Saturday, March 31, 2012

Old Erich Proverb - Dry Doctrine

There is no dry doctrine, only dry doctrine teachers.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Gregory the Great

The ruler also ought to understand how commonly vices pass themselves off as virtues. For often niggardliness palliates itself under the name of frugality, and on the other hand prodigality hides itself under the appellation of liberality. Often inordinate laxity is believed to be loving-kindness, and unbridled wrath is accounted the virtue of spiritual zeal. Often precipitate action is taken for the efficacy of promptness, and tardiness for the deliberation of seriousness.

Gregory the Great, 540-604 AD, Pastoral Rule, Part I, Chapter IX, (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XII, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by James Barmby, T & T Clark and  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997, p. 20)

How can we avoid trying to fool others and ourselves this way? How can we tell when it is happening?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Bride for the Prince

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"
The Prince was given the task of interviewing various eligible women in the kingdom, that he might pick a bride. He did not really understand this, as he had thought his bride had been chosen for him already by his Father. But since he always did the will of his Father he proceeded with the process.

The first woman was elegantly dressed, with raven black hair. Her name was Pistos. She was quite formal, and well-versed in all matters of protocol and in the history and customs of the kingdom. (In fact, she seemed to know customs of the kingdom of which the Prince was unaware.) She was very exacting in carrying out and explaining these customs. But she did seem to the Prince to be somewhat rigid and demanding.

The next woman, named Chara, was very different. She rushed into the Prince's presence in casual clothes, with loose, flowing blonde hair. She was vivacious and enthusiastic, constantly cheerful and on the move. There did seem to be a problem, though, in getting her to slow down and stop talking. She seemed to follow every impulse without pause or consideration. And the Prince had to wonder how well she would hold up to the serious business of ruling.

Then entered a woman named Enkrateia, with subdued brown hair and simple, though slightly formal dress. She was efficient but commonsensical and seemed in control of herself and the situation. She believed in organization and rules, but only practical rules, none of those outmoded customs. Also, she opposed all whimsy and foolishness and preferred to get on with the practical aspects of life. But the Prince felt she might be too severe and controlled and might be lacking in compassion to those who did not meet her standards.

The Prince sat and contemplated the three women and wondered which to choose and wished He might have a mixture of the three. He also wondered if any of them might be the one his Father had chosen for him.

Then his Vicar, Pneuma, enters the throne-room and speaks, "There is something you must know about the women you have seen."

"What is it? " asked the Prince.

"They are all the same woman. She has worn different clothes and wigs and acted differently, but she is the same person."

"Is she insane?"

"No, but she is afraid of being rejected by you, so she has tried different ways to please you, hoping you will accept one of her guises. I believe with love and patience she can be healed."

"Is she the woman my Father chose for me?"

"Yes she is," the Vicar replied.

"Then I will exert all my love and patience to heal her," the Prince replied. "But tell her to dump the wigs."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Follow the Leader

What is a leader, and why should we follow them? C. S. Lewis points out that there has been a major change in about the last hundred years of human history as to what a leader is. In earlier times the leader (more often referred to as a ruler) was to maintain stability and quiet and to do his work competently and honestly. His chief qualifications were a good moral character and the ability (and if possible experience) to do the job well. A generally boring individual. It was the bad rulers that generated excitement. But in modern times all this has changed. We now want leaders who give us direction and vision, who have a program. We want those who will take initiative and be charismatic and direct us to their vision of a better world. We want them to excite us about their dream for a bright future. But somehow this better world never seems to materialize. This is founded on the progress mentality. This is the adaptation of advancements in the area of science and technology, applying them without basis to all of life. But just because we are advancing in one area (an area on which we have concentrated considerable attention and effort) does not mean we are or will advance in all others. And the perpetual longing for something new very easily can become newness simply for newness' sake.

