Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leap of Faith?

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues".

What is faith? It is one of the most variously defined words in the world. In fact, there are so many different versions of what it is that it is clear if one is correct, many others are not. More importantly, what is the Scriptural definition? First and foremost, faith is faith in God (Hebrews 11:6) and not other things (Psalms 20:7; Isaiah 42:17). Also, faith is not against reason (Scripture gives reasons to believe; see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11), but against sight (2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 1:1). We need to have faith to believe God's promises even if we do not currently possess them (Romans 4:18-21). Faith is therefore not faith in faith or a leap of faith into darkness, but reliance on God, whose truth we know.

We are also promised great things through faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), which is a seed known for its smallness. Now certainly, the presence of faith is relevant (Matthew 13:58), but the chief word for doubting in the New Testament is a strong word "to waver". It pictures someone actually fluctuating back and forth between two opinions (James 1:6-8), not someone who has an occasional doubt pass through their head. One example of God's graciousness, even when our faith is imperfect, is Acts 12:1-19. Herod Antipas puts to death James the son of Zebedee and throws Peter into prison. The church calls together a prayer meeting to petition God for Peter's release. So God sends an angel, who rescues Peter from prison. Then Peter goes to the house where they are praying for his freedom and knocks on the door. And when the maid runs into the gathering and tells them Peter is at the door, they do not believe her. It is only when Peter, after much knocking, is let in that they recognize it is really him. I am convinced God often does things for us in spite of our imperfect faith.

I am therefore convinced that faith is not a mental exercise; it is not a state of mind we work up; it is not an indefinable experience that flies in the face of reason. It is, rather, our imperfect reliance on the promises of God, even though we do not see them now. And if we have even a spark of a real faith, God will meet us there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Other Stories of Miracles

Do accounts of miracles by other beliefs prove the Christian accounts are false? Do particular falsified Christian accounts of miracles prove the rest are false? Before we can deal with this, we need to put it in perspective. Not only in the supernatural but in the natural realms we are continually confronted with stories that have different degrees of probability. There are various opinions on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, reaching from the single bullet theory, to the government conspiracy theory, to the story he continued to survive somewhere on a desert island theory, most of which do not involve the supernatural. But that does not make them equally plausible. To reject the moon landing as historical does not require the supernatural, but that does not mean we should give it credence. History is full of stories and anecdotes, some of which are true, some of which are false, and some of which may be argued both ways. Is it surprising the same thing is true in regard to the supernatural? The truth is that if you want to know what the truth is, you need to weigh the evidence. But to assume the supernatural must be dismissed as dubious is circular reasoning unless you have already proved the supernatural cannot happen. And if you can do this, there is no need to argue from questionable instances of the supernatural. The usual argument here is that science disproves the supernatural, but science cannot really deal with this issue.

While it is certainly not definitive, the existence of miracles and stories of miracles in many belief systems is an argument in favor of miracles. If you believe in a supernatural world, there may be a variety of supernatural beings. There may be demons out to fool us into following the wrong beliefs. Even if almost all accounts of miracles are false, we have to ask where they got the idea from. It is more reasonable they are imitating something that was known to exist. The fact that counterfeit currency exists does not prove that real currency does not. In fact, it suggests the existence of real currency. Now if the fundamental miracles that undergird Christianity (or even the important related ones) can be shown to be false, we have a problem. If it can be shown that the Christian miracles are no better substantiated or no more indicative of the power of God than any others, we have a problem. But the fact there are false stories of miracles does not prove anything (beyond calling into question the individual who worked them). My father was a taxidermist, and liked to try to convince the city slickers that jackalopes (the offspring of a jack rabbit and an antelope) were real. Because this is false, does that mean jack rabbits and antelopes do not exist? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Touch of Humor - The Usher

How important are some of the things we divide over? Where should the boundaries be drawn?

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Voice from the Past - Anselm

I do not endeavor, Oh Lord, to penetrate thy sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree thy truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, -- that unless I believed, I should not understand.

Anselm, 1033-1109, Proslogium, Chapter I (Open Court Press, 1926, translator Sidney Norton Deane, p. 22)

Is this the proper approach? How would it affect how we live?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dancing in the Dungeon

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues".

