Friday, January 31, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Lewis

Any moralist will tell you that the personal triumph of an athlete or of a girl at a ball is transitory: the point is to remember that an empire or a civilization is also transitory. All achievements and triumphs, in so far as they are merely this-worldly achievements and triumphs, will come to nothing in the end.

C. S. Lewis, 1808-1963, The World's Last Night, The World's Last Night and Other Essays. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960. p. 110)

How should this affect how we look at the world? How should it affect how we live our lives?  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Science Only

There are those who would claim that the scientific method is the only real way to find truth. But there are serious problems with this approach. There is no doubt that the scientific method is a useful method of arriving at truth. It has provided us with much reliable knowledge and is the basis of many useful technical advances. But it is one thing to say something is a reliable method for arriving at truth; it is another to claim it is the only method. Mathematics is undoubtedly a useful method for arriving at truth. But there are many facts that do not admit to mathematical treatment. Science is an attempt to produce generalizations about how the world works based on observation and experimentation. One can try to define it more broadly, but it then becomes meaningless, and the contention that it is the only approach to truth becomes meaningless. Now this approach only works with repeatable phenomena,  those that can be reproduced in the laboratory or be observed happening repeatedly. But there are many events in the world that are not repeatable in this way and therefore cannot be studied in this way. That Washington crossed the Delaware River is an example of this. We cannot determine this by repeating it in the same place, with similar people and equipment, under similar weather conditions. This might prove the event was possible, but cannot prove it happened. Now some may claim that someday all phenomena will be reduced to repeatable phenomena. This is an unproven assumption. But even if it is true, it is clear that they currently have not been. To cut ourselves off from whole categories of events simply because they are not treatable by a  particular method is questionable.

But there is a bigger problem. If science is the only way of arriving at truth, then science becomes impossible. For then every experimenter must repeat every experiment for themselves. Scientists would end up spending so much time repeating old experiments they would never make any new discoveries. Further, real scientific proof is based on the results being reproducible by independent researchers. But that means they have to be willing to trust that the results have been obtained by others. And you cannot prove this scientifically. Now if you try to add testimony to proofs used under the scientific method, at this point you enlarge it to include just about everything (including the testimony of those who claimed Jesus Christ rose from the dead). Now there is bad testimony, as there are bad experiments; each must be judged on its own merits. But if science means nothing more than a good argument, the term becomes meaningless. It is better to give a clear definition of the term and admit there are issues not dealt with by science. And to recognize we need to use other methods in those cases to come to reliable conclusions.     

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

God's Grace - A Song

God’s Grace
By Mike Erich
To the tune of “The Lord’s My Shepherd” (Crimond)

God’s grace, it all sufficient is,
In weakness makes us strong;
And in the watches of the night
He always gives a song.

All of my needs He does supply,
He gives me daily bread;
Though I dwell in a wilderness,
By ravens I am fed.

When present light affliction here
Appears as trials sore,
I know He’s treasured up for me
Glory beyond compare.

If I must pass through stormy seas,
He’s ever by my side;
If I must go through darksome vale,
He ever is my guide.

And when temptations round me mount
Or my weak flesh holds sway,
He covers my sins with His blood,
And escape provides a way.

When all my efforts seem to yield
Nothing but barren sod,
I remember Christ will build His church,
And the increase comes from God.

I know whate'er my task may be,
Whate'er my gift or lot,
That Christ’s the one who placed me there;
My deeds are not forgot.

And when my course on earth is run
I shall behold His face;
I’ll dwell in peace, the battle won,
All through His wondrous grace.

(Should anyone wish to use this song, permission is granted, provided it is not altered or sold or performed for monetary gain without the author's prior agreement.)  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making Things Easy

It is claimed by some that we cannot understand Christian truth based on the Bible alone. It is said that we need to turn to some authoritative church body or tradition in order to really get an accurate picture of what Christianity is. Therefore, it would be simpler to desert the idea of Scripture being the sole authority. Now there is no question that Scripture can be hard to understand. I am convinced that much of this is our preconceived notions. This is because we are still sinners (myself included) and have a hard time putting aside our biases. Also, it can be difficult to understand a book written in different languages and different cultures when we have an imperfect knowledge of the history and customs. I am convinced the Holy Spirit will lead us into the basic truth if we trust Him. But I wonder whether has God left in some incidental questions to remind us that we do not know everything.

