Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Touch of Zoroastrianism

Sometimes in looking at troubles I think it helps to have just a touch of Zoroastrianism. Now Zoroastrianism is the idea there are two gods, a good god and an evil god, and they are fighting it out. This does not work as an ultimate understanding of the world. If you have two equal gods, what basis do you have for concluding one is good and the other evil? But while I am a Calvinist and believe God is absolutely sovereign over everything (Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 43:13; Romans 8:28), I think it is helpful to realize that at the human level we are in the midst of a real battle between good and evil (Ephesians 6:10-20; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). (Please note that other human beings are not the enemy, but are victims of the enemy - 2 Timothy 2:24-25; Hebrews 2:14,15; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4.) When we try to do the right thing and everything seems to go wrong, we need to remember that we do have an enemy who opposes us, and to trust God to bring us through (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who Is a Member?

How important is it to be the member of a church organization? What significance does it have to be a member? Should we even avoid it altogether? Now those who put their faith in Christ, apart from anything they can do to earn it, are saved (Ephesians 2:8,9: Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9) and are part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-12; Acts 2:47; Romans 12:4,5), the universal church. The normal outward expression of such faith is to be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 10:43-48; 22:16). Those who make an appropriate confession of faith and are baptized are part of the visible church.

But this opens up the whole question of what constitutes baptism. I do not see any basis anywhere in Scripture for requiring a particular person to baptize in order for it to be legitimate. The command to baptize is addressed to the eleven disciples, referring to their being learners who followed Christ and not their office. But since baptism means coming into a new relationship with other believers, it makes sense it should be done by a believer, if possible (1 Corinthians 12:13; 10:1-4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Nowhere does it prescribe a particular mode of baptism. I am convinced God commands what He intends to command (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Matthew 15:1-20) and if He had wanted to require a specific mode, He would have. Also, following this principle I see no basis in the New  Testament for infant baptism and do not believe such a practice should be deduced from vague references (Matthew 19:13-15; Acts 16:15,31,32). Nor can it be sustained simply by an analogy with circumcision. There is a clear analogy between the Passover and the Lord's Supper, but that does not mean we should only have communion on the fourteenth of Nisan. But there are complicated issues involved, and while baptism is commanded, I believe charity should regard those with a genuine profession of faith who were baptized as infants or who believe that the practice of baptism has passed away, as part of the visible church, though we disagree about the details.

Now the church is required to be organized (Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Corinthians 14:40). But the current church is divided, and while I am convinced much of this is contrary to Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Philippians 2:1-11; Ephesians 4:3-6), we must deal with the situation as it is. Given this, it does make sense to have some method of deciding you are part of a given congregation. We need to be involved with God's people to follow His commands (Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 14:12). In this, it makes sense, barring some good reason not to, to become a member of that congregation of which you are a part. God does not mean for us to be spectators, but to be involved with one another. But not so that it makes us forget our greater identity as part of the larger body of Christ.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Touch of Humor - Asking for Directions

Can we be so caught up in our own concerns we miss the obvious thing about a situation? Is there a way to avoid this?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Handle

God frequently gives us more than we can handle so we will turn to Him for help.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Ambrose

It is said, therefore, that in investigating the truth, we must observe what is seemly. We ought to look for what is true with the greatest care. We must not put forward falsehood for truth, nor hide the truth in darkness, nor fill the mind with with idle, involved, or doubtful matters.

Ambrose of Milan, 337-397 AD, Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter XXVI, (transalted by Rev. H. De Romestin, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume X, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p. 21)

How important is it for us as Christians to put forth what is true and put it forth clearly? What temptations are there to deviate from this?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Importance of Size

It is easy to get caught up in the issue of numbers. If a congregation or ministry reports large numbers, that means it is a success. There is a reaction to this which wants to say that large numbers mean those involved have watered down the message. We need to put this in perspective.The Scriptures do mention size a few times (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14). But the emphasis seems to be on the power of God and His message and not on the spirituality or ability of the apostles. This accords with the teaching of Scripture (1 Corinthians 3:6,7; Matthew 16:18;  Psalms 127:1,2). But it does indicate that impressive results are not necessarily bad. Jonah preached a sermon that resulted in a whole city repenting and then went out and pouted because he wanted them to be destroyed (Jonah 3,4). But Jeremiah, who wept over the fate of Jerusalem, saw very little in the way of results (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17). Spirituality and numbers do not always go together.