Sometimes the best thing to do in a difficult time is to rejoice in God and praise Him. Paul and Silas were in a jail in Philippi and were praying and singing hymns of praise (Acts 16:22-25). I do not believe this was because Paul and Silas were super-spiritual and did not feel the difficulties of their situation, but because they did and rejoiced in response. We are told rejoicing is an appropriate response to trouble (James 1:2-4; Matthew 5:11,12) and that we can rejoice in the Lord even if the situation is dark (Philippians 4:4). I remember a time when the church I was in was going through tough times. An accusation had been made against the pastor and it had to be dealt with. I remember shortly after I learned of this doing what I call my "prayer dance." It consists of playing praise music and praying as I dance to the music. I have often felt God's presence powerfully in these sessions. Afterward, my wife kiddingly asked me if I had enjoyed myself. I replied this was not a dance of joy but a dance of defiance. I was dancing despite the situation and everything that principalities and powers could throw at us as a church. Sometimes when the times get tough, the best thing to do is rejoice and praise God (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting Out the Vote

What should be the position of the Christian regarding politics? Should we be involved or not? Should we support a particular political party? Are we denying the faith if we do not support that party? How do we untangle this mess? I have found a distinction made by C. S. Lewis useful in dealing with this issue. Christianity lays down certain moral principles, goals on what constitutes justice, but it does not say what practical methods will best achieve those goals. There are in politics a considerable number of pragmatic questions involved in how to get the right things done. Now there may be certain practical approaches which are wrong in themselves, even if done to achieve appropriate moral goals, but even among acceptable methods there is disagreement as to what is best. Also, when it comes down to voting, there is the question of the character and competence of the person running. It does no good to elect people who claim they will do something but are unable to or change their position afterward.

I am convinced that abortion (Psalms 139:13,14; 51:5; Exodus 20:13), homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Matthew 19:4-6),  and pornography (Matthew 5:27,28; Exodus 20:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:4,5) are wrong Biblically.  But whether we should have laws regarding them and exactly what kind of laws can be a practical problem. When you factor in what is the best way to get these laws enacted, given constitutional and legal questions, it becomes even more complicated. But these are fairly straightforward. I am convinced Biblically that racism is wrong (Acts 17:26; James 3:9-12; Colossians 3:11). But the best way to deal with it, affirmative action, hate crimes legislation, or some other method, may be debatable. I do believe that the Bible lays down principles in the area of economics, but what should be done there on a practical level may difficult to determine. Therefore, those who agree with me on my Scriptural understanding (there are of course those who would dispute it) can end up disagreeing on specific political conclusions.

Also, we need to remember that while the law does have a function in restraining evil (Romans 13:1-7; Proverbs 14:34;  Deuteronomy  13:11), even God's Law cannot by itself produce a true change of heart (Romans 3:19,20; 7:7-18; 5:20). I am convinced there is a place for Christians to work for good laws and a better condition of our society. But we must avoid the illusion that if we just pass a few of the right laws we will end up with an upright nation that follows God. The problem runs deeper than that, and it is only by convincing individuals of Christian truths and Christian moral principles that we can hope to change the moral direction of our society. But that does not mean Christians should not do whatever they can to positively affect the political process.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Touch of Humor - Thanksgiving Question

Do we tend to measure our thankfulness to God in terms of material benefits? Should we?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Voice from the Past - Ambrose

If any one takes heed in this, he will be mild, gentle, modest. For in guarding his mouth, and restraining his tongue, and in not speaking before examining, pondering, and weighing his words  -- as to whether this should be said, that should be answered, or whether it be a suitable time for this remark -- he certainly is practicing modesty, gentleness, patience.

Ambrose, 340-397, Duties of the Clergy, Book I, Chapter IV, Paragraph 14 (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume X, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clark and Eerdmans, 1997, translated by Rev. H. De Romestin, p. 3)

How important is it to watch what we say? How can we go about this?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Carey Conundrum

The story of William Carey is used to show that predestination and evangelism are contrary  to each other. Carey was advocating missions and was told to sit down; when God was ready to save the heathen He would do it without Carey's assistance. But what are the facts of this case?

