Monday, December 31, 2007

happy new year!!

Hope the next year is a good one for ya'll!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

the voice 1--oversimplification

One thing I want to avoid with these looks into "The Voice of Luke" is much in the way of the aesthetic side of it. Whether they succeed in the artistic or beauty side of the text is for the sake of these entries mostly meaningless. This is the largely subjective side of the work, and while I may have opinions at times and may even give those opinions, my main focus is the thought behind either the 're-telling' or the comments.

McLaren gives a lengthy comment before opening chapter 1, and it's a fair enough comment. My main concern would be with parts of the comments after that. Luke 1 tells of the events that occurred concerning the priest Zecharias and Elizabeth and the announcement that they would be blessed with a son whom they were to name John.

It may help, in trying to understand animal sacrifices, to remember that the slaughter of animals was a daily experience in the ancient world; it was part of any meal that included meat. So perhaps we should think of the sacrifice of animals as, first and foremost, a special meal.

I was surprised, even rather offended, that the biblical sacrifices should be summed up, simplified even to an extreme, as being "first and foremost, a special meal".

In the "New Bible Dictionary, 2nd edition" by IVP, the entry for 'sacrifice and offering' take up roughly 11 pages. That's small-type, doubl-columned pages, with some charts. The entry gives six stages or act usually involved in the sacrifices: worshipper brings the offering; worshipper puts hands on the offering; worshipper kills the offered creature; priest spreads the animal's blood; some designated parts of the animal are burned; the remaining parts are eaten. There were also several different kinds or reasons for sacrificing, for peace or for the covering of sins or thanksgiving or others.

I find the simplifying of the sacrifices as being "first and foremost, a special meal" to be a gross oversimplication. To not even make mention of the primary reasons for some sacrifices, such as the covering for sins, is something I can't understand. Why not mention it? Isn't it one of the main messages of the Bible, that sacrifices of bulls and goats just wasn't enough, that it took Christ' sacrifice to fully pay for our sins?

The next if from the next comment.

Often in the biblical story, when people receive a message from God, after getting over the initial shock, they start askign questions. They push back; they doubt.

I think I can see some spin going on here, especially when McLaren seems to be saying the the people God spoke to would "push back", which seems to be saying they would stubbornly resist doing what God told them to do, perhaps even bargain at time.

Ok, let's say that there are examples of that. We can think, for example, of Moses when God came to him in the burning bush. Moses seemed to do all he could to talk God out of sending him, even to the point of ticking God off, and it didn't work. Eventually Moses went.

We could think of Abraham, who starting questioning God about when he would have the heir God promised to him. Abraham did try to take matters into his own hands at one point, which led to Ishmael and which led to problems. But even with that failing, God was faithful to him.

Perhaps with Abraham again, when he and God went back and forth concerning the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Was this a kind of bargainin? Maybe.

Perhaps of Moses again, when the Israelites had gone too far and God was ready to wipe them out, and Moses pled with him not do that. Moses' intercession was enough to lessen God's judgment, though there was still some judgment that they went through.

Perhaps Gideon, who still wasn't certain of God's words even after the angel visited. Perhaps he was wise, but at any rate he asked for two signs that God had indeed called him, and God gave him those signs.

But were these "pushing back"? Maybe Moses at the burning bush, though we can get the impression that God was losing patience with him towards the end of God's calling him. Did they doubt? Some might have, but does that make doubt a good thing? Gideon may have doubted, but instead of staying in those doubts, he tried to find out for certain Moses' doubts seem to have been more concerning his own abilities to do what God was calling him to do, but God was with him and helped him and sent some to help him.

I think these contrast with the current ideas of pushing back and doubting. They may have asked questions, but they did so looking for answers. They may have had doubts, but they didn't see the doubts as the end in themselves, but as things that must be resolved. When God had proven to Gideon that yes He really had called him, Gideon went and did what was asked of him. When God had finally cornered Moses and showed him that yes he is returning the Egypt, Moses stopped arguing and trying to make God's words meaning something he wanted them to mean, but he up and went.

At least with these two examples I've given (and I do encourage that you check and see that I'm not taking things out of context), what I'm seeing is a tendency to simplify to the point of misrepresenting. Zecharias was punished for his doubts, God took away his ability to speak until his son John was born, so for roughly nine months he was silent. Perhaps it was best; after all, his wife who was too old to have a child was probably more then able to fill the long silence he was put through :-)

Still, one would have a hard time from the events of Zecharias' angelic visitation seeing how his doubts were a good thing.

I'm not happy with the thoughts so far in these comments concerning Luke 1. Sacrifices are denigrated into meals, and doubts and "pushing back" are given to be good things without much being said about resolving doubts and pursuing answers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

before they rip our arms off...

