Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Talk to the Hand

How should Christians discuss their differences? There is a thought, not unpopular, not without long historical precedent, that debate is the way. Usually, the thought is that someone is right and someone is wrong, and that it matters. I cannot disagree more. Not only may both be wrong, but even if one party is more right than the other, does it thereby necessarily matter? Is the argument over something that would undermine someones essential nature as a person born of the Spirit?

I think Calvinism is fundamentally a scripturally untenable system of doctrine. To my understanding, it assaults the character of God, says of him what he clearly does not say of himself, makes nonsensical most of the commands and entreaties in scripture, and misses entirely the ultimate aim of God in creating man. That may sound like a big deal, but I know a few Calvinists personally. They love the word as much as I, love the brothers as much as I, serve Christ as fully as do I, and I'm discovering, particularly in the blogosphere, love the Spirit as much as I. I am not likely to ever accept their approach to the "doctrines of grace," but I will gladly accept them. I may discuss our differences with them, but I am not looking to brand them as heretics or nonbelievers. If there is a quality in a purported Christian that would cause me to perceive him or her in that light, it would be having a divisive spirit that will not lay itself down for the brethren. Someone who shows other believers no grace is in no position to lecture anyone else on grace.

Debates are how heathens deal with opposing viewpoints. Christians operating in the realm of heathen concerns may need to debate with those heathens or even with other Christians also working in those realms, but Christians should not deal with matters of faith and conduct the same way. Debates are rarely, if ever, about helping either side see the others viewpoint better, or even helping someone see something clearer. Debates are about ego, winning and losing, and then suppressing if possible. How is such a format remotely acceptable to the Christian community? Our discussions should be respectful, aimed at edification not destruction, and if there is any prejudice, let it be on the side of deference and esteem.

I have to admit a prejudice of my own: when I come across argumentative, insulting, smug Christians looking for fights rather than trying to help a brother, everything they say sounds like nothing but a clanging cymbal. If one cannot understand the primacy of love for the brothers in the Christian community, and so practice reigning in his tongue, that person is at best an immature novice, and at worst a wolf in sheep's clothing. He understands nothing! I could care less how many degrees he has, I could care less how many books he's written, or how many fans line up to see him. His words are empty and my suspicion is that so is his confession of Christ. If you want to talk to me, talk to me, but leave your attitude at the door, or talk to the hand!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mom & Pop vs. Walmart

Hello readers, I'm back. Does that mean lightning does strike the same place twice? My family snuck in a vacation before school begins and such things become well nigh impossible. It was an interesting trip-- if one finds rain interesting. It rained everyday, some days, so much that we were stuck inside all day. We did a lot of puzzles! I wonder what Noah's family did while they were in the ark? Probably involved a lot of shoveling! All told, I think our trip was better than theirs.

Our vacation did serve, however, to reinforce for me the wonderful blessing that is family. The word says that God sets the lonely in families. Families are a mark of his compassion and grace. Of all his inventions for the benefit of humanity, none beats the family. In America, however, we suffer a debilitating disease, which infects the broader West as well: family has lost it's cachet and is not valued anymore. We have actually become anti-family in so many ways: families that should be formed are not, and families that are, are discarded without much consideration and not much legal difficulty either. Our disease is wasting our society, but as if diagnosed with some terminal malady, we seem to have accepted our lot and are in hospice rather than treatment.

There is some panic (it seems to me) among religious prognosticators in the West concerning the future of Church. They read the tea leaves (statistically based of course) and blare their trumpets, "if something isn't done soon, we'll lose the next generation!" Much discussion has ensued about the proper paradigm for the church in our age. What can be done to make the church relevant, resilient, and resurgent? If God never said anything about the subject, our brainstorming might be appropriate, but he has spoken and we should have a clue. In any age, in any culture, no model is more scriptural than that of family. Church is the family of God, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we have one heavenly Father.

The paradigm that works to produce the body God desires is the Church as Family. Enough with fan clubs for religious superstars; enough with social service agencies that treat symptoms of our societal ills but don't transform the individual; enough with social clubs that isolate after they initiate their members; enough with playgrounds and spas that serve the flesh but don't succor the spirit; enough with religious conglomerates opening branches everywhere possible in an effort to dominate the market. In the realm of the church, in the heart of God, the mom and pop shop beats Walmart every time!