Now Carey was a Calvinist and believed in predestination. Therefore, this is, at worst, a debate between Calvinists over what Calvinism means. Further, there was an extreme view of Calvinism (called hyper-Calvinism by the standard Council-of-Dort-affirming Calvinism), which may have been involved in this disagreement. Now I would be willing to leave things here as a debate among Calvinists and simply say I support William Carey's form of Calvinism. But the truth is more complicated then that.

The scene was a pastor's conference presided over by the elder John Ryland. (There were two John Rylands involved: the younger, who was Carey's friend and supporter, and the elder, who was his father.) William Carey and his friend Thomas Chisholm had just been ordained as ministers. The elder  Ryland asked the newest members of the group to propose a subject for discussion. Chisholm suggested discussing a passage in 2 Peter, but the elder Ryland told him to look it up in John Gill. Then Carey asked if the command to preach the gospel to the heathen did not last until the end of the world, since the accompanying promise was to that extent (see Matthew 28:19,20). And the elder Ryland replied .... It is not really clear what the elder Ryland replied. The elder Ryland never remembered what he had said. Chisholm accused him of claiming that a restoration of the gift of tongues was necessary to take the gospel to the heathen. (The younger Ryland denied his father said this, but I have not seen the exact words of the denial.) The common version, "Sit down young man, when God gets ready to save the heathen He will do it without your help or mine," was from Jonathan Marshall, who knew Carey in India, at a time when Carey himself admits he did not remember exactly what was said. But the bigger question is what was meant.

Carey wrote a pamphlet called  An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians To Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. He told the younger Ryland that it responded to the elder Ryland's objections. It does not mention Calvinism. It does deal with God's command, which is the portion he claimed referred to the elder Ryland's objection. But the main part of the pamphlet deals with practical objections: where will we get the money; the heathen will eat us; and similar questions. The issue does not seem to be doctrinal but practical: how would such an endeavor be possible? And Carey's chief virtue was being willing to trust God to accomplish such things. But doctrine does not seem to be the main issue.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christian Malpractice

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues".

There are many people in the world who are victims of Christian theological malpractice. This consists in telling people that if they come to Christ they will have no real problems and will be happy all the time.  I am not simply talking here of the health and wealth gospel, though they are the worst offenders.  There are multitudes of other approaches which, though they do not go as far, nonetheless teach that Jesus is some kind of happiness pill which, if you take, you will not feel pain anymore. And when people find out this does not really work, they write off Christianity as a piece of false advertising.  (Many times such people have never really been saved because they have never really dealt with the basic issues of sin and forgiveness.  But even if they are saved, they can end up struggling in their walk with God.) We set them up for a fall. Is this really what the Scripture teaches?

The Bible says we should expect trouble (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Corinthians 1:4-7) and opposition (2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-4).  The Christian life is pictured as a battle (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Timothy 2:3.4; 1 Timothy 6:12) and an athletic contest (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians  9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:5).  Now we are able to put these things in perspective because we know what our ultimate goal will be (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; Romans 8:18; Revelation 21:4) and know God is using the trials we go through to make us into the people that God wants us to be (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5; 8:28,29).  As Christians, we have reason to rejoice (John 15:11) in who God is (Philippians 4:4), in our hope of salvation (Romans 5:2; 12:12; Philippians 3:3), in the fact God hears our prayers (John 16:24), and even in our suffering for Christ's sake (Matthew 5:12; Acts 5:41).  But all this, as I said, is a matter of perspective.  To sell Jesus by the Madison Avenue method is to set both you and your converts up for failure.  You may show superficial success, but you will not be doing what God has genuinely called you to do. And you will be in danger of producing disciples like the seed that falls on rocky soil and sprouts up quickly but withers at the first sign of trouble (Mark 4:16,17).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Things We Think We Know

Many claim to know all the details of the Second Coming of Christ. In the same way many thought they had figured out the First Coming but were clueless when it happened (John 7:25-53; Matthew 2:4-6; John 9:13-34). Even the disciples who followed Jesus seemed to be unclear on what was happening until after the resurrection (Mark 9:10; John 16:29-32; Matthew 16:21-23). Now it is clear from Scripture that Jesus is coming back (Acts 1:10,11; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:3-13). It is also clear that this coming will be blatant and obvious and even the unbelievers will recognize it (Matthew 24:23-31; Revelation 6:15-17; 16:9). This eliminates the idea of a mysterious spiritual coming. But up to the time when it becomes obvious, Scripture makes it clear we will not know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36-51; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). (The passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 does not say believers will not be surprised because we know the time, but because we are always alert.) The point is that until the clear-cut fulfillment of the prophecies, we should always be prepared but will never be certain.