This same concept of leadership can be found in the Christian church. Now Scripture, in looking at leaders, puts the primary emphasis on character (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:12; 1 Peter 5:1-3). They are also to be those who can carry out their functions competently, particularly with regard to teaching the Word of God (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). Yet we have come to value leaders not for this, but for giving direction and casting vision, resulting in the production of new and exciting programs. (Before someone quotes Proverbs 29:18, I need to point out that the vision here is prophetic vision, inspired revelation, not the modern idea of subjective imagination.) If anything, we should do God's work and trust in Him to guide us (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Ephesians 2:10), not base our ministry on whatever new fad has become popular. From this trust in God we may be established in God's teaching (Ephesians 4:14-16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:27) and God's character (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Ephesians 5:1). It is easy to be attracted by a flashy show, but we should base our lives around substance.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Order of Service

Can we get too caught up in how things have always been done? How do we evaluate what to change and what to keep?

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Voice from the Past - John of Damascus

Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvellous: but the most marvellous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross all things have been made right.

John of Damascus, 676-754 AD, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, Chapter XI (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by S. D. F. Salmond, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997, p. 80)

How significant is it that Christ accomplished His greatest work, not through blatant wonders, but through suffering? What implication does that have for us today?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Invitation and Predestination

If God chooses who will be saved, can we invite people to accept the gospel? Now it needs to be understood, the invitation to do so is a legitimate invitation. Whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Acts 16:31; John 1:12; 6:29). But we are sinners and refuse to come to God on our own (Romans 3:23; 7:18; 8:8). We need a work of God in our lives (John 6:44; 1:13; Acts 13:48). But the problem is not in the offer, but in our being unable to receive it. We see a similar situation in regard to keeping God's Law. We are told that whoever keeps the Law will be saved (Luke 10:25-29; Matthew 19:16-26; Romans 2:6-11). The problem  is, we do not keep the Law (Romans 3:19,20; Galatians 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6). Therefore, we needed God to become man, fulfill the Law, and pay the price for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18;,19; Colossians 2:13,14). We need to understand that the problem in both these cases is our sinfulness, and we are responsible for our sin. (It is not my point here to reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the full explanation being beyond human understanding. But I am convinced both are Biblical.)

I therefore have have no problem with calling upon people to put their faith in Christ, following the Biblical pattern (John 3:16; Acts 10:43; 13:38,39). I also have no problem with stating that if they respond, it is because God chose them (John 10:26,27; Ephesians 1:4; Romans 8:29,30). But nowhere in Scripture does it call us to wait or to pray for faith, much less try to figure out if we are elect. It calls us to come (Revelation 22:17; Matthew 11:28,29; John 7:37,38); if we come we are elect, if we persist in not coming we are not elect.

But there is a concern that in following this pattern, we will make false converts. Now the Scripture makes it clear that false converts will always be with us (Matthew 13:24-30). But I see no basis for saying following the Biblical pattern for invitations will create more of them. The preventatives for this are the preservation of sound doctrine (Galatians 1:8; Romans 16:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-4), instructing new believers in the full content of the faith (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 20:27; 2 Timothy 2:2), and looking for a real change in the life of those who come to Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Now Scripture does speak of a genuine assurance of salvation (1 John 5:11-13; Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:38,39). In this I find the example of Lot useful. While he exhibited a number of sinful choices (Genesis 13, 14, 19), we are told he was a believer (2 Peter 2:7,8). But we are also told his soul was tormented by the deeds of the people of Sodom. There needs to be some sign of the Spirit's work in an individual's life. But deviating from the straightforward Biblical invitation is no help in this regard.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blame It on Satan

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

There is a tendency in some circles to blame every sin and every disease on demonic activity. There is also the opposite extreme that denies or minimizes demonic involvement in anything. Now there is a Scriptural basis for believing demonic powers are involved in leading us into sin (1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:7). But we are also informed that the primary source of our sin is our own sin nature (James 1:14,15; Romans 7:18; 8:8). Also, there are diseases in Scripture attributed to demons (Matthew 12:22; Luke 13:16; 2 Corinthians 12:7). But the fact that casting out demons is one item on the lists of things Jesus did that also include healing of various diseases suggests that all diseases are not explained this way (Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:32-34; 6:13). Now I do believe there is a place today for dealing with demonic forces (nor do I find any basis in Scripture for teaching otherwise). But I am convinced it is not the sole approach to dealing with every problem, and when used that way it can become a gimmick that leads us away from dealing with the issues on a more appropriate basis, giving full consideration to other factors.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prophecy and Symbolism

