Friday, November 30, 2007

The Bump Effect

Imagine this: imagine your on a hundred foot yacht in New York harbor. You’re heading off across the Atlantic. Your destination: St. Ives Parish Church in Cornwall, England.

On your out of the harbor, a little jet ski rams into you and your hundred foot yacht is bumped, pushing the bow of your ship 10 feet south. Not a big deal right? Well, by the time you’ve traveled the 3300 miles across the Atlantic, you are more than 300 miles off course to the south! Instead of landing in England, you’ve now landed in the southern Aquitaine region of France, just south of Bordeaux. It’s beautiful, but I don’t speak French.

What’s the point, other than I’ve been playing with Google Earth a lot? Well, I can put this illustration to good use in so many ways. First, I could say that a small change in trajectory theologically can have huge consequences eternally – like the difference between heaven and hell. Take for instance the little Greek iota in the Nicene Creed. If Jesus is homoiousius, like Arius wanted the church to believe, then he was similar to God, but not quite God. If, I believe, Jesus wasn’t God, he wasn’t a sufficient Savior (God alone saves). Thankfully, the church affirmed that Jesus is homoousius, of the same substance with God, not just similar. Huge difference. And to think people were mocking the anti-Arians for quibbling over just an iota. It’s an iota with eternal consequences.

But what got me thinking about the ship wasn’t a theological point at all, but how we effect culture as Christians. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like we’re doing much to change our worlds. However, if just a few people take what they’ve learned in a sermon or in a cgroup or in their own personal study and live it out during the week, it might have a bump effect on others. If someone genuinely changes, and becomes slightly more loving, slightly more patient, slightly less self absorbed, then the week of their friends, coworkers and families will be slightly better, and his could have a dramatic over the course of years. And if 100 people change slightly, the bump effect could effect a whole dorm or corporation or school. I may be dreaming, but it is certainly encouraging (the fact that I’m not a pessimistic premillennialist might have something to do with it also).

Well, that’s my thoughts. If you don’t agree with me, keep it to yourself and allow me my little dream!

The Joy of my Family

The last two days have been full of very intersting conversations with the boys. Yesterday at dinner, Jacob announces he's got a big booger. Mom tells him to go blow his nose and he says, 'Na, I'll just pick it'. When he digs it out, I tell him to go put it in a kleenex and throw it away. Again, he says, 'na, I'll just wipe it on my clothes'. Mom and me are both grossed out and let out a choruses of 'yucks'. Mom asked him who taught him to do that. The little traitor says, 'Daddy', and adds, 'I'm such your kid'.

Tonight, Jacob starts singing a little ditty that I've been singing around the house for some reason. I don't even know where I heard it recently. The only words I know are 'what would you do with a drunken sailor, what would you do with a drunken sailor, what would you do with a drunken sailor early in the morning'. Lynn was appalled that our three year old was singing this. Rightly I think. She launches into a sermonette about drunkenness being bad. Caleb asks how someone gets drunk, a logical question. Lynn tells him people get drunk by drinking too much, to which re responds, 'oh, good. I hardly ever drink'. After laughing ourselves sick, we explained you can't get drunk on milk or lemonade, only beer or other drinks with alcohol. In fine form he reminds me I better be careful not to get drunk on the beer in the fridge.

I love it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jesus loves US(A)

Did I ever tell you about the time in church when we celebrated the fourth of July by projecting a huge picture of Jesus on the cross wrapped in an American Flag. It was awesome, kinda like this hat (please read the sarcasm).

Faith and Politics, pt. 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I read two articles today about faith and politics. One from Beckwith was summarized above. The second, by John Piper is equally deserving of consideration. In his article, Taking the Swagger Out of Christian Cultural Influence, Piper walks the fine line between cultural imperialism (he doesn't call it that) and total withdraw from society and politics.
Piper reminds us of something we all know, that this world isn't our home. We are exiles and stangers, sojourners and pilgrims. Consequently, Piper adds, "American culture does not belong to Christians, neither in reality nor in Biblical theology. It never has. The present tailspin toward Sodom is not a fall from Christian ownership."
Too often, however, Christians have embraced this biblical truth and coupled it with an unbiblical hardness to their world. Piper seeks to bring us to balance.
But Christian exiles are not passive. We do not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of immoral culture. We weep. Or we should. This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps...Being Christian exiles in American culture does not end our influence; it takes the swagger out of it. We don’t get cranky that our country has been taken away. We don’t whine about the triumphs of evil. We are not hardened with anger. We understand. This is not new.

