the right

      If we do not do "feed" the furies the right way; then they will be fed in some other way - driving our lives further out of kilter. For example:
      1. we do not flee from wrong, but just from thinking about it;
      2. we compulsively confess every detail of the story but the moral;
      3. we punish ourselves again and again offering every sacrifice but the one demanded;
      4. we simulate the broken bonds of intimacy by seeking companions as guilty as ourselves; and
      5. we seek not to become just but to justify ourselves.
    Our conscience therefore acts as teacher, judge, or executioner depending on the mode it operates in. It is also one witness to the character and plan of God - as said above our deep conscience is
    the faculty in human beings that knows God's moral law; this faculty remained unaffected by the Fall and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
    However, whatever one thinks the source of deep conscience is - the actions of deep conscience are clear:
    "pursued by the five furies, a man becomes both wickeder and stupider in a progressively downward spiral: more wicked because his behavior becomes worse, more stupid because he tells himself more lies. Of course, he intended to become wicker and stupider - that is what obstinacy and denial are all about." -- J. Budziszewski.
    J. Bud points out (as anyone who has experienced redemption by "bottoming out" will know) the persons only hope is to become even wickeder and stupider than planned - to become so wretched that they come to themselves.

    Read more!

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    The Problem of Evil:
    V. Does There Have to be so Much Evil?

    I am starting the fifth post in a series on the apologetics surrounding whether or not God's existence, or at least His existence as a good God, can be disproven because of the existence of evil. I have been following Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks treatment of the issue in When Skeptics Ask

    This has not been a series about:

    • what is, or isn't, evil;
    • what we as humans in general (or Christians in particular) should, or shouldn't, do about evil; or even
    • what God plans to do about evil
    even though I have grazed some of those issues. It has just been about whether God is proven not to be all-knowing, all-loving, and/or all-powerful because evil exists.

    Up to this point, the series (other than positing the existence of a God) has been pretty distant from an exposition of Christianity per se -- and pretty distant from anything remotely resembling evangelism. This one may cross that line somewhat -- and for those following the series (particularly at Street Prophets) who would like to not cross that line feel free to skip this post. In fact, I almost didn't write it at all.

    One of those arguments about God not being all-good is from the existence of hell in Christian theology. Geisler:
    The extent of evil poses a problem. Surely there doesn't have to be this much evil to fulfill God's purposes. Couldn't there have been one less rape, one less drunk driver? That wouid have made the world better. And, of course, that "one-less" theory can be extended until there is no evil at all. This can even be taken to the extreme case: What about hell? Wouldn't it be better to have one less person in hell? Since both of these questions have the same answer, lets deal with the extreme case.
    1. The greatest good is to save all men.
    2. Even one person in hell would be less than the greatest good.
    3. Therefore, God cannot send anyone to hell.
    To answer this objection, we go back to the subject of free will. It is true that God desires all men to be saved, but that means that they have to choose to love Him and believe in Him. Now, God can't force anyone to love Him. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. Love must be free: it is a free choice. So in spite of God's desire, some men do not choose to love Him. All who go to hell do so because of their free choice. They may not want to go to hell (who would?), but they do will it. They make the decision to reject God, even though they don't desire punishment. People don't go to hell because God sends them; they choose it and God respects their freedom.
    "There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in hell, chose it." -- C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
    Now if that is how eternal destiny is decided, then it is not one person in hell that is evil; it is one more than is really necessary (i.e., one who did choose God but was sent to hell anyway). Granted, a world in which some men go to hell is not the best of all conceivable worlds, but it may be the best of all achievable worlds if free will is to be maintained [my emphasis]. Likewise, the world might be made better by one less crime, but it must be left to the would-be criminal to make that choice.
    Social/political: Society, parents, etc. also cannot force folks not to do evil. As Geisler points out, it really is the person doing the evils decision. Certainly, there are things society can, and cannot, do in order to limit the instances of evil folks choose to do - but it still comes down to the choices folks make everyday.

    Next question: Does God actively encourage good and constrain evil?
    Series Link

    Read more!

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    The Problem of Evil:
    IV. What is the Purpose of Evil?

    Part I examined what evil is; Part II what causes evil; and part III why God has not yet destroyed evil. However, for most folks the "why" is more about . . .

    Read more!

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    The Problem of Evil:
    III. Why Can't Evil be Stopped?

    Part II looked at Where Evil Came From - with the conclusion that we, as moral creatures, are the cause of evil through the actions taken by our free will. We are therefore responsible - as moral creatures - for our actions and the good, and bad, results of those actions.

    The next question Geisler and Brooks approach in Chapter 4 of When Skeptics Ask is

    Read more!