Everyone admits some symbolism in prophecy. I know of no one who claims a literal creature like the one described in Revelation 13:1,2 will walk or has walked upon the earth. But we need to ask, how far do we go? Does Isaiah 11:6,7 refer to a change in the nature of animals, or is it a symbolic picture of peace on earth? But one question that needs to be asked is, does this passage make sense as a symbol? I follow a simple principle of interpretation I call reading the Bible like a Galilean fisherman. That is, Scripture should be understood in the simple, straightforward way an ordinary person would read it. This by no means solves all the problems. But it helps avoid reading our theological system into the text rather than getting it out of the text, as we should. On this basis I reject both Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. But I am still left with trying to piece together an understanding of future prophecy based on what the Scripture says. The question is, how do I go about doing this?

I start by asking which passages, read in the ordinary way, do or do not make sense if taken as symbols. One thing that comes to mind is the detailed descriptions of battles set in the area of Palestine (Ezekiel 38, 39; Zechariah 12-14; Daniel 11:40-12:4). (It is not my purpose here to consider whether these represent one battle or a series of battles.) It is hard to match these with anything that has occurred in the past. It also seems extremely difficult, given the detailed nature of these accounts, to regard them as simply a symbol or to interpret all of the details symbolically. I have to ask why God produced these accounts if we are to throw out all the details and just keep some vague, general message. But we do have to ask, does this contradict the New Testament teachings? My initial judgment is, there are New Testament passages which fit in very well with these (Revelation 11:1-13; Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).  But one argument against this is that Israel has been rejected and can have no further role in God's plan (Matthew 21:43; Luke 13:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). However, these passages seem clearly addressed to that particular generation of Jews, and concluding that Israel would never have any further place in God's plans is reading far more into them than is there. Also, it is said that in the church there is neither Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Romans 3:29,30). But Scripture also says there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28); this does not mean there are no temporal distinctions (Ephesians 5:22-33). Also, the history involved speaks of unbelieving Israel, which will only come to faith at the end (Zechariah 12:10-14), so any references to Jews or Greeks in the church is irrelevant. There are passages in the New Testament that can be argued both ways regarding the future of Israel. But the specific, detailed prophecies cannot be ignored.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Touch of Humor - The Scholars

Is it good or bad to talk a lot about the Bible? What is the right position? Should we talk about the Bible more?

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Calvin

Bright, however, as is the manifestation which God gives both of himself and his immortal kingdom in the mirror of his works, so great is our stupidity, so dull are we in regard to these bright manifestations, that we derive no benefit from them. For in regard to the fabric and admirable arrangement of the universe, how few of us are there who, in lifting our eyes to the heavens, or looking aboard on the various regions of the earth, ever think of the Creator? Do we not rather overlook Him and sluggishly content ourselves with a view of his works?

John Calvin, 1509-1564, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter V, 11, (translated by Henry Beveridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1975. p. 59)

Do the good things of God's creation tell us about Him? How should this affect our lives?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Art of Adding Epicycles

It was once thought the earth was at the center of the universe and all the other heavenly objects revolved around it. But there was a problem with this. There were certain heavenly object called planets which did not follow a straight course across the sky. They wandered around and even looped back. In order to explain this there was invented the idea of epicycles. It was thought that the planet's basic orbit around the earth was circular but that there were on this orbit smaller circles called epicycles which the planet went around, causing its abnormal motions. But one epicycle per planet was not enough to explain its motion. So they ended up adding epicycles on epicycles in complex patterns in order to make their theory work. Then Copernicus suggested the simpler option of recognizing that the earth and the other planets orbited the sun. When you have to add complicated qualifications to make your theory work, there are problems with your theory.