Let the Wookie Islamist Win

Current issues seen through the lens of "Star Wars"? Brilliant!!

The boys and I were talking about the hypocritical way in which liberals treat Muslims and Christians. The same 'Progressives' who applaud Piss Christ, engage in crude stereotyping of Christians and use 'Jesus' as an expletive even in family programming, react with horror to the mildest slight against Islam. Criticism of Islam in Canada, most European countries and increasingly in the U.S. is considered a form of hate speech. No similar protections are ever extended to Christians. Piggy banks are banned in Britain in deference to Muslim sensitivities, Muslim footbaths are built with government money in U.S. campuses, and sharia family laws are increasingly being acceded to in the West. Meanwhile, even Christmas trees are attacked by the Left as an unconscionable intrusion of religion into public space.

The most important factor in this double standard, however, is much more visceral in nature -- basic liberal cowardice. George Lucas really captured the spirit of the thing back in 1977:

The dialogue from the movie is here, where C-3PO give R2 the sage advise to "Let the Wookie win".

Substitute Islamist for Chewbacca, CAIR representative for Han Solo and Spineless Liberal for C-3PO and it's a pretty clear picture of current events. In crudest terms, the Left mocks Christians and kowtows to radical Muslims because the Religion of Peace has an ingrained habit of blowing crap up.

movie review--alvin and the chipmunks--cuteness overload!!

I can't remember what movie it was that I was watching when I saw the trailer for "Alvin and the Chipmunks", the live action/cgi version of it. I thought it looked cute, probably entertaining, and all-in-all a nice bit of fluff that kids and probably adults would like.

I was right, it was all of those things, and that is a good thing.

There were few surprises in the movies, story-wise. Down-and-out songwriter finds young chipmunks who can talk and sing and who have a surprising grasp of pop music and some things cultural despite having lived their short lives in the woods, they become big stars, get exploited by big record exec, come back together in touchy-feely moment, and all live happily ever after, or at least until the next movie.

The chipmunks themselves are still very much like the Chipmunks from the cartoons in the eighties (I know the cartoon was around even before that, but I'm largely unfamiliar with the early version). The movie people did a good job of making each of the three like they were, even to the voices sounding similar.

The only real difference I remember would be with Theodore. He is the one who is given the sort of child-like vulnerability that opens the door for the "we're a family" idea to begin and finally blossom out.

One thing the movie did which I liked a lot was that they kept the Chipmunks at chipmunk size. In the cartoon, they were pretty much kid-size, almost like regualr kids with chipmunk-like features. The movie kept them at about 4 inches tall, and hyperactive. They jumped around as chipmunks would if they could sing and dance. In my mind, having them so small only increased the cuteness factor, and exponentially.

And one thing I liked most is that there was very little, if any, objectionable stuff in it. I don't recall any language, nor any kind of innuendo. There was some kiddish roughhousing. Even the bad guy was only marginally evil, and the relationship between Dave and the girl he's after is kept clean.

All in all, I enjoyed it. A nice little bit of fluff which can overload your cuteness meter. I liked it.

the voice--the coming of the ec bible

Hey, have ya'll heard that the EC is doing a translation (correction: retelling) of the Bible, or at least of parts of the New Testament? No kidding (though I wish I was). The project is called 'The Voice' (and if you come on the name 'The Voice' anywhere in the prologue-type writings in the book, you'll find it in bold. Excuse me if I don't do that, please).

What is this project? Here is the website

The Voice

I have "The Voice of Luke", a 'retelling' of the Gospel of Luke with some commentary, or at least comments, by Brian McLaren.

Here are some excerpts from the the preface to the book, concerning the project.

Previously most Bibles and biblical reference works were produced by professional scholars writiing in academic settings. The Voice uniquely represents collaborations among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists. The goal is to create the finest Bible products to help believers experience the joy and wonder of God's revelation. Four key words describe the vision of this project:

holistic// considers heart, soul, and mind
beautiful// achieves literary and artistic excellence
sensitive// respects cultural shifts and the need for accuracy
balanced// included theologically diverse writers and scholars

It's an interesting concept, it may even have some merit. I'm not sold on it, and frankly I wonder where "writers, musicians, poets, and other artists" can fit into a translation--excuse me, retelling--of the Gospels.

The four descriptive words cause the raising of eyebrows. 'Holistic' is a curious and even loaded word choice, but if it's what they describe, it could be ok. 'Beautiful' may be ok, as long as accuracy isn't sacrificed to achieve it. When 'sensitive' comes up, I see another loaded word, and here that loaded-ness may be something to consider. What does it mean to "respect cultural shifts"? By "accuracy", do they mean accuracy to the biblical text and it's meaning, or something else? It becomes even stronger, in fact almost off the meter, with 'balanced. What kinds of "theologically diverse writers and scholars" are we talking about? Who pics the representatives for this diversity? How "theologically diverse" are we talking? What are the limits to the diversity they are pursuing?