However, can we solve the problem by just accepting a tradition? We would need to start by deciding which of the conflicting traditions we should follow. If the Bible was clear about which tradition to follow, we could base it on that. But it is not. And if the Bible is too difficult to interpret alone, then using it to choose a tradition if it is not inarguable leaves us right back where we were. Further, there is no basis for assuming that historical continuity proves authority. And there is more than one group that claims historical continuity.

Then we have to decide what is authoritative within that tradition. Then we have to bring together these authoritative elements and interpret them to decide what real Christianity is. Take, for example, the Roman Catholic Church. It claims the pope is infallible. Therefore, if I want to know what is authoritative, I need to assemble the ex cathedra utterances of all the popes. (This assumes I can figure out which are ex cathedra.) Then I need to bring them together and interpret them. (I would tend to agree with Luther that popes and councils contradict.  But if I thought they were authoritative, I would have to make the effort to reconcile them.) Now if I really believed this was the case, I would make the effort. But I cannot see how this can be seen as simpler than 66 books I can hold in my hand

Now we could try to avoid this process by trusting the local representative of the authoritative church. But this representative is not infallible and may lead us astray. It we are to determine the truth, we need to think it through for ourselves. And if we do, we need to start with the Bible, which is the first clear collection of Christian teaching. For to claim a particular tradition is authoritative and then interpret the Bible by the tradition is to engage in circular reasoning. And you cannot make things easier by following this path.      

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Touch of Humor - Seeing the Point

What should a church that believes in grace look like? Should we worry about being soft on sin?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - All

God is not content to occupy some religious corner of our life; He wants all of it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Gregory

But, because He had come in the flesh to this end, that He might not only redeem us by His passion but also but also teach us by His conversation, offering Himself as an example to His followers, He would not be made a king; but He went of His own accord to the gibbet of the cross. He fled from the offered glory of pre-eminence, but desired the pain of an ignominious death; that so His members might learn to fly from the favors of the world, to be afraid of no terrors, to love adversity for the truth's sake, and to shrink in fear from prosperity;

Gregory the Great, Pastoral Rule, Part I, Chapter III, (translated by Rev. James Barmby, The Nicene and Post -Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. XII, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clarke and Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p. 3)

What does this tell us about the attitude of the Christian toward life? How can we live it out?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Religion versus Spirituality

One of the common disagreements today involves "religion" versus "spirituality." Now the problem, to begin with, is how do you define these two terms? The word "religion" is a vague word, and in most cases lacks any useful, meaningful definition. It is difficult to come up with any clear criterion that divides the beliefs which are considered religious from those which are not. "Spirituality," cut free from any particular belief system, is also very slippery to define. "Spiritual" can mean someone who takes their beliefs seriously and, specifically in respect to Christianity, can mean putting our trust in the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. ("Religious" can also be used the same way.) However, apart from any context, both are nebulous. But the basic contrast seems to be this. "Religion" reflects more of any organized system, while "spirituality" reflects a more individualistic approach. Which of these is correct?

Now it must be noted, at the outset, that different belief systems naturally have different degrees of organization. Also, there may be considerable dispute within a given faith over how centralized their organizations should be. I am convinced we need to start with deciding on our basic beliefs and then deciding what kind and degree of organization those beliefs call for. Choosing a belief system solely based on its degree of organization is like choosing a car solely for its color.