There is a similar problem in the theory of evolution. According to the theory of evolution  there should be a gradual development of one animal into another. But there are conspicuous gaps between various types of animals in the fossil record, without the expected intermediate forms. There are, of course, variations among related forms, but there are variations among related forms today. It is not surprising there was more variation in the past, as there were a greater variety of creatures that existed in the past. Nor is it surprising that, with this greater variety of creatures, you would occasionally meet something that looks like a transition between two other creatures. But if evolution were true you would expect this to be a regular thing. So there is the adding of epicycles by positing new theories such as the punctuated equilibrium or hopeful monster theories to explain the lack of evidence. But if you need new theories to explain the lack of evidence, there is a problem with your theory.

Darwin thought acquired traits could be inherited. Then came Mendel and contradicted this. The way around this was to appeal to genetic mutation. A mutation is an error in the genetic code. How often does an error produce something useful? Sometimes, but very rarely. All the experiments to show major change brought about by mutation have failed. Also, it is still popularly claimed that the fact the embryo in the womb recapitulates its previous forms proves evolution. This is not only questionable scientifically, but is based on an understanding of evolution no longer held. Why should an embryo recapitulate its previous mutations. More epicycles.  Or take the complexity of life even on the cellular level. The cell is a small factory. How could such a thing come together by chance? There is not even currently a good epicycle to explain this. Yet with all the epicycles, people refuse to reconsider the theory. Perhaps it is time to do so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trust in Horsemen and Chariots

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

It seemed the reasonable thing to do. The Israelites were faced with the Assyrians, the chief superpower of the day. It made sense to ally with the Egyptians and trust them to supply the military resources needed to fight the Assyrians. But God rebuked them from trusting in the resources of the Egyptians rather than trusting in Him (Isaiah 31:1-9). What are we trusting in? Our great programs, our organizational ability, our clever advertising? Francis Schaeffer once asked the question, If God were to come and remove from our Bibles every reference to the Holy Spirit and prayer, how would our life be different? Would this make a difference, or would we just go on living the way we did before because we never really put much stock in these things anyway. Sometimes I wonder if we have not followed the rest of our culture in totally discounting the supernatural, if not in principle, at least in practice.

Psalms 46:10 has been used to suggest that we should stop in the middle of our daily pursuit and recognize God is God. This is a good application, but it does not really fit the context. Rather, we are told that when the world is falling apart around us, we need to realize God is God (Psalms 46:1-3). We have no idea of the historical context of this psalm. But the picture I get is of the king of Judah running up and down upon the ramparts of the city, making sure his archers are ready here and the gates are secure there. Then there comes in the midst of His hurry the divine interruption, "Stop and know that I am God." Do we really believe that God is God? Do we live like it? Or would we rather trust in horsemen and chariots.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Accepting Ourselves as We Are

We are told that God accepts us just the way we are. This is very true--or very false, depending on how is taken. God forgives us freely and makes us His children based on our putting our faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; John 1:12,13). He does this despite the fact of our sin (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), based on what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 2:24,25). As a result, we are righteous and no longer condemned in God's sight (Romans 5:1,2; 8:33,34; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, there is a sense in which we can accept ourselves as God has accepted us.

But there is another form of self-acceptance to which God does not contribute. This is based on the idea that we are all basically good deep inside and all our flaws are superficial and result from trying to please others and not being ourselves. Therefore, if we would just accept ourselves as we are, our real inner self would come out. In order to accomplish this, we co-opt the acceptance of God and other people. But the problem with this is, it is not true. We are sinners, and there are things inside of us that should not be actualized in our lives. Plus if we accept ourselves in this way, there is no basis for any deep change, for if the real me is good, I can only change those things that I can justify regarding as the outer facade. After I have struggled with accomplishing this myself, I may turn to God and His acceptance as a means to achieve self-acceptance. When this does not work (which it cannot, since this is not what God's acceptance is about), we can turn to the Christian community as a means to procure this acceptance. This can be destructive of Christian community because it demands of others the type of acceptance they cannot give because it is impossible, being based on a false view of reality. Also they themselves are sinners and cannot even produce the legitimate type of acceptance perfectly. We end up chasing a will-o-the-wisp that cannot be found anywhere.

