A confession

I am having an issue with forgiveness lately. Not with those I know and love but with those I do not know and struggle to love. Mostly media figures, sports figures and today, again, a company known as Urban Outfitters. So many people and groups have been apologizing over the last few weeks and I can not seem to be able to bring myself to find it sincere. “I’m sorry that I punched my girlfriend, now wife, in the face and knocked her out”, “I am sorry that I caused the legs back and scrotum of my son to bleed while I was beating him with a stick, I didn’t notice at first and once I did, I felt bad”, “We are sorry we sold a sweatshirt celebrating the shootings at Kent State, we did not intend any offense…again, just like with the swastikas and the other stuff…”. I have such a hard time buying it. It is funny because I didn’t realize that there was a problem with it until I read my pastor’s blog this afternoon. I tried to brush it to the side, went to my bible reading and found myself in Ephesians reading this in particular “Eph 4:23 However, you were taught to have a new attitude. ” The translation is not the most faithful admittedly, but for the day it was exactly the jolt I did not at all want, and obviously needed. I think that a lot of other people are having a hard time with this too.

I have become the worst sort of cynic, the kind that is convinced everyone acts of self interest and that is all, not the philosophical school founded by Antisthenes that is sort of fun to read. Even with the realization of this, I can not find it in me to believe that they are indeed sorry. I can not bring myself to think that they are actually apologetic. I think it is just damage control in a society that expects an apology, but does not require it’s sincerity. I am having such a difficult time thinking the best of these people and companies. I think that a lot of us are struggling with this exact same thing in truth. It is a problem.

Today, and for many days in the future, I am going to be praying that God breaks this part of me so that it can be mended in accordance with His desires instead of my cynicism. I am going to be praying that God does the same for anyone else struggling with this. I am not going to do it because I think all these people are genuinely sorry, I am going to do it on faith that God knows better than I. I am going to do it with the belief that the world needs more forgiveness and mercy instead of condemnation. I am going to do it because if we, the body of Christ, can not see even the most depraved with heaven’s eyes, then who else will?

 

some reflections on theodicy

All About Evil

All About Evil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I leaned towards the soul making theodicy as explained by John Hick, but I would go further than that. I am still toying with it, but I am leaning to calling something like entropic theodicy. Here are the basic principles:

  • “Evil,” “good” and “love” (along with other concepts) presuppose a moral order. Even “suffering” and “well-being” are concepts presupposing a pre-existing order. If God pre-exists order and is outside of all systems, then likewise he is outside the moral order. Therefore, such human concepts cannot easily apply to God.
  • God and the Cosmos are not separate (panentheism) albeit the cosmos is physical whereas God is not.
  • God and evil are not separate (Isaiah 45.7).
  • Evil is cosmological. (It exists in all corners of Creation).
  • Evil is entropic (hot water (unstable) growing colder (stable) due to entropy). Thus, evil leads to good, even if eventually. Thus, evil is defined as a cosmological state of instability whereas good is a cosmological state of stability. As with other entropic systems, there has to exist a separation and a difference. This allows for the transformation (theosis).
  • There are natural laws established by God; science has shown that in places these laws are not always strictly enforced; therefore, God is not completely bound by natural laws. Therefore, if God decides to intervene, this is to further the course of evil which will lead to good.
  • We can cooperate with God in the course of evil which leads to the eventual transformation.

Alright, there you go. It is still raw, but thoughts?

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Creation Ministries and Oscar Pistorius

Many of you wont know about Oscar Pistorius, you can read up on him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Pistorius

Its been a quite interesting case with many experts giving evidence. What’s also quite interesting is an article on creation.com where they detail the various kinds of evidence and some of the issues with it. The crux of their argument being that even experts disagree on evidence, which they are able to reproduce, and measure scientifically.

 

The problem is that whilst the CMI might consider themselves experts, they are not. They are “people who have an interest in firing guns” and not “ballistic experts”. When they DO employ “ballistic experts” they only employ ones who agree with their perspective on how they should interpret the evidence.

 

This is completely contrary to to facts, and good “Science”. Most of us study the texts to determine what they are for, what was intended to be said, its socio-historical context, its theological context, its historical theological context, etc. The “Science” involved in interpreting scripture is called Hermeneutics. This is what you do BEFORE you start making any scientific conclusions about creation. In fact, once you do this, you realise that any scientific conclusions you make about creation have very little bearing on what Genesis says at all.