Faith and Politics, pt. 1

I just read two great pieces on Christians and politics. One is by Francis Beckwith, once president of Evangelical Theological Society but a recent convert to Catholicism. He writes about Mitt Romney and the 'Creedal Mistake' as well as the 'Kennedy Mistake'. About the Creedal Mistake he writes,
This mistake occurs when a Christian citizen believes that the planks of his creed are the best standard by which to judge the suitability of a political candidate. For example, suppose a Presbyterian votes for one of Romney’s primary opponents solely on the basis of the governor’s rejection of the Nicene Creed. An elder who did this would not truly understand the purpose of creeds: to provide church members and the world at large a summary of beliefs that one must embrace in order to be considered an orthodox member of that body. Creeds are not meant to measure the qualifications of a political candidate in a liberal democracy.

He also, and I love this, quotes Martin Luther, "I would rather be ruled by a competent Turk than in incompetent Christian". I think most of us would agree with this.

He goes on in the article to address the 'Kennedy Mistake'. Here, I think he is speaking about something a little more controversial, certainly among secularists, but even among us Christians. What is the Kennedy Mistake? Basically, it is acting as though your faith will have no bearing on your worldview or your political decision making. He writes,
Romney, in order to pacify secularists and traditional Christians, may be tempted to emulate Kennedy and claim that his theology and church do not influence or shape his politics. But this would be a mistake. For it would signal to traditional Christians that Romney does not believe that theology could, in principle, count as knowledge; but this is precisely the view of the secularist who believes that religion, like matters of taste, should remain private. Yet if a citizen has good reason to believe her theological tradition offers real insights into the nature of humanity and the common good—insights that could be defended on grounds that even a secularist cannot easily dismiss—why should she remain mute simply because the secularist stipulates a definition of religion that requires her silence? Why should she accept the secularist’s limitations on her religious liberty based on what appears to many of us as a capricious and politically convenient understanding of “religion”?

Obviously, I am not a Mormon and disagree with most Mormon theology. However, I would much rather see a forthright admission of Romney's Mormon worldview, or of Huckabee's Christian worldview or of Guliani's more secular worldview than political speak any day.

I'll get to the second article later. It's by Piper, so be sure to come back!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mike Huckabee Ad:

Ok, so he quotes Martin Luther in his speeches, and he's friends with Chuck Norris. What more can you want from a candidate?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I hate the prosperity gospel so much, pt 1

First, let me acknowledge that the word hate has already turned some of you off. I get it. It’s because we’ve been taught, even by our churches, that there are good emotions and bad emotions. Anger and hatred are bad emotions. Love and joy are good emotions. Not true. Emotions are right or wrong based on their congruence with a situation. If my wife says to me, “Honey, I love you”, and I feel anger – that would be an improper emotion. If, on the other hand, I walked by someone strangling a puppy and felt joy, that would be an improper, sick emotion (unless it was a Chihuahua, which isn’t really a puppy, it’s a rodent).

So please understand my hatred is, I believe, congruous with the situation – with the damage caused by the prosperity gospel and the threat posed by the prosperity gospel. Moreover, my hatred for this false gospel is born out my love. What? That’s right, anger and hatred are the flipside of love. If I love kids, I hate child abuse. If I love justice, I hate injustice. If I love the gospel, I’ll hate perversions of it. If I love the church, I’ll hate false teachings that weaken it. If I love people, I’ll hate lies that threaten to rob them of true joy and even to shipwreck their souls. If I love the glory of God in Christ Jesus, I’ll hate anything that diminishes that glory.