Now we are told of the sign of the man of sin seating himself in the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 11:1,2). This has been interpreted as many different things, from the destruction of the Jewish temple by Titus, to the papacy, to various individuals up to the present day. As it is given as a sign, I would see it as involved in the blatant arrival of the Second Coming, and perhaps we should wait until this occurs before reaching a definite conclusion. (There is also the question of whether the temple is the church or a physical temple in Palestine. I would prefer a physical temple, as there have been so many apostasies in the history of the Christian church it would be difficult to know which one is referred to. Another sign, depending on your theology, may be the creation of the nation of Israel (Romans 11:25-32; Matthew 24:16-21; Revelation 11:8-13). But even if we consider it relevant (and I do), apart from fanciful interpretations it does not indicate a time table. All we can say is that salvation is nearer to us then it was before 1948 (Romans 13:11). As for Matthew 24:1-14, I would take it as warning against regarding every war or disaster or persecution or instance of false teaching as a sign, because these are the beginning of birth-pangs and the end is not yet. There are difficult things here, and while I certainly would not discourage people from studying them (2 Timothy 3:16,17), perhaps this is not something we should be dogmatic about or divide over. For I suspect when it happens we will all be wrong. Including me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Touch of Humor - The Tithe Talk

Is it wrong for a pastor to speak about giving money to the church? How should such things be handled?

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Voice from the Past - Gregory the Great

But, on the other hand, those who understand indeed aright the words of the Law, but speak them not humbly, are to be admonished, that, in divine discourses, before they put them forth to others, they should examine themselves; lest in following up the deeds of others, they leave themselves behind; and lest, while while thinking rightly of all the rest of Holy Scripture, this only thing they attend not to, what is said in it against the proud. For he is indeed a poor and unskilful physician, who would fain heal another's disease while ignorant of that from which he himself is suffering.

Gregory the Great, 540-604 AD, Pastoral Rule, Part III, Chapter 24 (Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Volume XII, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clark and Eerdmans, 1997, translator Rev. James Barmby, p. 52)

How great a problem is it to be right, but be proud about it? How do we avoid this?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Christian and Economics

What does the Bible say about economics? Should Christians be capitalists, socialists, or something else? Now this may seem like an abstract intellectual question, but it is a practical question that affects our attitude about and use of money. There are two basic principles that are involved in this issue. The Bible teaches a work ethic and business ethic. It says we should be willing to work for a living and be diligent in the work we are given to do (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 6:6-11; Colossians 3:23,24). But those in business need to be concerned about how they treat their customers and their employees (Amos 8:4,5; Proverbs 11:1; James 5:1-6, Deuteronomy 24:14,15 ). Now these are principles; I do not think we can absolutely define what constitutes a just wage or a just price from the price of salt or some other commodity. But I also do not think we are allowed to all follow our greed and somehow this will come out right in the end (1 Timothy 6:9,10; Colossians 3:5; Matthew 6:19-24). The issue is not one of greed but of justice. The person who puts in a good day's work deserves to be paid. The person who provides a useful commodity or service deserves to be paid for it. The idea of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" sounds noble, but it cuts through the just connection between effort and reward.