But it does become a question within Christianity which approach is correct. What I would conclude is that the extremes on either side are wrong. It is clear from Scripture that we are not to consider ourselves acceptable to God simply because we are part of the right group or go through the right motions (Romans 2:17-29; Malachi 1:10,11; Revelation 3:1-6). God is concerned with what is in the heart, not what we affirm or look like on the outside (John 4:24; 1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 2:16). Ultimately, we come to God based on genuine faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), resulting in a real change in life (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). However, God says that Christians are not on their own, but are part of a body of believers which is to grow up together in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8). We are called to build one another up in the faith (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Colossians 3:12-17). We are told that the way to God is through a definite person, Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5), who has delivered a definite message (Galatians 1:8,9; Romans 1:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). I am convinced we cannot come into the presence of God on others' coattails, but we also cannot just go it alone. Therefore, I conclude that believers in Jesus Christ need each other, not just in name but in fact, and we need to accept this. But there is more involved in following Christ than simple external conformity.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Feeding the Machine

One of the dangers in any organization is that it can make perpetuating the organization more important than achieving the goals for which the organization was created. The organizations that represent the Christian church in the world are no exception. (The church, being not itself an organization, but the assembly of all true believers.) The purpose of the church is to lead people to faith in Christ and build them up in that faith (Ephesians 4:11-16; Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The result of this should be the genuine faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9) and changed lives of its people (Titus 2:11-14; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The organizations that are reflections of the church should serve this purpose. But too often these organizations can seek to perpetuate themselves and concentrate on encouraging large attendance, huge budgets, commodious buildings, and entertaining programs in order to do so. Now we need to be clear that there is often a thin line here. Large attendance can mean many people being introduced to and growing in Christ. Huge budgets can be used to do much good in the world. Commodious buildings can be places to fulfill God's purposes. Entertaining programs can be used to communicate God's message. But it is very easy to convince ourselves this is happening when all we are really doing is furthering the organization. So we need to ask ourselves, what are we really doing? And we need to ask if we are furthering God's people and His kingdom or building a monument to ourselves.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Rainbow Chasers

In a far-off country there exists a tribe of people known as Rainbow Chasers. It is said that these people spend a considerable portion of their time looking for these visual phenomena and trying to locate the places where they meet the earth. To further understand and appreciate the unusual customs of these people, an interviewer was dispatched to question them regarding their traditions. The following is a transcript of that interview.

Interviewer: Sir, what is it you hope to find at the base of these rainbows?

Rainbow-Chaser: It is our hope to find the conditions that prevailed at the beginning of our kingdom.

Interviewer: And you believe that these conditions were better than the current ones?

Rainbow-Chaser: Yes, we believe that conditions have greatly deteriorated, and the only hope for any sort of progress is to return to our original condition.

Interviewer: And what did this original condition look like?

Rainbow-Chaser: All the citizens were genuinely obedient to the King of the country and had a profound impact on the foreign nations round about.

Interviewer: Then how do you deal with the historical records that show that, even in those early days, many of the citizens where living in ways that conflicted with the King's laws?

Rainbow-Chaser: How so?

Interviewer: Well there was a tribe called the Corinthians, who were divided into factions and accused of moral failures. And there was a tribe called the Thessalonians, where many had quit their jobs and were freeloading off others. Further, there was another tribe called the Galatians, who had deserted the King and gone back to old customs the King had abolished.

Rainbow-Chaser: There were places like that, but the City of the Great King was different.

Interviewer: Excuse me, was that not the place that clung to the old customs the King had abolished and His generals declared unnecessary?  Some there even claimed one could not be a part of the kingdom without them.

Rainbow-Chaser: But they held all their possessions in common and met daily in private houses.

Interviewer: Than you want to pool your property and have daily meetings?

Rainbow-Chaser: No, it is the spirit of the thing. They had a huge impact, converting large numbers of people. They turned the world upside down.

Interviewer: But do not your ancient histories tell of Jonah, who made many converts in spite of his own reluctant and sullen obedience? And do they not also tell of Samson, who accomplished much to deliver his people despite his problems with anger management and loose lifestyle? And do not your teachings say the King will build His kingdom and cause His citizens to increase in numbers?

Rainbow-Chaser: That is an interesting point of view, but I must be going. I have heard there is a large rainbow in the vicinity of the city of Informalia. I need to get there before it fades.