So there I’ve just given you my outline for the next few posts. Before I end this one, I do want to make one comment. Anger and hatred aren’t the only emotions I feel regarding this gospel. When I heard that the most prominent health and wealth preacher grabs an audience of 73 million people per week, I cried. Literally. When I heard that that message is being sent via radio, tv and the world wide web to over 100 countries, I sobbed. When I heard that the Senator Grassley of Iowa was calling for an investigation of several televangelists and their use of the tax codes and their personal gain from their ministries, I honestly didn’t know what to feel. When I see that this is the brand of Christianity that is winning the day around the world, I get so discouraged I want to retreat from anything and everything that is weighty and of eternal significance and hide out with video games, comic books, fantasy football and a cold beer. But, I can’t.

I thank God that I have the wonderful opportunity to work with so many great saints who haven’t been duped. They are a source of encouragement and great joy, and they are one source of God’s grace in my life that keeps me from overwhelming depression.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who Said It?

Ok, just for the fun of it...who gave us the memorable sentence, "Be killing sin or sin will be killing you".

Give us your best guess in the comments, but no cheating and using google!

My Newest New Favorite Site

For someone who should know Greek, but has gotten way to rusty, and yet feels guilty for not using it as often as he should, this new site is wonderful! Check it out!

Monday, November 12, 2007

My New Favorite Site

Last week I got together with a few friends to kick around the question, 'how relevant is too relevant'. The spark for the discusion was a quote by Francis Schaeffer, "the world doesn't take the church seriously becuase the church isn't serious". After looking at the A Little Leaven website, I know Schaeffer was right, and that he must be groaning in his grave. If you want to laugh, check out the sections on bad marketing and Jesus junk. If you want to cry, look at the section of Christian erotica and false gospels.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Piper on long-held doctrinal differences

Doug has been posting some great thoughts on doctrinal differences and how friends should handle them. My discussions with Doug have been incredibly rich, and while I don't think either of us have been completely persuaded by the other, we have been blessed in the conversation (at least I have been. I shouldn't presume to talk for Doug. It was great to see the difference between Wesleyanism and typical American Arminianism so influenced by Finney. Wesley had a much greater understanding of depravity and man's need for Gods initial grace. I had forgotten about this strand of evangelicalism, partly because it's so rare here).

Anyway, it is tempting to steer away from these kind of conversations on hard doctrinal issues, issues that have remained unsettled for centuries. However, tonight, I was encouraged by Piper not to shy away from these conversations. Here's what he writes,

What if someone had said to Athanasius, "Athanasius, people have disagreed on this issue of Christ's deity for three hundred years, and there has never been an official position taken in the church to establish one side as orthodox and the other side as heresy. So who do you think you are? Half the bishops in the world [an understatement] disagree with you, and they read the same Bible you do. So stop fighting this battle and let different views exist side by side."

We may thank God that Athanasius did not think that way. He did not regard the amount of time that has elapsed or the number of Christians who disagree to determine which doctrines are important and which we should strive to teach and spread and make normative in the church.

And so today we should not conclude that the absence of consensus in the church means doctrinal stalemate or doctrinal insignificance. God may be pleased to give the blessing of unity on some crucial areas of doctrine that are not yet resolved in the Christian church. I think, for example of the issues of manhood and womanhood, the issue of justification by faith, the issue of how the death of Christ saves sinners, and the issue of the sovereignty of God's grace in converting the soul. I don't think we should assume that, because much time has gone by and many people disagree, it must always be this way. Who knows but that, by God's amazing grace, wrong views on these things could become as marginal as the Arianism of the Jehovah's Witness is today. I don't mean that all these issues are as essential as the deity of Christ, but only that a much greater consensus may be reached on the true interpretation of Scripture that is often thought. I think that would be a good thing for the church and the world and the glory of Christ.
- Contending for Our All, pg. 66-67

So, lets continue engaging in persausive dialogue, humbly and prayerfully. Maybe someday ...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What Number am I?

After much speculation, the results of the test are in.