But there is another principle: that we are to help the poor and helpless and those in need (Proverbs 19:17; Luke 14:12-14; Galatians 2:10). This in many ways balances out the first principle; it is mercy to the first one's justice. Now nowhere do we get the idea that if a person is in need, it is necessarily their own fault (John 9:1-4; Job 1,2; Isaiah 53:4-6). And even if they are to blame for their situation, God calls for mercy to those who do not deserve it (Matthew 5:43-48; 9:10-13; Luke 19:10). There is a careful balance here with the first principle, but there must be a balance. Now there is a place for some government provisions to help those in need (Exodus 22:25-27; Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 15:7-14) or at least guarantee they will be treated fairly (Exodus 23:6-8; Leviticus 19:15; Proverbs 14:31). But the main source of help should be from those who give (Psalms 41:1; 1 John 3:17; James 2:15,16). Further, this is to be done willingly and not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:5-7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; Acts 5:4).

It is easy to try to palm off all the economic issues on government. But it makes a difference if we live and handle money based on justice and mercy or whether we approach it based on greed. This is true whether we are wealthy business people or poor people who are looking to redistribute the wealth of others. Living based purely on self-centeredness is wrong and results in problems, whatever society does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Confusion on Confrontation

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues".

I have seen many cases of Christians trying to correct one another.  And it seems to miscarry as often as not. How do we correct a fellow believer? 

The fundamental issue is that our goal should be that of correction and reconciliation; we are to win our brother, not drive them away (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13).  We need to start with direct personal confrontation (Matthew 18:15).  This does not mean to tell someone else or to try to get someone else to talk to them, but to go to them yourself.  There is a reason for this. The goal is to restore the person (the word in Galatians 6:1 is used of setting a broken bone or mending a fishing net) and to restore the relationship.  This may not be possible without explaining where you are coming from and perhaps instructing them in the issues.  You also need to hear their defense; even if you cannot agree with it, you need to show them you have heard it.  Also, if there is reconciliation they need to know you are reconciled and are not still angry with them behind their backs.  None of this can be done through a third party.  Now I do believe there is a place for invoking love covering a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  But if it is serious enough that it must be dealt with, it should be dealt with properly.

Also, it may be necessary to bring in witnesses, either to attest to their lack of repentance (Matthew 18:16) or to establish the fact of their actions (1 Timothy 5:19).  Now these witnesses need to be two or three (Numbers 35:30) and to be open and public witnesses who can testify to the actual facts of the case.  In the Old Testament the witnesses were to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7) and, if false, were liable to the punishment they tried to get imposed on the accused (Deuteronomy 19:15-19).  No anonymous or second-hand witnesses should be accepted.

But everything must be done with gentleness (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13).  This does not mean we should ignore or minimize sin (1 Corinthians 5:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6), but we must attempt to turn the sinner back to the right way.  Even if the church is required to take the final step and exercise discipline (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:3-8), it should be done lovingly, with the hope for restoration (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).  Confronting sin is a difficult task.  It should not be undertaken lightly, but it is also dangerous to ignore, if it is necessary.  We need to trust God to lead us in the right way to handle these situations. We also need to look to ourselves, that we are not drawn down into the errors of the people we are correcting (Galatians 6:1, Jude 22,23). But we must be careful to approach the situation in a Biblical manner if we hope to genuinely restore people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are We Arrogant to Believe We Are Right

It is commonly claimed that Christians are arrogant to claim they have the truth. But does this make sense? In other areas of knowledge to find what is true is not arrogant but reasonable. No one claims you are arrogant for believing that two plus two equals four, force equals mass times acceleration, or George Washington was the first president of the United States. Would you drive a car or ride in an airplane built by someone who did not have the arrogance to build them the right way? It is only in theology and ethics that such claims are made. But I see no reason for applying to these areas a principle that would be regarded as foolishness in any other area. Why should we believe that God will accept anything we choose to offer as obedience to Him any more than we would assume we can mix any two chemicals together without ever having them react?