This, then, is what is known of the Rainbow Chasers. An interesting people and common in that region.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Touch of Humor - Living in Harmony

Is there a way we can come together on forms of music? How should we deal with this issue?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - Lenses

We should not read the Bible through the lenses of our own preconceived notions.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Ambrose

Can men indeed be loved by God as the Son is, in Whom the Father is well-pleased? He is well-pleasing in Himself; we through Him. For those in whom God sees His own Son after His own likeness, He admits through His Son into the favour of sons.

Ambrose of Milan, 337-397 AD, Of the Christian Faith, Book V, Chapter VII, 89 (translated by Rev. H. De Romestin, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. X, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, T & T Clarke and William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997, p.295)

How important is it for us to realize our acceptance by God is based on Christ? How should this affect how we live?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Back to the Middle Ages

Some claim that returning to Christianity would take us back to the Middle Ages. Now the obvious thing that brought about Middle Ages was the collapse of the existing government, the Roman Empire, and the inundation of the European continent by invading armies. Nor did it end there, for no sooner did Europe begin to develop organized nations than they were faced with attacks by the Vikings and the Muslims. It took about five hundred years for them to weather the storm and give their citizens some degree of security.

During this period it was Christianity, especially the Christian monastic orders, that worked to preserve literacy and learning. If there was a weakness in the scholars of this period, they were, as C. S. Lewis points out, too bookish. They were too quick to believe anything that was written in a book. They also worked hard to preserve everything they could of classical literature, even things objectionable from a Christian perspective. Now the lack of technical progress during the early Middle Ages has been exaggerated. But given that they had to work during a period of serious societal chaos, was it surprising if there was not as much scientific and technological progress as there might have been? To blame this on Christianity, which was the chief force preserving learning, is a distortion.

Now the condition of the later Middle Ages was more stable, and there is nothing to indicate they were opposed to learning. After all, they invented the university to further learning. Now they did hold a specific worldview based on Christianity and rejected things not in accord with this view. Every age has its own view, and those who do not agree will object to it. (I personally object to the theology that was prevalent in the Middle Ages, but that is another issue.) But the bigger problem was that, following their bookishness, they had adopted wholesale much from Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle. To produce modern science there needed to be a transition from the Greek approach of abstract reasoning to a more empirical approach of direct testing. Now I am convinced this change came from a Christian worldview. But even if it did not, it is silly to blame people for not having figured out what they have not yet figured out. This transition began early in the later Middle Ages, and Copernicus was a result, not the beginning, of the process. Now it is not surprising that such a transition would meet with a degree of opposition. But the main issue was with one man, Galileo, who hedged on his promise to the Pope and was probably seen as aiding and abetting Protestants. However, the idea that Christians and science are, in principle, contraries is not based on reality. And the idea that affirming Christianity would take us back to the Middle Ages in any significant way is groundless.      

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dealing with Confrontation

One of the key passages on confrontation in the New Testament is Matthew 18:15-20. And it is often ignored. Now some issues are open and public and should be dealt with in an open and public manner (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). And I am convinced there are times to pass over minor issues (1 Peter 4:8). But if we are to correct people for something other than clear, public actions, we need to follow Matthew 18:15-20. You do not go to the pastor or the pastor's wife or some other individual, or worse yet, gossip it to some uninvolved person first (Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 26:20); you go to the person. I have been involved in this process from every position, and it is just not possible to get a clear impression of where a person is coming from if you do not talk to them face to face. It is impossible, when dealing through a third party, to ask questions, to get clarifications, to explain your actions, or even to know if the person you offended is satisfied with your apology. Also, you cannot see the person's face or hear the sound of their voice, which is a large part of this type of communication. It is much harder to win your brother, which is the proper goal of such a correction,  if you have already told or involved someone else. That is why this is to be done in secret, to allow for this sort of reconciliation. Further, there is a possibility that you may not be in the right or totally in the right or that there may be some sort of misunderstanding (Proverbs 18:17; 25:8-10; 3:30). And the more people who are involved, the harder it is for either side to back down.