Enneagram Test

Profile Summary for Enneagram Type One
Healthy Levels

Level 1(At Their Best): Become extraordinarily wise and discerning. By accepting what is, they become transcendentally realistic (i don't know what that means, but it sounds awesome), knowing the best action to take in each
moment. Humane, inspiring, and hopeful: the truth will be heard.

Level 2: Conscientious with strong personal convictions: they have an intense sense of right and wrong, personal religious and moral values (uh huh, everything is based on some deep principle). Wish to be rational, reasonable (yeah, this drives Lynn crazy), self-disciplined (uh, not so much), mature, moderate in all things.

Level 3: Extremely principled, always want to be fair, objective, and ethical: truth and justice primary values. Sense of responsibility, personal integrity, and of having a higher purpose often make them teachers and witnesses to the truth (yep!).

Average Levels

Level 4: Dissatisfied with reality (is that why I'm always complaining about the state of evangelicalism?), they become high-minded idealists, feeling that it is up to them to improve everything: crusaders, advocates, critics. Into "causes" and explaining to others how things "ought" to be.

Level 5: Afraid of making a mistake: everything must be consistent with their ideals (My lack of consistencey, even in my theology, drives me nuts. Why can't I just be a Presbyterian). Become orderly and well-organized (no one has ever accused me of that!), but impersonal, puritanical (I hate it when the Puritans are cast in a bad light. Yeah Puritans!), emotionally constricted, rigidly keeping their feelings and impulses in check. Often workaholics—"anal-compulsive," punctual, pedantic, and fastidious (ask Lynn about the tablecloths).

Level 6: Highly critical both of self and others: picky, judgmental, perfectionistic. Very opinionated about everything: correcting people and badgering them to "do the right thing"—as they see it. Impatient, never satisfied with anything unless it is done according to their prescriptions. Moralizing, scolding, abrasive, and indignantly angry (Ok, this would be me on a really really bad day).

Unhealthy Levels

Level 7: Can be highly dogmatic, self-righteous, intolerant, and inflexible. Begin dealing in absolutes: they alone know "The Truth." (Not me alone. Me and John Piper, except where I disagree with him, then it is me alone.)Everyone else is wrong: very severe in judgments, while rationalizing own actions.

Level 8: Become obsessive about imperfection and the wrong-doing of others, although they may fall into contradictory actions, hypocritically doing the opposite of what they preach.

Level 9: Become condemnatory toward others, punitive and cruel to rid themselves of "wrong-doers." Severe depressions, nervous breakdowns (I have mine planned for Christmas break. Anyone want to join me?), and suicide attempts are likely. Generally corresponds to the Obsessive-Compulsive and Depressive personality disorders.

Key Motivations: Want to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone.

Examples: Mahatma Gandhi, Hilary Clinton (oh, crap), Al Gore (double crap), John Paul II, Sandra Day O'Connor, John Bradshaw, Bill Moyers, Martha Stewart (you gotta be freaking kidding me), Ralph Nader, Katherine Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda (ok, now I'm angry), Meryl Streep, George Harrison, Celene Dion, Joan Baez, George Bernard Shaw, Noam Chomsky, Michael Dukakis, Margaret Thatcher, Rudolph Guliani, Jerry Brown, Jane Curtin, Gene Siskel, William F. Buckley, Kenneth Starr, The "Church Lady" (Saturday Night Live), and "Mr. Spock" (Star Trek - the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few!).

PS. Number 5 was second and Number 8 was third (very close to each other, but distantly behind Number 1).

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Michael Horton on Being a Better You

Michael Horton is a better man than me. He actually read past the first chapter of Osteen's book Being a Better You. If you're interested, here's his review.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Men and Women in Combat?

Here's an interesting article for discussion about Coed Combat from John Piper. Thanks Heather for forwarding it to me.

This is a rarity, but I don't know if I agree with everything Piper says here. I do agree with the conclusion, but not every detail of the argument. (Actually, as much as I like Piper, I do disagree with him more than people might think - like on eschatology, baptism, beer and a few other things).