 

They say this:

Further, with the lure of prestige, fame and fortune accompanying evolutionary ‘discoveries’ in academia today, and with most universities firmly ensconced within the reigning materialist paradigm, one would have to be naïve not to believe that much of the evolutionary interpretation is also influenced by the rewards that come with telling the ‘right’ stories.

Apparently evolutionary studies are not based on science, but because scientists are being bribed to manipulate the evidence. Its beside the point because the bible does not have anything to do with the study of evolution, other than the God who ordered the universe also made it possible for science to be done. Either that or all science is a lie.

I liked this article which popped up today on the subject: http://agreatercourage.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/more-pannenberg-on-genesis-1-2.html

Then:

… when it comes to the past, an objective, reliable eyewitness account of events carries the most weight. When it comes to origins, the claimed evolution from the Big Bang onward had no eyewitnesses and has never been observed in the field or repeated in a laboratory

Of course we know this to be true. However, scientists can measure and observe, then draw a line backwards and get some idea of what happened. However, this same criticism is true of Genesis, because the author of Genesis was not present at creation either. Worse, the author did not ever intend the text to be understood as an explanation of WHAT (the scientific detail) but rather, the WHY (the theological implications of a God who orders the universe), and HOW (this God is the one God who is above all other gods, and understandings).

They go on to say:

By contrast, creation had the ultimate, most reliable and truthful eyewitness possible, the eternal Creator God Himself. And He has given us an account of that supernatural, six-day, once-off event—primarily in the book of Genesis, but confirmed by many other passages of the inspired Word of God. Noah and his family were eyewitnesses of the Flood judgment about 1650 years after creation, and God (and possibly Noah himself) ensured that the account was also recorded for us in the Bible. As in a court of law, let us take the objective, unbiased account of the ultimate eyewitness at His plain meaning when evaluating the evidence for where this wonderful universe, including mice and men, has come from. When we do so, we will find that all of the ‘forensic’ evidence available to humanity as made in God’s image makes perfect sense when interpreted in the light of that record.

God did not WRITE the Bible, he INSPIRED it. There is a huge difference, and the author of the passage in question was not recounting, as I said, the details of what happened, he was not there, he did not know. He was INSPIRED to write about why things are the way they are. He also was not present at the flood, and did not know NOAH.

These people have stolen what it really means to believe in creation, and the name “creationist” and perverted it into some perverted shadow of the truth.

Its time to claim it back.

It is not enough

10670191_10152756368903185_6436640874602357279_nThis is a day when we remember a tragedy and it is good and right that we do so. It is a day to respect the dead and to remember those who were misguided enough to cause those deaths. It is a day that we pray for the peace that only Christ can bring so that instances such as this will not be repeated. It is a solemn day for those we lost and a day of rejoicing in those who survived. All of this is good and right…and it is not enough. We have built memorials and have memorials. There are moments of silence and moving tributes to those who died. There are television specials and the news shows do their best to make certain that we remember. All of this is good and right…but it is not enough.

It is not enough to just remember, we must remember with hope that the future holds a better day, not with the fear of the inevitability of this happening again. Those who will killed, died because of fear. If we are to remember, let us remember in hope, The Blessed Hope, that one day the world will be conformed to His image. If we remember those who have died in fear, we remember only the death, but when we remember in hope, we remember in the power of Resurrection, we remember not in a spirit of fear, but in a spirit of love and power and a sound mind. It was good advice from Paul many years ago and it is good advice now. We are not people of fear, we are a people of love, of a sound mind and of the power of God. It is not enough to remember, we must remember properly.

It is not enough to build memorials and hold memorial services. It is not enough to have moments of solemn silence for those who have past. It is not enough because the lives that were lost this day and in the events that followed did not die for moments of silence, or for mortar monuments, they died for the idea that there would be a better day. They died for the idea that there would be a better world. They died for the idea that not only could we be better people, that we would actively pursue being better people. The memorial that they need is our lives better reflecting the mission of Christ. The bible says that greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friend. Make no mistake, many lives were laid down for us. I say that greater honor and respect has no man than this, that he live a live worth the sacrifice. It is not enough to have a memorial, we must be the memorial.