Are these fair questions? In answer to that, let me point out something. Isn't one of the bit things about EC/postmodernism that they think everything should questioned, everything should be doubted? I think it is. Considering that, then my question should be seen as fair. I'm not trying to be unfair, not trying to be leading nor suggestive. They are real questions, and considering the loaded-ness of their four descriptive words, I think these question should be asked, and more then that should be answered. Offering up a translation--I'm not going to play the 'retelling' game--of even a portion of the Gospel is asking for a lot of trust from people, so asking if it is fair to give them that trust is not unfair.

Words that are borrowed from another language or words that are not common outside of the thoelogical community (such as baptism, repentence, and salvation) are translated into more common terminology.

I may be nitpicking here, and if you think so treat it as such, but really, what does any of that mean? Maybe most people in English-speaking countries are ignorant of such terms ('ignorant' here not being used as a insult, simply as a descriptor), but I doubt it. Really, I doubt it a lot. Words like 'baptism' and 'salvation' are quite common, by all that I know. I'm not saying they know the word correctly in the theological sense, but the words themselves are not strange and alien words, and trying to 'dumb down' the scriptures to such an extend isn't really much of a compliment to them.

In addition, as we partnered biblical scholars and theologians with our writers, we intentionally built teams that did not share any single theological tradition. Their diversity has helped each of them not to be trapped within his or her own individual preconceptions, resulting in a faithful and fresh rendering of the Bible.

This goes back to the 'balanced' thing. Why are we to assume, or at least to accept, that such a 'diversity' as they claim has resulted in "a faithful...rendering of the Bible"? Who decides that it is 'faithful'? Who makes the choices when this 'diversity' results in serious disagreements?

It is all too common in many of our Protestant churches to have only a few verses of biblical text read in a service, and then that selection too often becomes a jumping-off point for a sermon that is at best peripherally related to, much less rooted in, the Bible itself.

Such insults are uncalled for, and only give a sense that these people think of themselves pretty highly.

There is finally a list of people involved in "The Voice of Luke". McLaren seems to have been the main writer, and two professors are listed as 'critical reviewers'. A bit of research will show that one of those professors is a part of what seems to be an EC church, Chris Seay's church in Houston. Among the other writers are people like Donald Miller, Phyllis Tickle, Leonard Sweet, and Chuck Smith Jr., people pretty heavily involved in EC. There are many other names mentions which I don't recognize, so while I can't say that it's overwhelmingly EC, I think it's pretty suggestive.

The list of names can be found on the website, but the site is a Flash site, so I cannot link to individual pages.

But as they say, the proof is in the eating. I suppose even a suspect cook, or set of cooks, could make a decent meal. I want to give some thoughts about "The Voice of Luke", as time goes by.

Monday, December 24, 2007

have a...

...Merry Christmas, all of you out there!!

I hope it's a good time for all of you!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the generosity of the American people

Giving USA Releases Report On Charitable Giving for 2005

Giving USA, the yearbook of philanthropy, estimates Americans gave total contributions of $260.28 billion for 2005, a growth of 6.1 percent (2.7 percent adjusted for inflation).

The year 2005 saw extraordinary philanthropic response to three major natural disasters. About half of the $15 billion increase in total giving from the revised estimate of $245.22 billion in 2004 is attributable to disaster relief giving. The other half reflects donors’ commitments to other causes that matter to them.

I normally try to be a balanced as I can be in my entries on this blog, and I think that is usually wisest and best. Too much off-the-cuff ranting seems to be out there, designed more to stir emotions then to cause consideration.

But I'm a human, not a robot, and sometimes, one must rant.

So, on that note...

Yeah, all you 'Americans-are-all-greedy-capitalists-who-have-lost-their-humanity-trying-to-make-it-rich-and actually-enjoy-see-little-kids-starve-to-death", that link above is for YOU!!! That's right, all you so called 'red letter' christians who think that you somehow discovered charity and helping people, it's for YOU, too!!!

Of course, we all know what it's about. It's about your AGENDA!! Why else are you on the one hand saying that Christians should be careful of mixing faith with politics, while on the other hands your shilling for the Dems and any kind of 'universalized anything' that put forward so long as it takes from the greedy rich and gives to those you deem worthy?

Is this why you're all so into postmodernism? Let me think about it, you don't like systematic anything, you're all into feelings and emotions and making people feel good or bad depending on if they kowtow to your agendas. Hey, wouldn't want the facts and the truth interfere with your agenda, would you?

Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS, too!! And if that offends you, tough.

Ok, I'm better now. That was very therapeutic.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

taking God off the throne, part 2

This is a sort of continuation (because I refuse to call it a sequel:-) (it could be worse--I could call it prequel:-) of the entry from a few days ago, the "knocking God from the throne" (assuming I'm remembering the name correctly) (I need to lay off the parentheses, don't I) one.

Gnosticism in the Mainline

Theologian David Miller had already made the implications clear in 1974:
…the announcement of the death of God [is] the obituary of a useless single-minded and one-dimensional norm of a civilization that has been predominantly monotheistic, not only in its religion, but also in its politics, its history, its social order, its ethics, and its psychology.

Miller went on to prophesy: "When released from the tyrannical imperialism of monotheism by the death of God, man has the opportunity of discovering new dimensions hidden in the depths of reality's history." At the funeral of the God, Miller announced the rebirth [of the spirituality] of gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome.

One of the things that first struck was the use of "the death of God" rhetoric, which is has in common with Caputo rhetoric (and with Nietzche, if that tells us anything). Also, Miller's statement above deal with effect of the "death of God" idea outside of just religion, as does Caputo with the "coming Democracy" idea.

Peter Jones, the author of the article linked to above, deals mostly with gnosticism and its influence, especially in regards to such "death of God" ideas. I'll leave much of it to you to read (and I do recommend it) and only point out a few things.

Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, and promoter to "canonical status" of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, enthusiastically adopts the radical program of Bishop Spong. Ominously, the next project of the Jesus Seminar is "The Mythical Matrix & God as Metaphor." Says Funk: "We are discussing the future of God, so to speak." With what happened to Jesus, one shudders to think what the Jesus Seminar, with its self-declared unbiased objectivity [!], will do to God.

However, modern "Christian" Gnosticism has not quite yet finished with Jesus. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, authors of The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? deny that Jesus ever existed. Far from being turned off from Christianity by their research, Freke and Gandy say their premise actually strengthened their faith. "What we've discovered is that the message of original Christianity was…about, for the original Christians, becoming a Christ oneself. This leads them to conclude that the Gnostics were the original Christians. Their book has been remarkably well-received, reaching bestseller status in the United Kingdom, garnering at least one "Book of the Year" award, and receiving support from…John Shelby Spong!

More things that are kind of familiar. Not counting "Christianity must stop being Christian" Spong, of course.

Myth and metaphor, for example. There was something I read a few days ago, actually here...

Chris Elrod: TRUTH Wins

...where the discussion went into areas of seeing the story of Jesus as "myth", a "pre-easter" and "post-easter" Jesus.

I realize first off that C.S. Lewis used 'myth' in his writings about Christianity and the story of Jesus, but with him we have an explanation. His view seemed to be that Christ was a mythical type of story that also happened in real life. He took the biblical account of Christ's life serious and seemed to view it as true history, what really happened.

What "mythic" seemed to mean in the discussion above is this, from one of the replies...

The stories are myths, but the man is real. The stories convey truth about the man, but they were never meant to be “impeccably reliable historical records”.

...which seems to be very different from what I remember of Lewis. This view really does seem to see the biblical account as being 'myth', and not necessarily historically true.

I have no further comment about that for now, only to show an example, and a recent one, of the use of myth in regards to the Bible.

In the connections with paganism, I don't understand it as much as Jones seems to. I don't know if some who are advocating for this weak view of God are directly trying to bring in some new brand of paganism, although gnosticism isn't too much of a stretch, I think.

At any rate, dealing only with the ideas as they are, they are disturbing enough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

not looking for lions

Wanting The Lions Back

A few days ago, I was visiting a certain blog which I usually find enjoyable, and found a link to this pastor's blog on it, with the idea that he had some interesting thoughts. After reading it, I agreed, and came to read some more of it, like this entry linked to above.

Actually, I'm a little leary of the one I've linked to. I'm not certain what to make of it. There are some good points and good thoughts in it, but just as well there are some things I can't help but question, and I do so with something like caution.

I can understand the frustration voiced in the blog entry. There are times when I wished the church had something more (or maybe less), maybe some like a bit more backbone, less spit and polish. If, for example, I'm thinking about music, I wish the songs were less shallow and sanitized and like a faux-pop sound, and more rootsy or bluesy with echoes of frustration and the difficulties of the everyday and how hard it is to fight to keep faith. If it's preaching, I wish it were less about the hollering and hooting and the time and the Powerpoints, and more about how we can be faithful.

I do get frustrated with prosperity gospel preachers, emergents who seem to care more relevance then for truth, those who want to have the biggest church with the most gadgets. I've grown weary of the endless repetitions of the same p&w choruses over and over, of worship leaders telling me to leave my troubles somewhere else as I sing.