Now someone may say it is hard to confront someone to correct them. It is hard. It is meant to be. We should not decide to correct people lightly. It should not be safe. One may ask if there are extreme cases where some allowance should be made. Maybe, but they should be extreme cases. Every time I have stretched this a little, I have regretted it. But doing it right should be the rule, not the exception.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Should Calvinists Evangelize?

If one is a Calvinist, why should one evangelize? I find this is a question more often asked by non-Calvinists then Calvinists. But it is a question worth asking. The first, and obvious, reason is that God commands it (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 1:8). Now this, in and of itself, should be reason enough. But we do like to understand what we are doing. If God has already chosen who is going to be saved (Acts 13:48, Ephesians 1:4-6; Romans 8:29,30), why should we need to evangelize? Is it not just a meaningless activity?

Now it is important to distinguish predestination from fatalism. (It is also important to distinguish it from determinism: the idea that our behavior is purely the product of our environment, but that is another issue.) Fatalism (at least as I am using the word) is the idea that events are determined apart from preexistent causes. Under fatalism, if I am fated to have automobile accident, it does not matter if I drive carefully and observe the traffic laws; it will happen anyway. But in predestination, God sovereignly determines the means and the ends to produce the results He requires.  God predestined the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but many people, acting in direct disobedience to God, contributed to bringing it about (Acts 2:23; 4:27,28; John 10:18). Now in order for a person to come to Christ, they must hear the gospel, the good news, and therefore someone must bring it to them (Romans 10:14-16; 1:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-10). Therefore, the participation of the Christian in sharing the good news is necessary. Now I am convinced that God will see to it that the gospel will get to those He chooses. But we are privileged and commanded to be part of the process.

But it may be asked, can I offer the gospel to people if I am not sure God has chosen them? The answer is that it is a legitimate offer; those who put their faith in Christ will be saved (John 1:12,13; 3:14-18; Acts 16:31). But we are blinded by our sin (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 3:11) and cannot come to God unless He works in our lives (John 6:44,45; 10:27,28; Acts 16:14). Therefore, we can offer salvation to all. Those in whom God works will accept it; those in whom He does not work will not, but it is their choice.

Now Calvinism does undermine the major guilt trip that people will end up in hell if you do not get out and evangelize. I find this type of guilt trip to be dubious and counterproductive. Guilt is not the best motivation to get people to be willing, long-term, to do things. It can also cause people to overreact and pressure others to accept the message against their will, We need to go out and reach people out of obedience to a God who loves us, rather than being pressured by guilt.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Touch of Humor - Separation

Is separation of church and state a good thing? What does it mean?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - Poor

God is the God of the poor and oppressed; His people should reflect that.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Calvin

Being admitted to participation in him, though we are still foolish, he is our wisdom; though we are still sinners, he is our righteousness; though we are unclean, he is our purity; though we are weak, unarmed, and exposed to Satan, yet ours is the power which has been given him in heaven and in earth, to bruise Satan under our feet, and burst the gates of hell (Matth. xxviii. 18); though we still bear about with us a body of death, he is our life; in short, all things of his are ours, we have all things in him, he nothing in us. On this foundation, I say, we must be built, if we would grow up into a holy temple in the Lord.

John Calvin, 1509-1564, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, 5 (translated by Henry Beveridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1975, Vol. 2, p. 94)

How would knowing this affect how we look at ourselves? How would it affect how we live our lives?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Evolution of Morality

Can morality be justified apart from God? Some would say morality can be produced by evolution. That there are evolutionary advantages to cooperation as well as competition, and therefore evolution would have produced in us behaviors that would fit those demanded by morality. Now I have serious reservations about the whole idea of evolution. But the question is, will it, even if true, solve this problem? The answer is, no, because this evinces a total misunderstanding of what morality is. The whole point of morality is that it requires a person to behave a particular way even if they do not happen to feel like it. If someone cuts me off when I am driving and I have no desire to honk the horn and yell at them, fine and well. But what I need is something that will tell me not to honk the horn and yell at them even if I want to. People just acting naturally will not be as bad as they possibly could be. But this is not morality. If anyone honestly examines their heart, they will find a multitude of cases where they would behave much worse then they do if they did not have the clear conviction they should behave in a certain way, even if they do not want to.