Book Notes, @ivpacademic’s “The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas”

Periodically, Christians will awaken to the fact we no longer live in a pure, unadulterated Christendom. Since 1776, the West has been rocked by the notion that pluralism can happen and if it does happen, previously secure groups will begin to lose adherents. Such is the fate of the Christian Church in the West. In Europe and in the United States, we have seen a marked decrease in church attendance and identification as Christians. We have also seen Christianity challenged by various movements. There are reactions, not necessarily good ones either. There is a general consensus, however, that Christians need to understand the times in which we live (the end of a Christian-dominated West) and how this will shape our message. Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak attempt to deliver a plan by using Paul’s time and context to show how it shaped his preaching so that we may learn how to use the pluralism today to shape ours. Think of postmodernism, relativism, and a heavy reliance on science and how this is shaping reactions to Christianity and Christian reactions to the world at large. They divide the book into 10 chapters, with each chapter adding something to the conversation about social context. We are introduced to ancient, pluralistic Athens before Christianity. It is a time that was dangerous to new messages. Yet, Paul succeeded. How so? He used rhetoric, persuasion, and followed God. They used the language of the time and place to teach about Christ, using the hallmarks of the time to point to him. I’m not sure I would call this apologetic, Copan’s usual fare, but is it evangelical (without the capital ‘E’). The book gets a bit repetitive at times, but this may be helpful in driving home what Paul was up against. This is a needed book as we face the graveyard of American Christianity.

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber to be an example of a charismatic religious leader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christians do not behead

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder o...

Dr. Jerry Falwell (en, d. 2007), the founder of Liberty University (en), was a Christian pastor and televangelist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen the pictures and videos (or, preferably, read the headlines) about the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS and other Islamic fundamentalist groups (plenty of Muslims oppose ISIS). They do so to appease their god and to keep the land/movement holy. They do so because the believe in the wrath of their malformed god.

Christians long ago gave up beheading for crimes. Indeed, the last major spate of beheadings occurred during the French Revolution. Many of us consider the death penalty wrong. Some do not. Many Christians in those two various camps, however, believe in caring for the poor, healing the sick, and extending a hand of mercy to the downtrodden.

However, there are some Christians who believe every great sign of misfortune is the Wrath of God. These are closeted Supralapsarianists; these are fatalists. For Pat Robertson, every time the wind destroys his combover, he is sure it is because of the LGBT community. For others, such as Jerry Falwell, diseases such as HIV/AIDS are sent by God to destroy this or that demographic and even those who support those demographics! Indeed, because of Falwell’s influence, the United States was slow and failed to help contain the AIDS epidemic that brought death to gays and straights. We are left to wonder how much of our foreign policy is set not by what is best for the country, but because some believe the end of the world is near.

Such is this plague theology; such is fatalism.

Christians still have to answer for it even while other Christians side with the likes of Westboro Baptist Church (albeit with a slightly less vengeful tone). The internet is littered with tombstones of statements and a graveyard of blog posts from these two camps — one begging for mercy, compassion, and a scientific understanding while the other demands vengeance, death, and laughs at the terrible plight of victims. Both claim Christ.

Today, the world watches in horror as the Ebola virus spreads, nearly past the point of containment, on the African continent. When we go to help, the Christian pundits are there to rain heaps of coal upon our head. Doctors Candida Moss and Joel Baden have tried to assuage this wave of hate, but the internet is once again becoming a dark place where Christians get to laugh while many die.

In Congress, however, the Republican Party is deciding right now (or has decided) to gut the President’s request for funding to fight and contain Ebola. Led by Hal Rogers, the committee will cut more than half of the funding request. He is known as the “Prince of Pork,” so why doesn’t he support this bill? We do know he is unfriendly to any paradigm shift in the American cultural landscape and supports religious exemptions to Obamacare.

I am not speaking of Christians who identify with the libertarian spectrum, as they have a philosophical stance against government involvement. Rather, I am speaking about those Christians who would rather support the military-industrial complex than help those they believe are under the judgment of God. Their goal, seemingly, is death.