And in all this, it is the correct Biblical idea of acceptance which forms the best basis for real change. It is only as I realize I am a forgiven sinner that I recognize that God requires me to change (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 6:20) and am motivated to change by God's love for me (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 7:36-50). Also, when we do this, God begins to work in our life to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10). But this transformation is the result of a long-term process rather than a momentary realization (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:14). But it is rooted in the only kind of acceptance we can have at the present time. An acceptance not rooted in our goodness, but in the forgiveness of our sinfulness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Touch of Humor - The Labor Dispute

How much should a pastor be paid? What does it show about his spirituality? About ours?

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Voice from the Past - Boethius

"From one beginning rises all mankind;
For one Lord rules and fathers all things born.
He gave the sun his light, the moon her horns,
And men to earth and stars to deck the sky;
He closed in bodies minds brought down from high,
A noble origin for mortal men.
Why then proclaim your kin and ancestry?
Look whence you came and see who made you, God.
No man is base except through sin he quit
His proper source to cherish meaner things."

Boethius, 475-525 AD, The Consolation of Philosophy, Book III, VI (translated by Victor Watts, Penguin Books, 1999, p.59)

Where should we get our value from? What other options should we avoid?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Two Story House

Christianity has been very frequently seen as a two-level affair. There are those who are simply ordinary Christians and those who are genuinely spiritual Christians. This idea takes many forms, but it always involves a clear-cut distinction between the two groups. But does this idea stack up Scripturally?

 The Bible speaks of one unified body of Christ, not one divided into two parts (Ephesians 4:3-6; Philippians 2:1,2; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are told that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9,10; John 7:37-39; Ephesians 1:13,14) and that the Holy Spirit works in them (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). Now we are told that we need to respond to this working (Galatians 5:16; Romans 6:12-14; Titus 2:11-14), but this is put forth as a long-term growth process (Philippians 3:12-16; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 4:7-11). This looks, not like two distinct groups, but one great race with different people at different places on the course. Also, while we are called to correct particular sins (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-20; Jude 22,23), we need to be careful of judging other peoples' places in the race (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:4; James 4:11,12). I am convinced that on the last day there will be surprises; those who look good to us will be found wanting, and those who seemed insignificant will be commended. But the judgment will be God's, not ours (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Romans 14:7-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Now there are passages of Scripture used to support the two-level view. Scripture does describe individuals as carnal (1 Corinthians 3:1,2), but this is based on their involvement in specific sin (1 Corinthians 3:3,4). The picture is of a baby who refuses to follow the normal process of growing up and needs practice in understanding the Word of God (Hebrews 5:11-14). Also, the word disciple is seen as referring to a higher level of Christian commitment. Now a disciple is a student of Jesus. This word is used, not only of believers in general, but even of nominal followers who had not yet believed Christ's message (John 6:60-66; Acts 6:1-7; 11:26). Now the goal of the disciple should be to obey all Christ's commandments (Matthew 28:18-20), but this, again, is a lifelong goal none of us have totally achieved.