I believe the best approach to the subject of size is not to make it an issue by itself. We need to avoid standing in overall judgment of others (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Romans 14:3; James 4:11,12), particularly based on numbers. It is possible to gain large numbers by watering down the message and telling people what they want to hear (1 Corinthians 1:16-25; 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:3,4). But it is wrong to assume this just because someone is successful in attracting large numbers. There may be cases where people are leaving a congregation or organization in droves and those in leadership need to get on their knees and ask if they are doing something wrong. They may not be; there can be various reasons for this, but the question has to be asked. But if a ministry needs to be evaluated (I am convinced this should only be done if there is a reason), then the main issues should be its teaching and behavior not its size. Is it preaching the gospel or pop psychology?  Is it reaching out to people in need or has it become a closed clique that you have work to get into? But size by itself is not the measuring stick. I am convinced when we give account of ourselves to God (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12), there will be surprises. There will be those thought great and famous who will be found to be insignificant, and those who are unknown who will be exalted. But there will also be those who turn out to be exactly what they appear to be. Let us not judge before the time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hide and Seek

How do I find my spiritual gift? This is a question often asked, and I find it interesting that the Bible nowhere directly deals with it. It says that all have spiritual gifts and should use them (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27: 1 Peter 4:10,11). One of the clear implications of this is that every member is important but none are to exalt themselves, for we all need each other. But how do we find what our gift is? We are not told to find our gift, but to serve and obey God (Romans 6:12-14; 12:10,11; Ephesians 2:10). I am not against using available resources to try to determine what our gift is, though we must remember these are human wisdom. However, we should not spend excessive time waiting around to discover our gift or be too quick to dismiss meeting a need because it is not our gifting. But if we follow Christ, we will find out what He wants us to do.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Prototype

It is common to see the early church as the example of perfect spirituality. I do not see a clear basis in Scripture for this. There were the Corinthians, who were splitting into factions, involved in immorality and litigation, and were misusing spiritual gifts. There were the Thessalonians, who were convinced the Second Coming was upon them and had quit their jobs to wait for it. The Galatians and Colossians were deserting what they had been taught and returning to some form of revised Judaism. Even the Philippians and Ephesians were struggling with problems of unity. Of the seven churches in Revelation, only two come out without rebuke, and this seems to be not because they were unusually spiritual, but because they were not caught up in blatant false teaching or worldliness. Where then does the idea of the perfection of the early church come from? It comes largely from the impressive results and miraculous gifts evidenced in the early church. But these things are the result of the power and will of God and not the exceptional spirituality of the people involved (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7; 13:1-3; 12:11).

What then is the problem with this idea? It makes spiritual perfection an attainable goal. But Scripture pictures us as people in process who have not yet reached this condition (Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:14-25). However,  if the Early Church had this extraordinary level of spirituality, then it is something we can obtain and should have. This leads to all manner of quick fixes or gimmicks to reach this spiritual plateau. It also can lead to pride if you can convince yourself you have arrived there (Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Proverbs 16:18). And you can sit in judgment on others who (in your opinion) have not (James 4:11,12; Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). Further, this can lead to discouragement for those who are not able to convince themselves they meet the standard.

This idea can also lead to turning historical descriptions into commandments. Now I am convinced that God commanded what He intended to command and that it is wrong to add or take away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Matthew 15:1-14). But once we start to see the Early Church as the example of a near perfect church, it becomes easy to take every historical example as the way it has to be done. This can even stretch beyond the things actually recorded in Scripture to those practiced during the early centuries of the church. Now I do believe we should have respect for the great teachers of the past. But I do not believe we can conclude that simply because something is early, it must be right. Also, God often commands only broad principles and allows flexibility in how we carry them out in practice. And I am convinced the standard needs to be God's commands and not some theoretical perfect church that never existed.       

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Touch of Humor - Message Home

How important is it for  us to be constantly connected to others? Is there a danger in this?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Cliches

Beware of providing cliches when only real concern and a listening ear will do.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Irenaeus

It is therefore better, as I have said, that one should have no knowledge whatever of any one reason why a single thing in creation has been made, but should believe in God, and continue in His love, than that, puffed up through knowledge of this kind, he should fall away from that love which is the life of man; and that he should search after no other knowledge except [the knowledge of] Jesus Christ the Son of God, who was crucified for us, than that by subtle questions and hair-splitting expressions he should fall into impiety.