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Bible in a Year:
    Week of August 10th

    Many people have simply never read the Bible from cover to cover; and yet many people have many opinions about what is there. The first time I read it through the actual scope and flow of the Word became apparent - the underlying plan and its unfolding. If you haven't done, or want to do it again, or would just like to see what the stupid thing says - join me (us) for the next year.

    Please bring your own resources, ideas, commentaries to the mix. This is intended as a daily reading; but also as a daily Bible study.

    8/10: Isaiah 66:1-Jeremiah 3:5; D: Esther A (insert before Esther 1), Esther B (insert between Esther 3:13 and 14)

    8/11: Jeremiah 3:6-5:31; D: Esther C (insert after Esther 4:17), Esther D (replaces Esther 5:1-2)

    8/12: Jeremiah 6:1-8:3; D: Esther E (insert between Esther 8:12 and 13), Esther F (insert after Esther 10:3)

    8/13: Jeremiah 8:4-11:17; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/14: Jeremiah 11:18-15:21; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/15: Jeremiah 16:1-19:15; D: 1 Maccabees 1

    8/16: Jeremiah 20:1-23:32; D: 1 Maccabees 2

    Things to look for each day:

    1. Lessons to be learned
    2. Examples to be followed
    3. Promises to be enjoyed
    4. Jesus to be revealed
    A good journaling question: How will I be different today because of what I have just read?

    Next Week: Week of August 17th
    Index to whole series

    Read more!

    Saturday, August 09, 2008

    The Problem of Evil:
    II. Where Did Evil Come From?

    I am following Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks discussion in When Skeptics Ask on the problem of evil.

    The comment that started me thinking on this was:

    To me, the "problem of theodicy" is one that offers a devastating and unrebuttable logical argument against the notion that a god could be omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omni-benevolent (all-loving) all at the same time, and yet evil in the world could still exist. Few Christians (in my experience), be they Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or any other variation, would stipulate that their idea of God excludes any of those attributes. Yet when I have presented the theodicy problem to them, I must confess the cognitive dissonance they experience when confronted with the logical inconsistency therein has been painful to watch.
    While this issue has never caused my any discernable dissonance - I think he is right that the existence of evil is a difficult theological problem

    In the last post I looked at the question of "What is Evil?". I believe evil is not a "thing-in-itself" because is a lack of something - good. This meant that we do not define folks by their evil (what they lack) but by their good (what they have). However, there are many people who lack far more than they have - folks who are "pure evil" or, in other words, lack nearly any good impulse. This brings up the next question:

    Where did evil come from?
    In the beginning was God and He was perfect. Then the perfect God made a perfect world. How did evil come into play? Let us summarize the problem this way:
    1. Every creature God made is perfect
    2. Perfect creatures cannot do what is imperfect
    3. So, every creature God made cannot do what is imperfect
    . . . Some have concluded that there must be some force equal to God or beyond his control. Or maybe God isn't good after all. But maybe the prolem lies with the conception of perfection itself.
    1. God made everything perfect
    2. One of the perfect things God made was free creatures
    3. Free will is the cause of evil
    4. So, imperfection (evil) can arise from perfection (not directly, but indirectly through freedom)

    Geisler examines the truth that what makes men morally perfect is choice - we are free to chose what we do. This is because it allows us to love freely; because forced love is rape. Also, if we have no choice there is no morality at all - the concepts of moral and immoral are meaningless without choice.

    God's moral choice in creating us with moral choices allowed the possibility of evil - because freedom can only really exist if we can chose either good or evil.
    That doesn't make Him [God] responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men made evil actual. Imperfection came through our abuse of our moral perfection as free creatures.
    Geisler defines free will as follows:
    . . . a better definition is that it is the ability to decide be­tween alternatives. Desire is a passion, an emotion; but will is a choice between two or more desires . . . Freedom is not in unlimited options, but in unfettered choice between whatever options there are. As long as the choosing comes from the individual rather than an outside force, the decision is made freely. Free will means the ability to make an unforced decision between two or more alternatives.
    The social/political ramifications of this are that we were created to make free choices between good and evil; and we are responsible for those choices.
    When we sin, ultimately we (by our wills) are the [first] cause of the evil we do. -- Geisler
    Neither the Devil or anybody else forced the act (or it wasn't free - and therefore had no moral content whatsoever). However, God is good and perfect so . . .

    The Next Question: Why Can't Evil Be Stopped?
    Series Link

    Read more!

