Monday, December 22, 2008

a great insignificant event

Out of the mathematics of general relativity would come ideas and postulates that are themselves also matters now of household conversation; time as another, and fourth, dimension; time as capable of being slowed; the ongoing expansion of the universe; the Big Bang. And in conjunction with the work of other brilliant, popularly known physicists like Edwin Hubble, general relativity would eventually make it possible, on July 20, 1969, for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk on the surface of Earth's moon. In doing so, they walked on what always before had been the footstool of God, and that made all the difference. Literalism based on inerrancy could not survive the blow (though it would die a slow and painful death); and without inerrancy-based literalism, the divine authority of Scripture was decentralized, subject to the caprices of human interpretation, turned into some kind of pick-and-choose bazaar for skillful hagglers. Where now is our authority?
Tickle, The Great Emergence, p. 82

Well, that's certainly a mouthful of a paragraph, and one not slacking in it's claims. Shall we take a look at them?

For example, where is it ever said in Scripture that the moon is God's footstool? I can think of a place where the Earth is call that, but never the moon.

Second, what is the connection between walking on the moon and biblical literalism, such that literalism must now die a slow and painful death because man has walked on the moon? I think I'm pretty familiar with the Bible, and can't say I've ever noticed anyplace in it where the subject of walking on the moon is dealt with pro or con. I don't recall it being a part of any prophecy, or a prophetic sign.

Third, why does man having walked on the moon suddenly mean that Scripture is now "subject to the caprices of human interpretation, turned into some kind of pick-and-choose bazaar for skillful hagglers"? In fact, what is particular new about that situation? Couldn't that be said about almost any time since the early church, that there were those who interpreted the Scriptures through their own desires and biases, and picked-and-chose among the things in the Bible they kept and those they ignored or tossed aside?

In other words, as grand an achievement as walking on the moon was, in a biblical sense it was in effect a non-issue and non-event. "Thou shalt not kill" was as meaningful the second before Armstrong's boot touch the moon's soil as it was the second after. Jesus' words that "no one comes to the Father's expect by Me" were as true on July 19, 1969 as they were on July 21 of that year, because one thing that was not found on the moon was another way to God. We don't know what the angel's thought when man set foot on that far-off satellite, but we know that they rejoice when one small human repents of his or her sins to God.

And, again, in other words, Tickle (and humanity as a whole it would seem) is simply grasping at straws, trying to find any way she can to undermine the authority of the Bible, to in essence say "Has God really said?".

Because, yes, God has really said, and yes, people like her don't particularly care for what God has really said.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

one can be known by one's heroes

But in the name of historical accuracy as well as fairness, we need to remind ourselves, before we go any further, that "Scripture only and only Scripture" really was, if not badly wounded, then certainly badly bruised, well before Einstein and Heisenberg ever came along. Their work would only reinforce and broaden an investigation already in progress
Tickly, The Great Emergence, p. 80

What investigation is that (and what kind of word is that for a postmodern to use, anyway?)? The so-called Quest for the Historical Jesus.

Tickle points to two men in particular in this part of her book, Reimarus and Schweitzer. Here's a bit from Wikipedia's page on Reimarus.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus (December 22, 1694, Hamburg - March 1, 1768, Hamburg), was a German philosopher and writer of the Enlightenment who is remembered for his Deism, the doctrine that human reason can arrive at a knowledge of God and ethics from a study of nature and our own internal reality, thus eliminating the need for religions based on revelation. He denied the reality of miracles and is credited by some with initiating historians' investigation of the historical Jesus.

Modern estimates of Reimarus may be found in the works of B. Punjer, Otto Pfleiderer and Harald Høffding. Pünjer states the position of Reimarus as follows: "God is the Creator of the world, and His wisdom and goodness are conspicuous in it. Immortality is founded upon the essential nature of man and upon the purpose of God in creation. Religion is conducive to our happiness and alone brings satisfaction. Miracles are at variance with the divine purpose; without miracles there could be no revelation" (Pünjer, History of Christian Philosophy of Religion since Kant, Engl. trans., pp. 550-57, which contains an exposition of the Abhandlungen and Schutzschrift).

God cannot interrupt His own work by miracles; nor can He favour some men above others by revelations which are not granted to all, and with which it is not even possible for all to become acquainted. But of all doctrines that of eternal punishment is most contrary, Reimarus thinks, to true ideas of God; and it was this point which first caused him to stumble" (History of Modern Phil., Eng. trans. (1900), vol. ii. pp. 12, 13).