Irenaeus , 125-202 AD, Against All Heresies, Book II, Chapter XXVI, 1 ( Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, Philip Schaff, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001, p. 570)

What kind of search for knowledge is problematic for the Christian? How might we avoid it?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Misuse of a Scientific Theory

If I were to claim to explain the rise and fall of the stock market based on Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism, you would consider me the victim of a metaphor. But there is a scientific theory that is widely applied to areas beyond its area of legitimate application, and that is evolution. Now I have problems with evolution as a biological theory. But within that realm it is a legitimate theory, with a proposed mechanism and claims of evidence. But this concept is frequently applied in other departments of knowledge without clear a mechanism or evidential basis. I remember that my wife had a sociology class in college, where the teacher said that a society would always do that which would promote its survival. When my wife asked multiple times what the mechanism was for that, he simply repeated the statement.

If we look at the world around us, the obvious tendency is for things to fall apart and decay. We do see things that go in cycles: seed to flower to seed again. But real progress in terms of producing something new and better is the result of deliberate planning and effort. Now it is possible to try to argue that biological evolution is an exception to the general pattern. (I am cynical of this, but it can be argued.) It can be argued that biological evolution does not really involve progress, but only change. But there seems to be no basis whatsoever to apply it as a principle in other disciplines. Steven Jay Gould wanted to claim that one of the virtues of evolution was its application to disciplines outside biology, but this application seems to me entirely fallacious. As for arguing for universal evolution based on its elegance as a theory, there is a problem with that. Once there was an elegant theory that saw the universe as a series of concentric spheres. Each of those spheres had its own significance and effect on things on earth. To replace that with a theory that there are a number of stars out there of various types and stages of development, and some of those stars have planets going around them, and they are grouped together in larger groups called galaxies seems prosaic in the extreme. I do not want to say that the universe is not elegant and poetic, but just because something is elegant and poetic does not make it true.

Part of the problem here is, as C. S. Lewis points out, that evolution as a philosophical concept (or as Lewis described it, a myth) existed before the scientific theory. I am convinced the biological theory came from the philosophical concept, but even if it did not, the theory cannot justify the concept. And it is from the concept that we get the application of evolution to other areas of thought. And the applications are totally lacking any legitimate grounds.       

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Not Knowing Where He Was Going

Hebrews 11:8 says that Abraham went out to the land God promised, not knowing where he was going. This does not fit at all with our modern, twenty-first century, American mindset. We like things planned and ordered: all set down in our Outlook or Day-Timer. The problem is, God does not necessarily work that way. Now I do not want to be opposed to all planning; it is good to do things in an orderly manner. But sometimes we can reach the point where our schedules and our plans run us, rather than us running our schedules and plans. And we can have little or no room for God to work in our lives and do the unexpected. For the important thing is not whether we have things well planned out (though this can be a good thing), but whether we are willing to trust God to do what He plans in our lives (Proverbs 3:5,6; Ephesians 2:10; Psalms 46:10). Even if it means going we do not know where.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Power of One Individual and God

Can one person make a difference? I am convinced one person with God can. It is easy, in our structured and impersonal society, to see ourselves as insignificant. But is this the correct perspective? We see in Scripture repeatedly that one individual called by God is significant. There were Abraham, Moses, David, and the various prophets, who made a difference. The Lord Jesus Christ is, of course, a special case, being the God-Man, but He made all the difference. Also He started out with a few very imperfect people: Peter, John, Paul, and the rest of of the apostles, and they changed the world. Sometimes we can build a stained-glass barrier and relegate such things to Biblical times. But in church history, the pattern continues.

Athanasius stood for the truth that Jesus is God against those who saw Him as just the greatest of all created beings. He did this against pressure from the government, through a series of exiles, but His view was ultimately re-affirmed as the correct teaching. Patrick went back to a people that had enslaved him and converted, not just the Irish, since they sent out preachers to convert other peoples and stir up nominal Christians. Martin Luther, though an obscure monk, started the Protestant Reformation, which restored the teaching of salvation by grace through faith. John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield were involved in large revivals that had massive effects in England and what was to be the United States. William Carey started the modern missionary movement. Granted, all these had help, but they were crucial for bringing about these events. And God shows a pattern of starting out with one or a few people to accomplish great things.