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    The Problem of Evil Series

    Part I: What is Evil?: Brain Cramps, Street Prophets
    Part II: Where did evil come from?: Brain Cramps, Street Prophets
    Part III: Why Can't Evil be Stopped?: Brain Cramps, Street Prophets
    Part IV: What is the Purpose of Evil?: Brain Cramps, Street Prophets
    Part V: Does there have to be so much evil? Brain Cramps, Street Prophets
    Sidetrack: Does God actively encourage good and constrain evil? Brain Cramps, Street Prophets

    Additional stuff:

    Read more!

    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    The Problem of Evil:
    I. What is Evil?

    Is the existence of evil an insurmountable "defeater" for belief in God - or more particularly a

    logical argument against the notion that a god could be omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omni-benevolent (all-loving) all at the same time
    It is not that the "problem of evil" is a new thing - theologians have been discussing it for thousands of years. Indeed, just about as long as folks have believed that God was
    omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omni-benevolent (all-loving) all at the same time
    Somehow Christians have continued to believe that God is "all that and a bag of chips" even with the evil in the world. Are we fools just waiting for this fate:
    Yet when I have presented the theodicy problem to them, I must confess the cognitive dissonance they experience when confronted with the logical inconsistency therein has been painful to watch.
    The general theological answer is expressed well here:
    My own approach assumes that God can do all things, but not all things at once without doing violence to some of them. For instance, God can't make 2+2=4, and 2+2=5, both be true without fundamentally changing the concept of either 2, 4, 5, plus, or equals. Thus, I conclude that the existence of evil was the byproduct of some other condition that God desired to bring about in creation. The work of theology then would be to attempt to develop an understanding of what that desired condition was, and how it was that the existence of evil was a necessary byproduct thereof.
    In the past I have pointed to a list of books recommended to me by one of my pastors. One of those books is When Skeptics Ask, by Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks. Chapter 4 is "Questions about Evil". I am going to go through Geisler and Brooks arguments in a series of posts; but first I want to deal with what I am trying to accomplish.
    I cannot say why God chose how he chose - all I can do is offer one (of many) logical arguments about why He might have done what He did.
    All it takes is one in fact, and there are many answers.

    As a Christian you really must have an answer beyond "God's ways are not our ways" or "God is beyond our understanding" or some such other anti-intellectual nonsense - these are not answers that fulfill the call to be prepared to show what your hope is based on. Certainly, there are great resources on the issue:

    Indeed, if you want to grapple with this question there are many resourses to use. The first question Geisler contends with is:

    What is Evil?

    The defeater argument, from the existence of evil, for God not being the creator of all things - or worse yet the creator of evil - is:
    1. God is the author of everything
    2. Evil is something
    3. Therefore, God is the author of Evil

    How you understand evil is important. Is it a power in itself? A created thing? If you believe that, and in a creative God, then you have to believe that God created evil. That certainly is a difficulty if you are going to believe in an omni-benevolent God. Or you have to believe that Evil is a separate power - which places you on the very lip of Dualism. That would challenge the notion of monotheism. The general understanding put forward by Geisler and Brooks is that evil is not a thing-in-itself:
    The first premise is true. So it appears that in order to deny the conclusion we have to deny the reality of evil (as the pantheists do). But we can deny that evil is a thing, or substance, without saying that it isn't real. It is a lack in things. When good that should be there is missing from something, that is evil. After all, if I am missing a wart on my nose, that is not evil because the wart should not have been there in the first place. However, if a man lacks the ability to see, that is evil. Likewise, if a person lacks the kindness in his heart and respect for human life that should be there, then he may commit murder. Evil is, in reality, a parasite that cannot exist except as a hole in something that should be solid.

    In some cases, though, evil is more easily explained as a case of bad relationships. If I pick up a good gun, put in a good bullet, point it at my good head, put my good finger on the good trigger and give it a good pull. . . a bad relationship results. The things involved are not evil in themselves, but the relationship between the good things is definitely lacking something. In this case, the lack comes about because the things are not being used as they ought to be. Guns should not be used for indiscriminate killing, but are fine for recreation. My head was not meant to be used for target practice. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with strong winds moving in a circle, but a bad relationship arises when the funnel of wind goes through a mobile home park. Bad relationships are bad because the relationship is lacking something, so our definition of evil still holds. Evil is a lack of something that should be there in the relationship between good things.
    Augustine was a bit more dialectic in his argument than Geisler/Brooks:
    What is evil? Perhaps you will reply, Corruption. Undeniably this is a general definition of evil; for corruption implies opposition to nature; and also hurt. But corruption exists not by itself, but in some substance which it corrupts; for corruption itself is not a substance. So the thing which it corrupts is not corruption, is not evil; for what is corrupted suffers loss of integrity and purity. So that which has no purity to lose cannot be corrupted; and what has, is necessarily good by the participation of purity. Again, what is corrupted is perverted; and what is perverted suffers loss of order; and order is good. To be corrupted, then does not imply the absence of good; for in corruption it can be deprived of good, which could not be if there was the absence of good." - Augustine, On the Morals of the Manichaens, 5.7.
    The social/political implications of this are obvious to me: if you believe Evil is a thing or a separate force then you are almost committed to destroying what you see as evil upon deciding it is such. However, if you believe evil is a lack of good (or a "hole" in the good), or a corruption of good - then you can believe focus on the good and attempt to fill the hole or heal the corruption. C.S. Lewis touched on this in Mere Christianity :
    In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be simply killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will never feel it any more. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible. Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves - to wish that he were not bead, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.