While Christians do not behead our enemies — rather, we do not behead those we believe suffer under or cause God’s wrath — we have other ways to allow for their death. Christians get elected as Republicans, or Tea Party members, and move to block funding to prevent diseases in some way. Indeed, while Christians no longer behead, we have found a perfectly easy way to reach the same goal. We just let them die and call it God.

While these Christians are doing this, Churches like the United Methodist Church and other mainline denominations are mustering their resources and specially trained teams to fight the crisis.

Dear #UMC, let’s reclaim our confessional heritage

English: "John Wesley," by the Engli...

Come on y’all, I was the one who wrote the Shorter Catechism. Why ain’t you using it?

Just a short post on a quick idea…

The UMC is held to be non-confessional. I’m generally okay with that, except we have such wide ranging views there may in fact already exist numerous UMC denominations without the larger one. I am now ready to admit that. I do not think, however, schism is healthy, biblical, or going to happen.

What remains is for us to relearn our Wesleyan and Evangelical Brethren heritage. To do so would require us to reclaim several pieces of doctrine left out of the Doctrinal Standards. From the EB side, we should add the Heidelberg Catechism. From Wesley, we should reclaim the Shorter Catechism which was reworked by Wesley to remove overly Calvinistic parts while retaining several elements of the Reformed Tradition. Granted, both could use an update on language unless there is no chief end of woman.

While the UMC is non-confessional is most ways, our Wesleyan heritage does not completely exclude Confessions of Faith. Indeed, Wesley worked up such a one. Perhaps we should seek to reclaim it.

Thoughts?

the con game of Christianity

The Sting

The Sting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do any one an injury, and lest we should sin against God.1

The early Christians not only would not expose their children, deformed or otherwise, but they would rescue the exposed and make them a part of the community.

I have, lately, seen a lot of articles about attracting others to Christianity. Everyone is worried about number$. We need to do X to attract demographic Y to us or else we will die. No doubt, this is what has led to the extremes forming. The Conservatives are becoming more entrenched, almost to the point of fundamentalism* because they fear the changes (from technology to any form of biblical criticism) while Liberals have nearly completed their march to the great oblivion of inconsequentiality. Why? Because too many seem focused on attracting new members.

Christianity has become something less than a hope for a grand do-over (the cosmic conflagration), ethical impulses, and philosophical considerations about our place within God’s plan all made possible because of the death (and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Rather, it now focuses on megastar pastors (and, more importantly, their downfalls); the latest theological trend (or lack of theology); and the number of people in your bean=bags, folding chairs, or other cool, hip seating circles. We focus on ourselves. Or, worse, we focus on the perceived sin of our neighbor because somehow the only verse we take super-literal and super-missional is James 5.20.

This is the great con of Christianity. We need members to make congregations grow — we measure vitality not by the immeasurable (i.e., the good we do) but by numbers. We need new members; we need new buildings — we need bigger buildings to attract new members to give us new buildings to attract members. It is a vicious cycle Mainliners, Evangelicals and others have fallen into. Fundamentalists, such as independent fundamentalist Baptists and oneness pentecostals, do not focus on this so much as focus on saving souls from the pit of hell using every ounce of fear they can muster. Neither of these approaches work. Instead the approach we must relearn is the method of the early church, something Wesley I believe saw and try to implement.

This method is very simple. We work. We work at correcting the ills of society where we can — depending not on the Law of Empire but on the Law of Grace. When the church was powerless it had the most power. It was not protected and thus it protected. The church led the way in changing morality in the Roman Empire. When the old religions fell, when immorality was worse than we can imagine today, when Christian was persecuted for doing these things it was the faith and religion it should have been. Creeds, doctrines, and our finely expressed theology all matter and must be taught. However, if we are only there to attract people into our buildings rather than serving as a means of delivering God’s reconciling and reforming grace to those around us, we are nothing more than a less successful Amway with prettier, more stationary market stations.

BTW, my local UMC church is awesome at service projects for the sake of service. I’m not bragging. I’m boasting. 

 

 

  1. Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe; vol. 1; The Ante-Nicene Fathers; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 1172.

Random annoyance for the day.