So, right off, we run into some pretty extra-biblical and un-biblical ideas in this man. Although the Bible is filled with accounts of miracles, he says that God cannot work miracle. He says that Hell is contrary to whatever he means by true ideas of God.

It's a dangerous and arrogant thing to say what God can and cannot do apart from what He Himself has told us in His Word.

And here is the page on Schweitzer.

Schweitzer realizes that critical First Century theology has been ignored by the faithful. Almost all early followers are known to have been illiterate. Only those few literate individuals, in power, could be aware of critical unfulfilled First Century theology. To expose this issue, the early leaders would surely lose power, and their employment. Schweitzer observes that the early Church leaders continued their employment by introducing a modified theology, once the prompt return, was found to be not literal.

Schweitzer concludes that First Century theology originating in the lifetimes of those who first followed Jesus is far removed from those beliefs later made official in Nicaea, almost 300 years later, under Constantine. Schweitzer writes that the variations of Christianity that now exist, in modern times, contradict the urgency of what Jesus originally proclaimed as his First Century theology. Each new generation of followers anticipates that their generation will be the one to see the world destroyed, another world coming and the saints governing a new earth.

Schweitzer seems to be claiming that a kind of "De Vinci Code" type of cover-up was done in regards to Christ's statements about His return, even though much of the difficulties in those can be explained by good theology (something that does well in explaining many difficulties).

By the closing decades of the twentieth century, Jesus scholarship, with Reimarus, Schweitzer, and Heisenberg as tis intellectual forebears, had become the life work, in public space of superb and popularizing scholars like Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Elaine Pagels, and Karen King.
Tickle, p. 81

Wow, there's a line-up to inspire confidence, yes-sir-ree (not). Jesus Seminar hacks and new-Gnostic pop stars. What a bunch of maroons.

Though it's probably a point she's making, but maybe not one she's wanting ot make--once you play fast-and-loose with the Word, what else can you end up with but people who think they know better than God, picking and choosing what they want from it (Jesus Seminar) and adding to it even the most contrived and stupid of works (Gnosticism and particularly the much-refuted (false) Gospel of Thomas).

From Reimarus' denial of miracles and revelation to the Jesus Seminar and the new rise of Gnosticism, not to mention the emergent church. What a hefty lump a little leaven can leaven.

a cycle for arrogance

The Right Reverent Mark Dyer, an Anglican bishop known for his wit as well as his wisdom, famously observes from time to time that the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he goes on to say, we are living in an through one of those five-hundred-year sales.
Tickle, The Great Emergence, p. 16

This isn't the first time I've come on this concept. I think it was McLaren who said much the same thing in one of his books.

I think there are some questions we can ask abou this, though.

For example, Christianity has only been around abot 2100 years, so how much can we infer from a seeming 500 year cycle when we've had so very few of them? In what stone is it written that about every 500 years something drastic is suppose to happen in Christianity?

Also, why 500 years? Let's grant that maybe Tickle and those historians who have taught her may have noticed something, still, what if they have picked other numbers of year? For example, 400 or 300.

A bit later in the book, Tickle tries to support her claim by refering to things that happened in those +-500 year cycles that have been given the moniker "great"--Gregory the Great, the Great Schism, the Great Reformation (though I'm not familiar with that moniker for the Reformation; she says it's used a lot, but I can only raise the eyebrows at that claim). Which I guess is meant to support her claim the we are now in the Great Emergence.

But I can't help but find that a bit of a convenience for her--if every 500 years something "great" happens, then since we are now 500 years from the last "great" we should be in the middle of a "great" happening now.

But is that so? Why should we assume that?

If, for example, we went back 400 years, or 250, or even a not-round number like 137, what would we see happening at those times? 400 years might take us to the conquering and settling of the new world, 250 would put us close to the American Revolution, 137 may be close to the industrial revolution and the "discovery" of evolution.

In terms of Christianity, what may be significant about those times? Well, the new world was seen, among other things, by some as a land of escape from religious persecution. Despite claims by such as Tickle, the American Revolution and founding of the United States were events highly influenced and grounded in the Christian religion and biblical thought, and the result was a nation where people were given the freedom to worship God as they saw fit without the government telling them how to do so or not do so (within the realms of moral laws, of course; meaning that child sacrifices were not allowed, for example).

Evolution, of course, has had a quite large effect on religion, and is in fact still a point of division.

My point is simply this--don't take Tickle 500 year cycle as being anything but an observation that may be worth something, but isn't necessarily as much of a thing as she wants it to mean, and certainly don't think that simply because emergents happen to be around at the point of some arbitrary 500 year cycle that they have any right to claim to themselves being epoch-making. It's an appeal to ego, a way of making emergents feel central and important, and that is all it is.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

immorality should be legalized???