But there another problem here. Evolution is put forth as a scientific theory, and a scientific theory can only say what will happen, not what ought to happen. Gravity says that objects will be attracted to the center of the earth. Does that mean it is wrong to jump or produce airplanes? Even if evolution, as a theory, suggests that animals (including humans) tend to behave in a certain way, it cannot require me to behave in that way if I do not happen to want to. You can say evolution is about passing on your genes to the next generation, and therefore, you should have as many children as possible, and homosexuality and celibacy are both sins against the evolutionary principle. But I doubt you will convince many people on that basis.

Now you can just throw out the whole idea of morality. But I have found this is a very hard thing for a human being to do. They may throw out the ideas of sexual restraint and respect for unborn children. But they will come back with an obligation to protect the environment and help the poor. And I have to ask, if morality is just an illusion accidentally conjured up by some past error of the past, why we cannot reject it. And if it is real, how we can justify it without a Lawgiver? But evolution can only give us an (in I my opinion inadequate) explanation of the error. It cannot by any means justify morality as a correct principle.       

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Opposite Errors

C. S. Lewis says there are two errors in looking at demons. You can deny their existence or you can become overly fascinated by them. Being a believer in Christ does not totally insulate us from these extremes. There are those who may not deny the existence of demons, but minimize their activity virtually out of existence. There are others who so magnify their activities that they see everything as being a result of demons. Now Scripture does say we are to be aware of and stand fast against demonic schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Peter 5:8-10). But Scripture also encourages us by saying that Christ has defeated Satan and will be victorious in the end (Colossians 2:15; 1 John 4:4; Romans 16:20) and that we should look to and trust in Him. How this comes together in any particular Christian life is often difficult to map out. But the extremes should be avoided. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Return of the Liturgy

There is a current attraction among those evangelicals of non-liturgical background for having a liturgy, whether by going to churches that still possess one or instituting one in churches that do not. I cannot say I am without sympathy with this impulse. Is it a good thing?

I am convinced that if God had wanted to institute a detailed order of service for the Christian church, He would have. We need only look at the detailed Old Testament description of the tabernacle and its service to see it could be done. I am convinced God commands what He intends to command (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:5,6; Matthew 15:8,9).  Nor is there any basis for an identifiable extra-Biblical apostolic tradition that prescribes such things. And how would you tell which of the traditions was the right one? Therefore, while I conclude that the New Testament lays down broad principles of how worship should be done, it does not prescribe the details. Now this is a two-edged sword that undermines both the dogmatic liturgist and also the dogmatic anti-liturgist. It leaves us free to chose, within broad boundaries, how we are to worship. And one possible opinion could be a liturgy.

There are, I conclude, dangers in both directions. It is possible to see a liturgy as magic words and to feel we can only approach God through the words of the liturgy. It is also possible, through opposition to liturgy, to reject any carefully thought out or planned part of a service, even opposing people writing out their own prayers beforehand. The one can end up opposing any sort of personal involvement. The other can end up opposing any kind of deep thought or preparation. I suspect there is some kind of middle ground here. If it were up to me (so far no one has been willing to put me in charge), I would probably try to bring together what I thought were the best elements of various forms of worship. But I believe the freedom here allows for many possible approaches. If some congregation or group of congregations wants to preserve or institute a liturgy because it is deep or beautiful or shows our continuity with the Christians who have gone before us or simply because they are accustomed to it, I have no problem with that. But the absolute opinions expressed on both sides, that theirs is the only right way, will not stand up to examination.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Touch of Humor - Dealing with the Aftermath

How far should we go to please other people? Is there a clear limit?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - Small

The Kingdom of God is often built up in small steps by seemingly insignificant people.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Irenaeus

The man, however, who would undertake their conversion, must possess an accurate knowledge of the systems or schemes of doctrine. For it is impossible for any one to heal the sick, if he has no knowledge of the disease of the patients.