Now it is possible to believe in this God who will accept anything you believe about him and any lifestyle you choose, though he is certainly not the Christian God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Isaiah 43:10,11). But is it not just as arrogant to claim this understanding of God is correct as it is to claim the Christian understanding  is correct? In fact, it seems even more arrogant, as it tramples over the universal human tendency to hold that certain things are right and others are wrong. It also goes against the general principles people have historically lived by, which hold there are fixed moral standards and right ways to worship God. Now this does not prove that this idea of God false, but it does mean that it cannot just be assumed to be true, resulting in labeling anyone who questions it as arrogant. If anything, it seems highly implausible that God should be totally indifferent to how we live our lives and how we worship Him. In fact, I rather suspect that that many who hold this view, when confronted, would admit that they have limitations on the kind of behavior that they believe God finds acceptable. They simply have a specific view of God that contradicts the Christian idea of God. Or there may be some who make this argument who would deny or  question that God exists. But again, they are holding to a specific viewpoint and claiming that their view is right and the Christian view is wrong. But they are no less arrogant for claiming it does not matter what you believe about God than the Christian is to claim that it does. The same principle applies in ethics. It is no more arrogant to assert a certain behavior is wrong than to claim it is all right to do it. In the final analysis, there are various views of what is correct in theology and we need to determine which is the right one. But the idea that someone is arrogant for holding a particular position is simply a red herring.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Touch of Humor - Guilt by Association

Is there a danger in the church of dividing into cliques? How do we prevent it?

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Voice from the Past - Tertullian

The oftener we are mowed down by you , the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.

Tertullian, 145-220 AD, Apology, Chapter 50 (The Antenicene Fathers, translated by S Thelwall, T & T Clarke and Eerdmans, 1997, p.55)

Is this still true today? How should it affect how we live?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Aletheia Rolls On

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues".

There was a great vehicle built by the All-Sufficient One before the dawn of time.  She had huge treads made to move mountains and strong armor to defect flaming darts, but there was no lock on the door and it opened to all who would come (though it was said you only came if driven aboard by the Breath of the All-Sufficient One).  She was painted with the colors of the rainbow, the colors of grace, and held together by the blood of the Lamb.  She was powered by the Breath of the All-Sufficient One, which was said to be one of the forms of the All-Sufficient One Himself.  She was dubbed Aletheia, though she was also know as Euangelion or Soteria. She rolled forth into the world with the full blessing and power of her Master.

While she had traveled since ancient times, she rolled out into the full light of history in obscure places.  A feeding trough for cattle, a fisherman's boat, a place of execution, and a tomb strangely missing its occupant.  When she reached public attention it was with a blaze of mighty words and mighty works, and she was immediately opposed.  Many of those on board were harassed and killed, but they lost only their physical lives and reached their destination quicker.  And Aletheia rolled on.

 Later, she became popular, and many lauded her and extolled her beauty.  Even those who would not come on board applauded her approach and cheered as she passed.  But many both on board and off fought to control her, though only her Master had access to the cockpit.  They tried to obscure her colors of grace and to use her to make profit and justify many shady schemes.  But Aletheia rolled on.

 Then came the great wars of control when many fought over who would possess her.  Those on board all huddled together in their little cliches in various parts of her passenger area.  And many built their own imitations of her and traveled off in their own directions. And many both on and off  board feared, hated, and even killed those of the other cliches.  And Aletheia rolled on.

Then came the time when many rejected her;  they hated her and avoided her and argued against her.  Those who were on board were shunned and sometimes even tortured and killed.  They were demeaned as stupid and uneducated for staying aboard such an obsolete vehicle.  Those on board responded  to the criticisms with logic and persuasion, and some were convinced to come on board, but many stayed off to follow the crowd.  Some of those on board became seriously concerned and took up clubs and fought those off board in order to protect the vehicle.  Many came back beaten and bruised, but those who did not proclaimed victory and said the safety of the vehicle was their doing.  But Aletheia rolled on.

One might almost suspect she knew where she was going.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Teaching Children

Are we raising our children to be little moralists? If we look at what is commonly taught children, most of it consists of commandments. Now there is a place in the Christian life for the teaching of how we should live. But this must be done in the context of God's truth and God's grace. If not, we are guilty of teaching only law, and law without grace is always destructive (2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Romans 7:7-13; Galatians 3:10-14). Now there moralistic teaching, and it is often hard to find ones that emphasize grace. (There can be the same problem with adult curricula, but it is easier with adults to ignore the standard curricula and take another approach.) It can be difficult to find curricula that are grace-oriented, but the attempt must be made. I am cynical of George Barna's claim we are losing our children. Rodney Stark has put up serious challenges to this claim. But to the extent we are, the probable culprit is that we teaching them moralistic platitudes rather than Christian truth.