First, let's get this out of the way.

As will be discussed later, I believe the Bible says that same-gender eroticism is wrong.
Tony Campolo, Adventures in missing the point, p. 178

Campolo begins this chapter, where he discusses homosexuality, with a story apparently from his high school years. It's about another boy in his school, who was apparently known to be homosexual, and the things he suffered from the other students, which seem to have eventually led to his suicide.

I think it can be agreed that if things happened like Campolo claimed, than what happened to that boy was wrong and ugly. Such cruelties are not good and not to be condoned or encouraged.

But then Campolo makes this leap.

I believe that if Jesus were in our shoes, he would reach out in love to his homosexual brothers and sisters and demand that they be treated justly, that we end the discrimination that has too often made homosexuals into second-class citizens and denied them their constitutional rights. If Jesus were in our shoes, he would work to create an atmosphere in society wherein homosexuals could be open about who they are without fear of oppression and persecution. If Jesus were in our shoes, those with a homosexual orientation would be treated with dignity and respect.
p. 178

One division Campolo makes is between 'orientation' and 'behavior', which may help explain some part of the statement above. Some, but not all.

For example, what constitutional rights have been denied homosexuals? When I see that, I think "he means homosexual marriage". And when he writes that they should be "treated justly", isn't that also what is meant, though other things may be thrown in too?

So, is he in essence saying "I think that homosexual sexual acts are sinful, but that we must recognize the people who engage in them, let them marry and have the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples, let them adopt children, and treat such marriages as normal and even right"?

If so, I have to ask "Why?"

Campolo says that Jesus, if He were here today (and really isn't He, I might add), would demand that homosexuals be treated justly. Very well, but what does that mean? Does it mean "Their sexual activities must be approved on socially and in the church"? Does it mean "Churches should not call homosexual sex sin"? Does it mean "Society must recognize gay marriage"?

To which I have to think, no, Jesus would not be for those things. I think very strongly that He would not approve of the mistreatment of Campolo fellow student in his boyhood, but at the same time, I don't think He would tell that student that his sexual choices were acceptable.

One can point to the instance when a group brought the adultress to Jesus for judgment. He points out the group's sinfulness, but also doesn't let her completely off the hook by telling her that while she is not condemned by Him, she is not to do that again.

We do not see Him demanding that her adultrous relationship be recognized and accepted by the nation. We do not see Him saying that her sin wasn't really a sin.

I would well image Jesus in a similar spot as Campolo gives concerning his fellow student being tormented by other students. He would likely have those tormentors remember their own sins (what magazines do they have hidden under their mattresses, or what were the one boy and his girlfriend doing in his car a couple of evenings ago). Perhaps (and I stress perhaps) after that, he would turn to boy being persecuted, and say that He will not condemn him, but he is not to act that way any more.

What I can't see Jesus doing is demanding that even if homosexuality is sinful, it should be recognized and accepted by society and homosexuals should be allowed to marry and be considered normal. There is a certain twisted-ness about that thinking, for how can we on one hand say that something is wrong and immoral, and on the other say that it should be lawful and legal?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

“Enough with the Bible already…”

The Bible & Homosexuality: Enough with the Bible Already

If it is truly the Bible that is causing some to hold these discriminatory beliefs, then perhaps we need to set the Bible aside for awhile. Perhaps we need to not construct a belief system about LGBT folk built on the foundation of a couple verses in scripture. Perhaps that isn’t healthy, fair, just or Christian.

For some, I believe the Bible has become an idol. Some place the Bible above Jesus’ compassion and love, Jesus’ radical inclusivity, and hold steadfast onto what they believe to be the correct interpretation of a small amount of verses that speak about same-sex relations. To those who repeatedly start quoting Leviticus and Romans verses as soon as anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality, I’d suggest perhaps you stick your Bible back up on the shelf for awhile. Perhaps it should collect a little bit of dust. And maybe, just maybe, you need to go out and grab coffee with someone who’s gay. Maybe you need to hear their story, learn about what they’ve been through, how they’ve experienced Christians and the church.

If it is the Bible that is causing us to delay accepting and celebrating LGBT persons as being fully human and fully created in the image of God, just as they are, then perhaps we need to say, “Enough with the Bible already…”

These statement are almost beyond commenting on, or needing commenting on. Seriously, what can be added to what is said?

I mean, really, how arrogant does this man have to be, to say that if the Bible disagrees with him and people of his ilk, then the Bible is the thing that has to be discarded?

And this man is strongly in the emergent slum, a contibutor to the book "An Emergent Manifesto of Hope".