I wish preachers would quit trying to be cheerleaders. Most of them would be frightful in modern cheerleading outfits, anyway.

I know things are probably much more complicated then I can ever hope to realize, and most of my criticisms need to be balanced with the assumption that what decisions a pastor must make are such as I have never had to make. I am expression frustration and maybe giving suggestions, that is all.

But in saying this, am I necessarily agreeing with the conclusions these young men in the blog entry seemed to come to?

I can agree about the Christ-like reality, the cause, and the action, at least as I understand them. The difficulty and the cost, I think has more to do with each person then on any outside circumstances. In fact, I would say that the reality, the cause, and the action are like that, too. It is possible to have those things, if one is dedicated enough.

My problem may be more with them wanting the lions, or, less figuratively, the persecution.

I suspect that these young men have a slightly romanticized idea of persecution. I suspect they think they are stronger then they really are. I suspect that a taste of real pain for their faith, by real I mean physical, would be a shock to them.

That isn't to say they wouldn't stay faithful, or at least some of them. Perhaps many or most of them would. But that's not the point, either.

The point, for me, is that they are called to face a kind of persecution here, in their current society. They are called to face the insults of those who will say they and their message are not "relevant", that their time has passed, that they are not "on the cutting edge", that their message of sin and repentence is so last century and really "it's not working" (ht bull horn guy).

The truth is as C.S. Lewis said it, and He is only echoing the words of Christ and other words from the Bible, that this whole world is hostile territory. We live each day in the enemy's lands, and so should not be surprised if his people should not wish to tolerate us. If the persecutions take the forms of lions and prisons in some places, in our place they take the form of ignorings and marginalizings, insults and ridicules and superior attitudes.

Face off against some things like that, and maybe one will simply beg for the lions. At least with lions, it's all straight-forward. With such as we face here, one may as well be fighting the fog.

We do well to respect the martyrs and the persecuted. I have known missionaries, was even one myself, who go to other cultures, and some even into places blatantly hostile to their message. They are in need of our prays and support and when possible our participation.

That is one thing few of the voices who cause these men frustrations can really give. While some give their lives, both in years of life and in deaths, for the cause of giving the Gospel to those who may have heard little if anything about it, others are all too ready to compromise and try to say that we need to be less concerned with converting then with other things like saving the earth or helping the poor. And while those missionaries work in secret and suffer and die quietly, these others write books and have influence because their message if popular.

Do not look for persecutions. If you live godly, it will find you. Be faithful in the situation you are in.

Monday, December 17, 2007

WITHOUT SOVEREIGNTY, WITHOUT BEING--taking God off the throne?


But if something unconditional happens, without sovereignty and without being,
without force and without power, would it have the wherewithal to transform
us, to turn us around, to make us new? Would it, could it, be something truly
revolutionary, or would it lie lame and lifeless and ineffective? Could something
be revolutionary without having revolutionary power? Could something that is
at best a “weak force” (force faible) be strong enough to save us?

Why go here? Why even bring this up? Is it necessary?

While I do think that the rhetorical question has it's place, and an important one, those question I asked in the first paragraph are not such questions. The thing is, I do have a reason, a thought or two, perhaps even a warning. Whether this man Caputo and his ilk will succeed directly, or through intermediaries who couch such ideas in more slight-of-hand terms, such ideas as his are out there and seem to be having influence.

What are these ideas?

We are inching closer to the democracy to come, and inching closer to the
coming God.

For now, I will not say much about whatever they are calling the "democracy to come", except that it seems to involve the lose of all national and political sovereignties to a great degree, and to make thing secular. For now, my main concern is Caputo's "the coming God".

Still, if it is irresistible, then is it not an irresistible force? Shall
we then say that “democracy” is a word of sovereign force and power, nay, even
a word of divine authority? That would be to fall down before the old god, the
one that belongs to the order of being and power, whereas Derrida is venturing
out onto more uncharted seas, trying to think god otherwise, trying to tell a
whole new story about God (V, 215-16), about some sort of vulnerable, nonsovereign,
suffering God, some sort of “force without force” or some “power of
powerlessness,” for which we have no concept.

A trace of what Derrida means is found in Levinas’s famous
example of the impossibility of murder. “Thou shalt not kill” is the first word,
that is, it is a command inscribed on the face of the other, and in that sense comes
from “on high,” but it comes not with the majesty of worldly height or power, or
with the authority of a divine command or of a command of pure reason, but
with the penury of the most helpless and vulnerable one. It is inscribed on the
face of anyone, but most palpably on the face of the helpless victim. Thus, the
impossibility of murder is a law in the order of the call, but not alas of being
where it is an all too banal and common fact.