Now my point is not to claim that if we have not accomplished some great thing we are not really following God. I am convinced many of these things depended on God bringing the right person to the right place at the right time to accomplish His purpose. My point is rather that God can bring about His purposes, whether big or small. Therefore, we should go forth confidently, knowing we can make a difference. We should not see ourselves as vanishing in the great crowd of people and never doing anything because we feel unimportant. We need to trust God to show us what He wants us to do. But we can do it with confidence, even if we do not see immediate results. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Touch of Humor - The Competitors

How does the existence of alien life relate to the existence of God? How might we respond to this objection?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Group

Beware worrying more about what group you are in than what you really believe.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Matthew Henry

We must hope in God's mercy, his general mercy, even when we cannot find a particular promise to stay ourselves upon. A humble confidence in the goodness of God's nature is very pleasing to him, as that which turns to the glory of that attribute in which he most glories.

Matthew Henry, 1662-1714, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalms 147:6 (Fleming H. Revell Co., Volume III, p. 780)

How can we cultivate a trust in God in difficult situations? What things can help reinforce this?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I Am Not a Cessationist

I used to be a hard cessationist. I believed that God only spoke today through His Word, rightly interpreted, and that any tendency to see any impressions or subjective experiences as God's leading was wrong. I also believed that tongues and similar manifestations had passed away. I still feel an emotional attraction for that view; it feels safer. The thing that caused me to change my mind was not an experience or series of experiences. (I did have the occasional experience during that time, but I dismissed them and explained them away.) The thing that convinced me to change my mind was the simple fact that the Bible does not teach cessationism. Now I have had some experiences since reaching this conclusion that I would have a hard time explaining away. But I would find a way to do so if I felt Scripture really taught it.

The case for the ceasing of the miraculous gifts is extremely dubious.There is a passage that, in context, refers to when we stand before God (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). The other verses do not really seem to be to the point (Hebrews 1:2,3; 2:4, 1 Corinthians 14:21), and it is difficult to see how they even apply. We are told not to forbid to speak in tongues, which does not fit in well with the the idea they were about to pass away (1 Corinthians 14:39). Regarding healing, it is frequently assumed that at one time God always healed and He ceased doing so. But God never always healed. Jesus at the pool of Bethesda healed only one man, though there were many there (John 5:1-9). Paul at Ephesus saw people healed from touching his articles of clothing (Acts 19:11,12) and continued to see healings until the end of the book of Acts (Acts 28:7-9). But at the same time, God refused to heal Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The cases where Jesus is said to have healed them all refer to all types of illness or everyone that was in that place on that day (Matthew 4:23,24; 8:16; Luke 6:19).

I would like to have a sound argument that the canon is closed and the gifts of prophet and apostle have passed away. I have not found one. Revelation 22:18,19 clearly refers to the book of Revelation. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says that Scripture gives what we need for teaching, reproof, correction, and training, for faith and practice. There cannot be any new teaching or practice introduced not based in Scripture (Jude 3; Romans 16:17; Deuteronomy 13:1-5). But that does not mean God cannot give guidance in specifics. The only good arguments are Ephesians 2:20 (you do not lay a foundation again on the seventh story) and Revelation 21:14 (there are only twelve apostles). These are fairly weak. I am convinced that we are left to discern the truth of various claims by testing them (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 John 4:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:3). Checking whether they accord with Scripture (Acts 17:11; Isaiah 8:20; Galatians 1:8,9), along with other criteria (Deuteronomy 18:16-22; John 17:17; Ezekiel 14:3,4). I am not at all convinced there is anyone in the church today speaking full Scripture-level prophecy. If there was, in our current divided state I think we would all catch it hot. But as convenient as it would be, I do not believe there is an adequate basis for throwing such claims out without examining them each on their own merits.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No Quick Fixes

As I approach my 800th post and the end of my first four years of blogging, I would like recap one of the basic ideas behind what I write. The idea that there are no quick fixes.