But there are his words, voicing his willingness to thumb his nose at God and say "I know better than You!!!"

Sickening. And indicative of emergents as a whole.

ht Apprising Minsitries

Friday, December 12, 2008

regurgitate the answers we want from you

At first, it seemed odd that students regularly challenged me with the same statistics. Then, I discovered that the vast majority of them had seen the same video, America's Godly Heritage, by an amateur historian named David Barton. The fils argues that the United States was founded explicitly as an evangelical Christian nation. Large numbers of evangelical churches and schools use his material to "correct" the secular interpretation of American history.

In recent years, conservative evangelicals have created a cottage industry out of America's Christian heritage. From his television pulpit, Florida pastor D. James Kennedy weekly assails contemporary secular society's historical blindness and extols the nation's Christian past. Paul Marshall and David Manuel produced an influential textbook called The Light and the Glory that opens with God directing Christopher Columbus to found the New World. Across America, conservative Christians are claiming history as theirs--remaking the past in their own theological image of a Christian nation, even a specifically evangelical Protestant one.

In many ways, it is tempting to ignore this as the uneducated carping of people who believe the world was created in six twenty-four-hour days. And it is not difficult to award low grades to students echoing such claims.
Diane Butler Bass, Christianity for the Rest of Us, pp. 27-28

There is so much here, so I'm going to deal with it kind of like this.

First, there is this link to David Barton's Wallbuilders.

This isn't the only time Butler Bass mention (with derision) Barton, so one may safely that when a liberal like Butler Bass sees fit to try to pound on Barton so much, there must be a lot of truth in what he's saying.

I'm not familiar with "The Light and the Glory", so cannot comment on it. I am familiar with Kennedy (and I don't mean Ted), and I've even listened to Barton on a set of CDs of messages from Coral Ridge. I can recommend Coral Ridge strongly.

Concerning Creation, there are many resources. Although it probably doesn't necessarily support six-day Creation, the movie "Expelled" is still a good one for raising questions about the modern religion of evolution, and how strong-arm tactics (like Butler Bass mentions in the quotes above) are used against those who do raise questions.

(Funny, isn't it--postmoderns go on and on about questioning everything, but if you dare bring evidence for America's Christian heritage and maybe the biblical account of Creation, "it is not difficult to award low grades to students echoing such claims". Apparently, you may question anything except what pomos say you cannot question, or they will fail you in their classes.)

And although I haven't yet been able to visit it, the Creation Museum is only a few hours away from me. I really must get up there sometime.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

so much for sound doctrine

Far from any individual's theology being The Right One, in one sense all theologies are heresies. For theologies, like heresies, are major or minor distortions of the truth.

We know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
(I Corinthians 13:9-10)

In other words, what you believe may be correct, but is certainly not completely correct. The point? We must always be open to further insights that will give us fuller understanding of what God is all about.
Tony Campolo, Adventures in Mission the Point, p. 32

And, since this book is a tag team between Campolo and McLaren, of course McLaren likes Campolo's twist of phrase.

I love Tony's statement that "in one sense all theologies are heresies".
McLaren, p. 39

First, let's look at the passage Campolo points to as proof for his "in one sense all theologies are heresies" idea.

I Corinthians 13

8. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

9. For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

10. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away.

So, can this be said to mean that "in one sense all theologies are heresies"? Where?

What else does Scripture say about doctrines?

Titus 1:9
He (an elder) must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine, and refute those who oppose it.

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

I Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

I Timothy 1
8. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.

9. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers,

10. for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine

11. that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Paul has something to say to the issue of heresies.

Galatians 1
6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--

7. which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other thant heone we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

9. As we ahve already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

I Timothy 4:1
1. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:

2. Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.

3. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

4. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

It is not surprising that an emergent should 'love' the statement that "in one sense all theologies are heresies". Anything that would support their relativistic delusions is something for them to embrace. Anything they can grab on to to support lie they believe that sound doctrine is unnecessary and even dangerous is poison they will flock to.

Because if "in one sense all theologies are heresies", then it is only a short step to saying that there really aren't really any heresies at all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

arrogant misrepresentation

There is another story early in the book "Adventures in Missing the Point", a story which I have titled "An Exercise in Arrogant Misrepresentation".

It comes in a chapter written by McLaren, and he calls it the Parable of the Race (not that he's comparing his insights to Jesus or anything...). It's found on pages 26 and 27, and is too long to give in its entirety here, so here's a quick summation.