Addendum 8/29/07: A very interesting post at Cerulean Sanctum takes things a step further.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Everything about Christianity is dependent on faith, it is the currency of heaven, I like to say. God's love, grace if you are of the reformed persuasion, is foundational, of course, but God saw fit to make love efficacious only through faith. However, every believer has moments when his or her faith signal is charting at only one or two bars instead of three or four. What do you lean on when your faith is out of breath? Is there is spiritual safety net?

I have found one through experience, really a Dragnet that pulls me back to safety. That old TV show from the sixties always had Jack Webb deadpan, "Just the facts, ma'am." A movie version was produced in the 80's with Dan Akroyd intoning the line, but it just wasn't the same. Anyhow, when my faith is squishy, I deadpan to myself, "Just the facts," and with my response resuscitate my trust in God.

What facts do I answer myself with? Just two:

1) Nothing makes sense if God isn't behind existence. I know that there is no way to explain, not only the cosmos, not only the presence and complexity of life, but also the abstraction of human thought apart from God's existence and creativity. Call it a Romans 1 moment. Fact one: God is (he has to be).

2) Jesus rose from the dead. The tomb was empty, no one ever found the body. One of the most brutally pragmatic empires to rise upon the face of earth lost track of a body they truly wanted to keep their hands on, ostensibly to a ragtag crew of bumpkins? No way! The Jews, who tried to deflect the force of eyewitness testimony by suborning perjury, if anything, wanted to confiscate the body more so than the Romans. Their money perished with them, because they never got anyone to lead them to the body. Despite the efforts of Roman and Jew, never was one eyewitness induced to recant, even in the face of torture. A cabal of twits withstood the mighty and the artful. Why? There was no body, it was in use! It was not a spiritual resurrection, a mythological resurrection, nor a metaphorical resurrection--Jesus grew tired of being dead so he came back to life, bodily! Fact two: Jesus rose from the dead (he had to).

Those two not so little facts inflate the life raft of my faith anytime it springs a leak. With the most salubrious effect, they are my answer back to myself whenever I've fallen into confusion or doubt. I hate to admit it, but more than once (to calm the turmoil of soul) I've had to deadpan to mirror, "Just the facts, ma'am."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Making a Monkey Out of You

I find it very disturbing that so many folks identify themselves as Bible-believing followers of Christ and yet embrace evolution. The Bible and evolution are mutually exclusive, as is betrayed by the labyrinthine exegesis of Genesis those who attempt to syncretize them invariably use to do so. Foundationally, I believe Jesus, in being the Christ, the Son of the living God, is without error in all he believed and all that he taught. He was, in fact, without error in every possible respect. If Jesus Christ was an evolutionist, he gave no hint of it--quite the opposite in fact, he believed in the biblical Creation Story and the Noahetic Flood.

The syncretic approach, theistic evolution, is a result of faithlessness, not evidence. There is not now, nor will there ever be a slam-dunk case for a scientific approach to origins that stands in opposition to the Word. Shaky believers, who mesh atheistic and biblical viewpoints, attempting to achieve some happy median are doomed to failure. When it comes to God, it is always put up or shut up. Stand on the Word or confess to being a heathen at heart. Nothing in the scripture should cause anyone to blink, if they also believe that God raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out demons, and spoke the worlds into being ex nihilo.

Every time the evolutionists have said, "Aha, there it is!" we have always found, after the fact, that they spoke too soon and overstated their case. Whether missing links in the fossil record, abiogenic experiments, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, "undesigned" nylonase, fused chimpanzee chromosomes, or interchangeable genes for nanomachine parts, it's always the same. To be fair, creationists have often done the same thing. So the arguments ratchet back and forth and back and forth, all the while, the realm of physical and theoretical science offers nothing at the end of the tunnel but doubt.

God chooses faith, not sight. Those who depend on sight seldom find faith, and those who depend on faith, usually do just fine with sight. Why throw your faith in the word under the bus for something that, at best, can only make a monkey out of you?