No quick fixes for spirituality. (see, see and see)

No quick fixes for a properly functioning church.(see, see and see)

No quick fixes for teaching God's truth. (see, see and see)

No quick fixes for political action.(see, see and see)

No quick fixes for evangelism.(see, see, and see)

No quick fixes for convincing people of the truth of Christianity.(see, see and see)

No quick fixes for obtaining miraculous intervention. (see, see and see)

No quick fixes to eliminate all problems from the Christian life. (see, see and see)

We live in a culture of quick fixes and want everything immediately, from instant coffee, to fast food, to instant entertainment. But the deep traits that form the foundation of the Christian life can only be produced over time. And while I do not want to minimize the work of the Spirit in accomplishing this, I see no basis for saying He will do it instantaneously, according to our timetable. And I am convinced it is only when we lay aside our quick fixes and magic formulas that we can cultivate the deep faith that trusts God in every situation - that He wants to produce in us. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Need to Repent

The Bible repeatedly promises salvation and eternal life based on faith, or believing (a form of the same word in the Greek and Hebrew) (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5, John 3:16-18; Acts 16:31). But there are also Biblical passages that mention repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 15:7; Acts 2:38; 17:30). If repentance is a second added condition, then God's promise of salvation based on faith in Christ is void. How then should we fit them together?

Faith is faith in Christ, that He is the One who saves us from our sins (Romans 3:21-26; Colossians 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). This presumes that people realize they have sins to be saved from (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). It  is helpful here not just to mouth the idea that we are all sinners, but to recognize we have specific sins we need to be saved from. This is, I am convinced, what the Bible means by repentance. What it does not mean is for us to decide to turn over a new leaf. We cannot change our lives without the work of the Spirit in our life to change us (John 15:5; Romans 7:14-18; 8:8). Therefore, the resolutions of the natural man are meaningless. Now I do hold that when a person comes to Christ they will change as a response to God's love for them (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-13). But this is the result of the work of God in us, not any decisions we made as an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3). Further, we must be careful of expecting perfection in this life, since Lot and Samson, for all their defects, are stated to be saved men (2 Peter 2:7,8; Hebrews 11:32).

But what about recognizing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9,10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11)? Now Jesus is Lord, and all will one day recognize this. But the fact that I am a sinner implies there is a Lord, someone I should be obeying. (I do think the main emphasis of "Jesus is Lord," is that Jesus is Yahweh; that is, Jesus is God, Lord being the Greek equivalent used for this Hebrew word. But if Jesus is God, certainly He is Lord, the One to be obeyed.) It follows that, because Christ has redeemed us, we now belong to Him and should live for Him (1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9). But this is not produced in us all at once, but is a result of growth over time (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14).

Now God knows the heart; He knows if we have a real and genuine faith or are just kidding ourselves. Also, if person has a genuine faith in Christ, it will, however haltingly and imperfectly, have an effect on their life. But it will not be because of any resolutions they make to change as a condition for their salvation. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Touch of Humor - The Fix-It Man

Can we sometimes look for quick, easy fixes to problems in the spiritual life? How can we avoid this?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Old Erich Proverb - Righteousness

In the final analysis, righteousness is more important than nuclear weapons.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Lesson in Anthropology

Ouraka stood by the door of the craft and stared out the window. Parurda was late. And doing anthropological studies in primitive cultures was always dangerous, and that was worrisome. And if Parurda got in trouble out there, there was little they could do except try to recover the remains.

As Ouraka's digits were beginning to plait in nervousness, the purple light on the safety lock started to blink. The door opened, and what seemed to stalk in was a vision of one of the planet's pink-skinned residents. He stood firm for a moment, seemed to shake, and the vision, both skin and clothes, split down the front. As the shell collapsed it revealed Parurda's blue carapace.

"So what have you got for us this time?" remarked Ouraka, relieved.

"I have been studying the inhabitants' theological beliefs," returned Parurda, handing Ouraka a data crystal.

"What have you found?"

"Not much unusual for a culture of this age. There are a not really unusual collection of strict theists, ranging in emphasis from rigid enforcement to gracious forgiveness."

Ouraka marveled at the persistence of the strict theists. There seemed to be those in every culture who believed God had really spoken. He had to admit he felt a certain attraction for strict theism. But he had to maintain his objectivity.