This reasoning is 'off' for at least one serious reason. I find it ironic (perhaps even mocking) that he uses the words of some translations of the Bible, "Thou shalt not kill", to try to tell us that this command does not come "with the authority of a divine command". When God Himself comes down and writing the command in stone, then what else does the command have but the "authority of a divine command"?

And if it did not have that authority, then what? What if someone violates it? If the command "Thou shalt not kill" does not have the authority of divine command, then of what use it it?

What, for example, of the murderer who is never caught, and never pays in this life for that crime? Where is justice in that case? What about the murderer who is caught, but not found guilty? What even about those who did not commit murder, but where judged guilt of a crime and paid the penalty for it?

If such commands have no authority of divine command, more to the point if there is no God who is sovereign and is not the force behind His commands, then such commands become more like suggestions. And if there are no consequences to not keeping the commands, then why keep them?

It's hard to see what Caputo (and/or Derrida) is appealing to when he tries to talk about powerless. Is he assuming that peopel will feel sorry for victims and the helpless? If so, what is he thinking? What has history taught us, except that that is NOT how people operate?

What is called for is to imagine God otherwise, to turn our thinking about God
around, almost upside down or inside out:

In speaking of an onto-theology of sovereignty, I refer, under the name of God,
of One God, to the determination of a sovereign and hence indivisible
omnipotence. But when the name of God would give us something else to think,
for example a vulnerable non-sovereignty, suffering and divisible, mortal even,
capable of contradicting himself, of regret (a thought which is neither impossible
nor without example), that would be a wholly other story and perhaps that of a
god who would be deconstructed even in his ipseity. (V, 215-216)

What calls, what is calling, what is called for is the God to come, the coming of a
God to save us, a God who has no seat of power, no sovereign authority, no
ontological prestige, vulnerable and mortal, who has not the wherewithal to lay
down his head, whose only power is the power of a powerless but unconditional

A God without sovereignty, and without a seat of power? Gee, who does that sound like?

Isaiah 14
12. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, song of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
13. For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north;
14. I will ascend above the heights fo the clouds, I will be like the Most High.

Yeah, who would really want to knock God off of his throne? Who would want to rob God of his power? Who would want to say that God isn't really in charge?

But what does the Bible say about God's sovereignty?

Rev. 19
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.
His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Rev. 20
4. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Any attempt to try to make God "weak", to take away his power, to make him not the king and sovereign of all creation, must be view as suspect. Especially when the Bible itself makes such plain statements about the soveriegn nature of God.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Wayfarer's Redemption--a return to paganism?

Much of reading in recent times has been along the lines of sci-fi and fantasy. Why? I'm not certain. I like the stories, usually. There's often some thought-provoking things in them.

One I finished a few days ago was "The Wayfarer's Redemption" by a Sara Douglass, or that at least is her pen-name (I think her real name is different). It is the first book in a series.

It's a pretty standard fantasy story--something evil has build up an army of strange creatures and is invading a land where some are fighting to defend, there is a prophecy which may tell of deliverance and one who will lead against the coming evil. That's a very simple summation of it.

There are three basic races in the land (there is a fourth, too, though they are not mentioned much in this first book)--humans as we are, humanoids with some physical features like such animals as deer who are called Avar, and humanoids with wings called Icarii. Many years before the book starts, the regular humans fought against the others and drove them from the land into some forests and mountains.

For much of the first book, the other two races are treated as victims of human aggression and the false human religion, although a preview of the second book at the end of the first does seem to say that at least the Icarii are not so innocent when it comes to why humans came to view them badly.

There are good things in the book. Heroism, self-sacrifice, parental love, resistence of evil, care for the helpless, all are put forward as good things. And that's fine.

There are also things in it that were distasteful to me, though perhaps some of those things would be explored further in other books, like what I mentioned earlier in regards to how the Icarii may not have been so innocent in the human's feelings against them.

For one thing, their are the religions of the races. The humans have a religion that is quite simply a mirror or Christianity, or at least Catholicism--a religion with something like a papacy, a holy book, one whose followers make a sign in the air, with priests and places of meeting. It is a separate entity from the government, and has it's own army. It is anti-magic. In the book, the priests and others are mostly corrupt and power-hungry.

The Avar and Icarii are pagans. They keep festivals like beltide and yuletide, and at least at the yuletide festival in the book a sacrifice is made to ensure that the winter will end. There a sites and lakes and trees that for them are places of power.

The book makes no secret that the pagan ways are better then the faux-christian religion of the humans.