Now the process of dividing the church into two parts can cause pride and complacency in those who think themselves in the upper group and discouragement on the part of those categorized in the lower. It can also encourage writing off people perceived as in the lower group. Therefore, instead or people working together to grow in Christ, there can grow up a clannishness in those who think they are classed as spiritual. And all the while, the distinctions made between the groups may hinge on things that are not Biblical requirements or on selected requirements made into absolute criteria in disregard of the rest of God's commandments. When no such division should be there in the first place.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is God Behind Catastrophes

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

Is God really in control of all things, including catastrophes, especially natural catastrophes, or does He simply stand by as they occur? This idea of a limited God has an attraction to some people. It is not God's fault after all; He could not help it. But a helpless God is not only not in control of everything (Ephesians 1:11; Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 45:7), but cannot work all things together for good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20; Ephesians 2:10) or accomplish His purpose in the world (Isaiah 46:10; 43:13; Acts 2:23). Now this is not simply an issue between Calvinists and Arminians. Many Arminians would affirm that while God is allows for individual choice, He is still in control of the broad course of history (how this works is not clear to me, but I would rather have them affirm this than deny God's control of history entirely). If we take this limited view, however, we end up with a God who is not really God.

The Scriptural answer is that we live in a fallen world that is under the judgment of God (Romans 8:18-23; Revelation 21:1-5; Genesis 3:16-19). Now this does not mean that those who suffer calamity are greater sinners then those who do not (John 9:1-3); we are to realize that we are just as worthy of judgment as they are (Luke 13:1-5). We are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), worthy of God's wrath (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:1-3; Revelation 20:11-15). But God is gracious, bestowing on us good things in spite of our rebellion against Him (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17; James 1:17) that we might be brought to repentance (Romans 2:4). But nonetheless, in a fallen world there will be exhibitions of God's judgment of sin. Now this does not negate the need to have compassion on those who are suffering. God calls us to consider the poor and afflicted (Psalms 12:5; Luke 1:51-53; James 5:1-6) and has acted to save us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25). So I do not want in any way to advocate indifference to the pain of those who are suffering. But we should not ascribe helplessness to God.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pragmatism and Principles

"Does it work?" This is the standard question of the world today. Even Christians can fall into seeing this as their final standard for judging things. Now it must be stated that this is one thing to consider when judging an idea. But is it the only or even the most important question to consider? One of the first things to be noted is that there is the question, works to do what? Unless we have some idea of what we want to accomplish, we cannot evaluate what works to produce it. If I were to stand up, jump up and down three times, and spin around, it would work in the sense that I could perform the actions. But unless I had some end in mind, it would be meaningless. Unless you know what your goal is (and pragmatism does not tell you this), all pragmatism does is encourage you to eliminate the impossible. Everything else works if you do not know what the goal is. Often this goal can become the thing that is easiest or most convenient, regardless of how it fits with any higher principles. But this assumes that ease and convenience (ultimately what gives us the most pleasure) are the chief goals of life. But this conclusion is debatable at best. And it cannot, as an absolute, be reconciled with Christian morality.

Now Christianity is based on principles, and these principles are things that should be held to even if they do not produce immediate positive results in the present time (John 16:1-4; 1 Peter 4:12,13; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We are convinced that Christianity will work to give us eternal life in the presence of God, but we do not currently see that (2 Corinthians 4:17,18; Hebrews 11:24-27; Romans 8:18-25). This is the fundamental definition of what faith is (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 4:16-22; 2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, while there may be some place for asking what works in forwarding Christian principles, we need to beware of watering Christianity down to simply what is convenient for us. This is ultimately a matter for careful evaluation. We do not want to be impractical just to be impractical. But we cannot change Christianity into something that works from a worldly perspective (1 John 2:16-17; Romans 12:1,2; James 4:4). And ultimately, we must speak against the world's pragmatism if we expect them to embrace Christian faith. For as an ultimate criterion, what works will not work. It must be informed by something higher than itself. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Touch of Humor - Volume Control

How important should we make these kinds of issues in the church? How can we go about resolving them?

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Voice form the Past - Bunyan

(Christian responding to a potential traveling companion)  If you will go with us, you must go against Wind and Tide, the which, I perceive, is against your opinion: You must also own Religion in his Rags, as well as when in his Silver Slippers, and stand by him too, when bound in Irons, as well as when he walketh the Streets with applause.

John Bunyan, 1628-1688, The Pilgrim's Progress (Books for Christians, 1972, p. 112)

How can we prepare ourselves to stand for God against wind and tide? Why is this important?