In a very dull land, a race is announced. When race time came, thousands were at the starting line, some to run and some to watch. When the race began, those who came to race ran a few steps, then started acting as if they had all won the race. After a time, those who were watched thought that, since the runners weren't running, maybe they should instead, and so they did.

The point of the story is to contend that salvation is not a one-time experience, and as well it seems to contend that all those who believe that salvation is something that happens in a moment are merely staying at the starting line, happy to be saved but not doing anything else. Thus, I call it "An Exercise in Arrogant Misrepresentation".

Because I can't think of a church I've ever spent any amount of time in which it has been said that the moment of salvation is all their is, that after that all else doesn't matter, that we aren't to worry about living holy and godly lives between salvation and Heaven. Perhaps the supposedly 'progressive' churches McLaren and Campolo have been around have been ones that have been contend to be 'only saved' (saved from what, though, may be wondered, as they seem to not believe in hell, or heaven, or for that matter even God or an afterlife), but out here in the real world, we think Christians need to live like Christians. We think that the moment of salvation is a good moment, a good start, and necessary place to begin, much as is represented in the book "Pilgrim's Progress", but just as in that book, salvation is only the beginning of the journey.

So, yes, I say this 'parable' of McLaren's is a misrepresentation, and I say that it's an arrogant one, too. To even pretend that up until he and his emergents came along the church was filled with people content simply to be happy to be saved and not concerned about living as Christians is distasteful and, yes, arrogant. I know better.

But I'm getting used to such arrogance from emergents.

Monday, December 8, 2008

are you being served?

The book "Adventures in Missing the Point" starts out (in a fashion which emergents no doubt approve of) with a story. Whether in the body or out of the body, I know not.

A man (maybe a real man, and maybe an account of a real event, again I don't know) is in a Home Depot, look for a thingamajig (that is the exact word used in the story). The fact that the man telling the story uses the words "consumer canyons" to describe the aisles at that HD tell me that two things are likely; one is "This man if probably a leftie", the other is "this man is probably not much of a handiman".

He has problem finding his thingamajig, so he starts trying to find "a little just-in-time customer service".

I want to scream: Take your eyes off those boxes! Get down off that stupid ladder! Quit visiting with your coworkers! Don't pick up that phone! Pay attention to me!

But I guess they don't, because he laments further...

But it's pointless, and I finally get it: I'm an interruption. An irritation. They'd prefer I wasn't in their building.

They've forgotten why they went into business. It wasn't to count boxes. Or visit each other. Or ignore the customer. They went into business to pay attention to the customer.

Employees like these have missed the point.
Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point, p. 11

Well, let us assume that such an event really happened, and the person isn't simply vindictive against Home Depot for whatever reason. Can we maybe take a somewhat fairer and more balanced look at what is going on?

For example, why is the one worker counting boxes? Could it be because that was what he was suppose to do? That was a part of his job? And it may actually be an important thing he's doing?

And why is the other one on a ladder? Could he be trying to help another customer, who wants something that is up so high?

And the ones talking, are they merely gossping with each other? Might one be trying to get some help for a customer by talking to the other? Or discussing something of equal importance?

And the one answering the phone, are you the customer so certain that it is not important? That the phone-answerer is not helping another customer, or doing something else of importance.

You say that the reason such a place is in business is "to pay attention to the customer". I don't know about that. I would say rather that the main business of a Home Depot is to provide a place where people can buy the types of things they provide--building materials, home fixtures, tools, yard equipment, and any others I haven't listed. Even if we grant that customer service is important, the fact that you have for whatever reason at that moment a bit of a lack in such service still doesn't mean you can thus and therefore make the judgment that the employees have "missed the point".

Maybe it's not all about you. Maybe you should go and trying to find someone who is free to help you, instead of judging those busy doing their jobs. Perhaps you may even want to wander a bit, read the signs in the aisles, and maybe just maybe you'll get a tad bit of satisfaction out of finding the thingajig all by yourself.

Maybe you should cut the employees some slack. A store like that is a complex thing, and most of them are doing their jobs, and likely doing it pretty well. Deal with your abandonment and clingy issues and either find help yourself or help yourself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

word games with the Word

...Also by the way, "the Word of God" is never used in the Bible to refer to the Bible. It couldn't since the Bible as a collection of 66 books hadn't been compiled yet.
McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 181

So, when scripture tells us "all Scripture is inspired by God", that doesn't refer to the contents of the Bible? Or is this just a game these people play, like saying "Jesus wasn't a Christian"?

Because this is a moot point, a point that is essentially pointless, a subtle means to undermine the rightful authority of the Bible. If the Bible is the collection of those writings that are the Word of God, then trying to say what McLaren says here simply clouds the issue.