The Avar are pacifists, except in the case of the unborn. In one of the festivals, both races meet together and they have a night of making whoopy with each other. As one may imagine, children are conceived of that whoopy-making. Avar women, those pacifists who can barely even abide a human woman who came among them because she did violence in self-defense, will routinely abort the conceived cross-racial child for fear that it will be the evil one of the prophecy.

Sexual mores are decidedly loose among the characters, especially the good ones. The hero and villain are both sons of one of the Icarii, one by an Avar mother who didn't abort her child (is that telling, too?), the other by a human woman. One of the Sentinals, one of the fourth race though we don't know it until towards the end of the book, is not sparing in her favors. There is even mention made of an Icarii relationship that would have been between first cousins, the children of two brothers.

So, is it a good book? I enjoyed it, though not completely. I picked up the second from the library last weekend, though I haven't started it yet. There are things I liked, and things I disliked, in the story. I can't wholeheartedly recommend them, but for those of some discernment they may be good to read.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

because we do know better then God...

Christians Caught Between the Sheets -- How ‘abstinence only’ Ideology Hurts Us

We are in crisis over sexuality in our culture in part because the church has been largely unable to step away from the old Christian ethic and develop a responsible sexual ethic that is based on both what we have come to learn from science and experience, with the revelations of the Gospel. Christine Gudorf in her book, Body, Sex and Pleasure highlights this when she states,

Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships.”

I Corinthians 6

9. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
10. nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit th ekingdon fo God.
11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

15. Do you not know that your bodies are member of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlto? Certainly not!
16. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh".
17. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin a that man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

What does forbidding sexual expression or abstinence-only education do? Without an understanding of a God created normal sexual development, open communication, grace filled answers and direction, adolescents will go underground, feeling shame and self loathing each and every time they desire or act on sexual longing. This shame and silence places adolescents and young adults at risk of entering an addiction cycle with their sexuality.

You must understand, with people like the "The Other Journal" people, it's not so much that people shouldn't feel shame and guilt, it's about what people should feel shame and guilt over. Parents who tell their children to save themselves for marriage should feel shame and guilt for repressing and oppressing their kid's sexuality, but the kids who have sex before marriage should not feel shame and guilt.

Keep in mind, this is the same publication that tried to tell us that being capitalists is some kind of evil thing, and we should repent for that. Being capitalists are the kinds of things they think we should feel shame and guilt over. Funny, I could find all kinds of things in the Bible against fornication, but none against capitalism. Such seem to be the modern (or postmodern) 'sins'.

If you want more proof, here are the postmodern 'saints'.

I struggled with religious intolerance of premarital sex. I believe it is an unrealistic standard that utilized guilt to ensure abstinence. At 20 I became very disconnected from my parents because I did not feel comfortable talking to them about my relationship or sex. My junior year I began dating this really nice guy that I had gone to high school with. By the time we had been dating six months I felt ready to sleep with him. I would not change losing my virginity with this person because I know that we cared for one another and it felt mutually loving and respectful." 27 year-old.

"It was not until my late teenage years in my first real relationship that I started to enjoy sexual behaviors. I felt like I was compromising my Christian values and struggled with the question of what purity really was. I lived through the guilt by distancing myself from my faith. I thought how could I be a Christian if I enjoy being sexual with this man before marriage. Nobody had ever told me how to integrate my sexuality and spirituality. All I heard was 'Do not engage in premarital sex!'” 30year-old.

So, what about the biblical commands against things like fornication?

Traditional Christian sexual ethics is not only inadequate in that it fails to reflect God’s reign of justice and love which Jesus died announcing, but its legalistic, apologetic approach is also incompatible with central Judaic and Christian affirmations of creation, life, and an incarnate messiah. Because the Christian sexual tradition has diverged from this its life-affirming source, it has become responsible for innumerable deaths, the stunting of souls, the destruction of relationships, and the distortion of human communities. The Christian sexual tradition uses scripture and theological traditions as supports for a code of behavior which developed out of mistaken, pre-scientific understanding of man, anatomy, physiology and reproduction, as well as out of now abandoned and discredited models of the human person and human relationships

All too often when we absorb information outside of us, preached to us in churches, media, from others, we fail to know the context of that information or ‘truth.’ The teller speaks the truth for God, scripture, or as an expert. Understanding historical context, culture, norms and expectations gives a framework for understanding the information as it was meant to be understood, yet gaining this contextual information is often time consuming and unrealistic.

First, read the article, carefully. See if you can find any scripture, or even a scriptural reference. I can't, and I've read and looked at it, but maybe I missed something. Those kinds of things usually aren't hard to find, though.

Second, read the two paragraphs above taken from the article. It reveals a kind of "We know better then God!" mindset. Welcome to progressive thought.