    The next question: Where did evil come from?
    Series Link

    Read more!

    Christian Carnival CCXXXVI (236)

    It is an honor to host this carnival. The submissions are listed in the order in which they were recieved. Enjoy.

  • Andy Wood presents "DeCristo" posted at LifeVesting.
    For four years Connie Holloway had carried a stranger’s name, and it was time for a change. But how do you pick your own new name? What would you do if you had that kind of freedom?
  • FMF presents "Quick Wealth Often Disappears" posted at Free Money Finance.

  • Charles Morgan presents "Christianity's crazy ideas, images, and symbols" posted at Why Do We Believe?.

  • Henry M. Imler presents "Chloe Part 1 - Her People" posted at Theology for the Masses.

  • David Porter presents "Internet Porn - Are you dancing around its snare?" posted at A Boomer in the Pew.

  • Chad Dalton presents "Dads listen up!" posted at Living Stone Bible Church Blog.

  • Drew Tatusko presents "Why Pray?" posted at Notes From Off Center.
    Prayer is a means to work out our faith in a way that the working of God’s eternally present will in our midst is revealed thus making what is incoherent coherent, and what is unintelligible, intelligible. It is not to ask that God intervene in a specific miraculous way on our behalf as if not praying will not effect change. It is to ask God to reveal what God has already planned in the midst of otherwise incoherent events to render them intelligible. Prayer is thus a means of grace that we enact through faith.
  • Annette presents "And now we have Philemon" posted at Fish and Cans.

  • Richard presents "Lazarus is a Priest" posted at dokeo kago grapho soi kratistos Theophilos.

  • Michael presents "Facing Questions" posted at Chasing the Wind.
    Paul's Secondary missionary journey took him to the philosophers of Athens. How did Paul address the pagan philosophers?
  • Weekend Fisher presents "Training to Pray" posted at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength.
    Weekend Fisher considers why she automatically prays when faced with news of a friend's illness, but does not automatically pray when faced with resentment for those who wrong her. Wrestling with the sinful nature and one of Jesus' hardest -- and most blessed -- commands.
  • CaseyP presents "Blogging for Jesus or Me?" posted at The Limitless.
    Why do we Blog? Is it helping the Kingdom of God?
  • Frances presents "Family Integrated Church" posted at Christianity Lived Out.
    Join me as I explore the Family Integrated Church Movement.
  • Diane R presents "Pampered Children--The Christian Version" posted at Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet.
    Christians have followed the world in pampering our children for several decades and now we are beginning to see the results in Christian adults today.
  • Tiffany Partin presents "Memory Lane - The Tropical Edition" posted at Fathom Deep: Sounding the Depths of God.

  • Daniel Partin presents "The Church Papa Built" posted at Prophet For Hire: A blog for those seeking relationship with God.

  • This week at Light Along the Journey, an afternoon hike to a waterfall lets John reflect on two types of God's created glory in the photo essay "Created for His Glory".

  • Jeremy Pierce presents "Obama and Evil" posted at Parableman.
    some questions about Barack Obama's view of evil and how it relates to fallen humanity's motivations
  • Jody Neufeld presents "Being Tested" posted at Jody's Devotionals.
    Would Jesus approve of the choices you make in reading, viewing, and speaking?
  • Henry Neufeld presents "Quick Note on Applying Matthew 7:1" posted at Participatory Bible Study Blog.
    Application and misapplication (in my view) of Matthew 7:1.
  • Tom Gilson presents "New Age 'Evolution' " posted at Thinking Christian.
    Here’s a good example of how not to marry science with a worldview: the so-called Evolutionary Manifesto
  • Rodney Olsen presents "A Christian Response to Climate Change" posted at

  • Heath presents "Our Creator Has A Plan" posted at Esprit d'escalier.

  • This was a great set of posts - and, again, it was an honor to put them together into the 136th Christian Carnival.

    Next week travel to where the tents are already being set up for the 137th edition. Do you have an entry? Want to participate for the 1st time? Here are the instructions for participating

    Read more!