Ireneaus, 125-202 AD, Against Heresies, Book IV, Preface, 2 (The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, Philip Schaff, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001, p. 667)

Do we need to understand where other people are coming from  to tell them about Christ? Does this apply to all circumstances?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Revolution

Justin put his thumb in the scannerpad on the side door, wondering, not for the first time, if it was right for him to work for Mr. Fulkes. Granted, Justin's Christian values helped him to influence Fulkes a little. But Fulkes was a hard man who used an electrolash on the help and fired them for minor infractions. He had improved somewhat since his son left, even listening when Justin tried to tell him about Christ. But he was far from the kind of employer he should be.

Fulkes' son's leaving had broken him. David had been his heir. But David was attracted to Maria, a beautiful young woman among the help. His father would not have it. He felt that anyone who remained in the help class was not ambitious enough to really make it in the world. Justin felt this was a unreasoning prejudice, but the old man was convinced of it. He would not allow his son to be involved with a woman like that. So he dismissed her and sent her away. Only to find shortly afterward that David himself had left. Never to be seen or heard from again.

As Justin opened the door to enter, he felt hard metal pressed into his back. "Don't move, this is a blaster," came a voice beside him.

Justin saw another man coming into view, also holding blaster pointed at him. It was David, older and with a beard, but clearly recognizable. Beside him, also sporting a blaster, was a tall.woman, with a cruel, cynical expression. "We were able to hack into the security system and reinstate my profile," David said casually. "But we needed someone to get us by the scannerkey."

Justin was grabbed firmly by three husky young men and dragged into the corridor behind David and the woman, with about four other men bringing up the rear. Mr. Fulkes was sitting at the table enjoying a late breakfast, when a look of utter surprise crept over his face. "Dav...," he began, only to receive a direct blast to the chest from his long-lost son.

Justin, trying with all his might, could not break loose. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved," Justin shouted, as the old man's eyes glazed over. Those holding him slapped a hand over his mouth.

The way to Mrs. Fulkes' room was blocked by Sophia, Mrs. Fulkes' maid, who was devoted to her mistress. The woman with David gunned her down. Justin was held outside, but he heard a blast in Mrs. Fulkes' room.

David gathered together what was left of the help. "I am in charge here now," stated David. " This household will become the beginning of a new society that will overthrow the unjust division between owners and help. It will require great toil and danger, but we will triumph."

"Please, sir," said Milton, the accountant, "we don't really want to be involved in any danger."

"Please..." said Rhoda, the head secretary, sobbing, "can't we just go on doing our jobs as we did, or go to another household?"

"I quit," said Basil the cook, firmly. "I am looking for another position."

David grabbed his father's electrowhip off the mantle and stood over them. "I have said I am in charge now and I mean it," he snapped. "You will do what I say or else."

Justin knew he was taking his life in his hands, but he had to say it. "And will the new master be wanting his supper at the usual time?"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How Does God Speak?

The idea that God speaks today in any way other than through Scripture is very scary to some people. They are afraid that people will come up with all sorts of strange teachings and practices based on the untestable idea that God has revealed these things to them. There are, unfortunately, those who lend credence to this idea. Now I believe we should reject claims which are contrary to Scripture (Isaiah 8:20; Galatians 1:8,9; Deuteronomy  13:1-5). I would go further than that: the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice, and any clearly new thing, in terms of doctrinal and moral principles, is suspect (Jude 3; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Hebrews 1:1,2). But the problem with saying God does not speak to us today on the purely practical level is that it has no basis in Scripture and contradicts the experience of a great many Christians who show no inclination for doctrinal or moral innovation. It also lends credence to what those who deny God speaks today oppose, for when it is found there is no strong case for totally rejecting God speaking, there is a tendency to embrace the opposite opinion that all such claims are correct. What we need, rather, is the position that that all such things should be tested carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22; 1 John 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 14:32). For only by this can we stand firm against the extremes.