I hint that you wouldn't find scripture in the article. What you will find are plenty of excerpts from things like testimonies. The lady who wrote the article seems to be not so much interested in what scriptures says and using that as the measuring rod, but in taking people's experiences and then finding some way to explain away scriptural rules.

So, the standards becomes the experiences of people whose experiences and perceptions may or may not have been influenced by things she or others may have told them, not the absolutes of scripture. Scripture becomes "mistaken" and "pre-scientific", while the recorded experiences become what we should be guided by.

Man becomes god, God becomes a crotchety old man who made a bunch a rules long ago that now just no longer apply. Yeah, liberal theology, now we can do each other like rabbits, and do it guilt-free.

Monday, December 3, 2007

thoughts from too much sports talk radio

Random thoughts while listening to far too much radio sports talk over the weekend...

This UK basketball teams doesn't have the talent to run with the other top teams

No joke, heard this on a call-in sports radio show, as a way of explaining away the loss to North Carolina. Granting, no one wants to lose to NC, especially us (though maybe Duke would like such a loss even less, though that's another story...), but when I heard this excuse, I had to almost freak-out.

Ok, let's go ahead and admit, the team may be talent-depleted. After all, they only have what, three or four high-school all-American players, other top recruits, and all-in-all no shortage of good players. Well, there have been some injuries to a couple of their better players, so that's at least a legitimate concern.

The thing is, I remember these three years back about 18 or so years ago, when the basketball team could have used that "lack of talent" excuse for underachieving. All they had were a bunch of third-string rejects, none of whom would not have be recruited (let alone start) for any other school serious about winning big. Guys with names like Pelphrey, Feldhaus, Farmer, Miller, and Hansen. I remember that first team having a rough season, actually having an .500 season that was considered very successful, and winning a big game against a very impressively talented (think Shaq among others) LSU team.

A couple of years later, a team with most of those same under-talented guys and one major talent named Mashburn played a super-talented Duke team in the NCAA. In all likelihood, only Mashburn would have been a major contributor on that Duke team. And when all was said and done, the Duke team won, but only by a miracle, and that game is among the classics.

The problem with this team isn't talent, or lack of it. They've got plenty, they've had plenty for years. They've had plenty for the last couple of years, despite the poor results for the past couple of years.

Do you know that two years ago they had three seven-footers? Did you know that all year long, the main complaint of the team was that they didn't have a strong front-line? And in the first part of the season, everyone was pinning their hopes on the return of a player who the year before had proven absolutely nothing except that he could play in a lack-luster fashion all year and still be the starting center. To be fair, Morris did play better that second year after his return, and in his third actually showed something like heart.

I do think, though, that that situation is what hurt the team, and for all that I like Tubby Smith and think him a better coach then most fans seem to want to admit, how he kept with Morris despite his indifferent play while not keeping with the others when they goofed was one source of mixed-messages and one reason the past two years, despite the high-end talent, that the results were less then they should have been.

Honestly, after Morris pulled his "I'm going into the draft without telling anyone", Smith should have told him to sit out a year and see how truly sorry he really was. At the least, he should have put the bum at the back of the bench and let him not play the role of instant-savior for a team that really didn't need him.

College football doesn't need a playoff

Seriously, some sport-talk radio guy was saying that he was rethinking his position on the that. He had been of the position that it needed a playoff, today he's saying it doesn't. His reasons for this are that it makes the games in the last week of the season more meaningful and important.

Personally, I think Cutler must have been suffering from lack of sleep.

Ok, let's say that in the last week of the season there were, oh, four games that had some big meaning to the overall big national-championship picture. Certainly compelling, no doubt.

Now, lets say we go to a 16-team playoff. We would then have 15 games that were important to the overall big national-championship picture.

And look at college basketball. Sure, the fact that the NCAA basketball tourney has,what, 64 teams (not counting the loser of the play-in game), that yes some of the conference championship games are not so relevant (though one may not want to tell the rabid fans that), what you get in exchange is the craziest three weeks in sports (not counting the World Cup) (ok, let's count it anyway).

So, a few games lose some significance, but several others gain an extraordinary amount. That's a positive trade-off.

And anyway, the NCAA football scene is a joke. Just ask Auburn.

What can be done? Simple. The fans of the teams that could have been considered realistic contenders for the playoff if the NCAA football people has sense need to think that while they do want to support their team, that so long as they keep on spending their money for tickets and hotels and food and fan stuff like t-shirts, then the bowl-people have no reason to change.

Thus, here is my idea--support your teams by not supporting them. I'm serious. The bowls are cheating your team, and they will continue to do so so long as they keep getting your money. Therefore, don't give them your money. When they realize that the fans really do want the playoff, and they'll not spend money until they get it, the big bad bowl boys will crawl to get the playoff.