The above is a link to a Huffington Post piece about racist phrases. Some of what is said here is valid, some is not. The problem is that it is sloppy, and makes things which have no racial connotation, or do not have an origin in or about racism, racist. Some of the phrases here are just plain wrong. Before I continue, I want to make clear that yes, I am aware that racism exists. No, I do not look for it under every rock or phrase. None of us should. Here we go on some of the inaccuracies in the piece.

  1. “For example, did you know that Hip hip hooray! used to be a Nazi war cry used to invade the Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust?” This is blatantly false. The phrase hip hip hooray was used as an expression of praise and admiration for someone. Thomas Moore used this phrase in the 18th century far predating Nazi attacks on those who are Jewish. I can only assume that the author seriously confused this phrase for the Germans who did indeed used to chant ‘hep hep’ in reference to the Bavarian riots against ethnically German Jews in 1819. While many claims have been made linking the two phrases, there is no credible evidence or documentation that there is a link. A phrase for admiration and praise is now sullied in nonexistent racist origins irresponsibly.

  2. “The word “gyp” now means “to cheat or swindle.” It is essentially a condensing of the word “gypsies,” who throughout history have been stereotyped as a group that cheats and swindles people.” Again, an accusation of a word with no credible evidence. There is no known link between these words at all. Is it possible, yes it is possible that this began as a slur regarding the gypsies, but it is somewhat unlikely actually. The first known usage of gyp was in 1750 and it was used to refer to a British college student. Hardly a derogatory term. The current usage of the word as in to cheat or to swindle has it’s origins distinctly in America, seemingly odd for a racial slur about a group not known for having a significant presence in America.  The origin of the word the word gypsy or gipsy itself was given to itinerants in Britain when they arrived from continental Europe in the sixteenth century; the word is a contracted form of Egyptian by a process called aphesis. It was thought that those itenerants were from Egypt, which was not true. Nothing in the word origins of gypsy actually refers to the Roma, as they call themselves. More likely the word stems from the obsolete gippo, a menial kitchen servant. If anything it is disparaging of fast workers, not a racial group. Further more it is unlikely at best that anyone using the word gyp in this day and age has any intention of connecting it as disparaging to the Romani people.

  3. Technically, the current definition of “ghetto” (noun) is “a part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions.” Whether intended or not, the user is essentially implying that minorities are low class.” Maybe, or maybe it is a descriptive word. I am a Caucasian Anglo Saxon protestant male. I live in the ghetto. This is not offensive, it is a descriptive term that is understood to mean a poorer section of town. Yes, there is a connotation of this being forced by economic pressure, but this does not at all imply that a minority is somehow inferior, it does however state fairly bluntly that there is a poor section in town. If you want to be outraged about the ghetto, be outraged that it exists at all and that there is poverty in the world, don’t obsess over how it is somehow offensive to give a name to the neighborhood. ghetto is no more racist that suburbia. Just so you know, that is not offensive either, just descriptive.

  4. “Peanut galleries” (which now means “a source for hecklers,” usually used in a joking manner) were the upper balconies that African-American people sat in in segregated theaters.” The peanut gallery originated in the days of vaudeville and was a nickname for the cheapest (and ostensibly rowdiest) seats in the theater. Nothing more. The peanut gallery now is used as a term for those who would heckle. Neither the origin of the word, or the common usage of the word, has anything to do with racism…just the cheap seats and I hope that all of us have sat there before.

5.”The word “uppity,” a word beloved by conservative news pundits, originated as a word used by Southerners in reference to African-Americans that they deemed didn’t know their place in society.” This is quite frankly bull excrement. The word uppity originated, according to Merriam Webster (the dictionary used for other definitions in this piece) in or around 1880 and had nothing at all to do with race. It had everything to do with those interested in social climbing and not knowing your proper station in society. It was used most often in reference to Caucasians incidentally.

So what is the point you ask? Whomever put together the article for the Huffington Post did not do a lot of research, but did make a lot of accusations about common phrases that can not be substantiated. It is my belief…notice the belief…that they were looking for racism. We have allowed a culture to form where  the possibility of offence is treated more seriously than evidence of actual offence. Here is what I learned in Sunday school a long time ago. God has promised that if we seek Him we will find Him. Maybe we all should stop looking for offense and start looking for Him. I do believe that we will find that which we seek, so let’s seek something that is worthy of the time instead of trying to seek offense at every opportunity.