"There are also many who are approaching nominal theism," Parurda continued. "They seem to be still sorting themselves out. All very much to be expected. At this stage in society, there always seem to arise those who cannot totally throw off the belief in a God, but wonder if much can be certainly known about Him."

"Anything really interesting?"

" There are some interesting revivals of primitive beliefs. There also appear to be those who believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster and Invisible Pink Unicorn," Parurda's antennae waved in puzzlement. "I am not really sure, if they are serious or not."

"Anything else?"

"There is an interesting idea among the anti-theists."

"Go ahead," replied Ouraka. The anti-theists also seemed perennial.  There were always some who questioned if there needed to be a definite being to start the universe out. They tended to be a vocal minority because they could not explain where everything came from.

"They hold to this interesting idea that everything came out of nothing, absolutely nothing."

"How do they justify that?"

"They use quantum mechanics. They say that because there is a calculable probability that matter can suddenly appear, the universe could come about that way."

"But how could there be physical laws with nothing for the them to be about or a probability with no time or space for it to exist in?" Now it was Ouraka's antennae that were waving .

"It is a strange idea," responded Parurda. "But not without parallel. Besides it is difficult to be an anti-theist once you realize that the universe as we know it is runnning down."

"So tell about this Flying Spaghetti Monster?"


Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Voice from the Past - Lewis

Of course patriotism of this type is not in the least aggressive. It asks only to be left alone.It becomes militant only to protect what it loves. In any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude toward foreigners. How can I love my home without coming to realize that other men, no less rightly, love theirs? Once you realize that the Frenchmen like cafe complet just as you like bacon and eggs - why, good luck to them and let them have it. The last thing we want is to make everywhere else just like our own home. It would not be home unless it were different.

C. S, Lewis, 1898-1963, The Four Loves, Likings and Loves for the Sub-human (Harcourt Inc., 1988, p. 24)

Is this the right root of patriotism? How should it affect our behavior?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Trust in the Machine

It is easy sometimes to trust in our organizations, our strategies, our programs . It is comfortable to think, if we just get the machine, the organization, running right, it will accomplish our purposes. We can adopt this attitude in the political realm. We can also adopt it in the church realm. But can our organizations guarantee the accomplishment of our ends any more than the horses and chariots of the Egyptians could save the Israelites from their enemies (Isaiah 31:1)? Now I am not claiming we should never organize or should not do it well if we do it. But we must trust in the power of God rather than our organization or our methodologies (Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5,6). If not, our organizational ability will prove to be a reed that will break off in our hands (Ezekiel 29:6,7).

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Virtue of Nonconformity

One of the truisms that runs around the church today is that we need to be relevant and meet people where they are at. There is truth to this. Standing in a corner, speaking our own language, and keeping people at arms length is not the way to reach them. But we must also remember that if we have nothing radical or life changing to say to our culture, we are irrelevant. If we are merely echoes of what others say, if we have no message for those around us, we might as well stay home on Sunday and sleep in. I am convinced that the main reason the liberal denominations are losing people like a sieve is they have become so much an echo of the world around them that they have become incidental to people's lives. There once was a time when it was considered respectable to go to church and people would go just because it was expected of them. Those days are long since gone. If we do not have something to offer them, why should they bother?

Now Scripture says that the message of the cross is a stumbling-block (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; Romans 9:32,33; 1 Peter 2:7,8) and that we are not to be surprised if the world rejects us (John 15:18-21; 16:1-4; Matthew 10:17-22). But we are to love and do good to all (Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 5:43-48; Galatians 6:9,10) and to deal with them in a spirit of gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15; Colossians 4:5,6). This is a hard balance to find, but we must avoid the extremes. We must avoid simply trying to give people whatever they want, leaving ourselves with nothing to say. Or we can try to hide within the walls of our church, only accepting those who are willing conform to our preferences. Rather, we need to evaluate whether people are rejecting our message or rejecting us and the way we do things. We need to build bridges to people by changing the incidentals and keeping the message. Now ultimately no one comes to God unless God works in their hearts (John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4; Acts 16:14). But it is still our job to present the message in the best way we can to reach people. And if we simply water down the message to meaninglessness, we are not doing our jobs.       

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Touch of Humor - Bewildered

Can we sometimes exalt patriotism to a level where it is confused with devotion to God? What is a healthy patriotism?