Monthly Archives: January 2009

Why you should not believe in evolution

Was the title of a letter to the editor in the local newspaper… and its like ?????

Evolution is not a faith, it is not a religious practice, it is a scientific theory. One does not believe in Newton’s laws, or Maxwell’s equations, or even the space time four vector. One may use them, and may trust that they are reasonably accurate models of physical systems, but one does not believe in them. Granted, there are always extremists who elevate evolution, (probably Newton too) to a belief system, but that’s a different matter entirely.

The authors premise is that evolution causes one not to believe in the Bible, and it is a way for Satan to instill doubt, which then leads to not believing other parts of the Bible, which then leads to folks living a life of sin, which then leads to judgement, and then damnation.

Eek! we got another one of them works not faith propagators! Well,giving the benefit of a doubt… there is obviously a balance. Works are a result of faith, and one has to be really clear as to not get the order screwed up… but far too many focus on works and a theology of glory, as contrasted with a theology of the cross…. and a theology of glory often leads to a works based faith, rather than works based upon faith.

Getting back on track, in some ways, the author is correct. The theory of evolution may cause folks to question a literalistic Biblical interpretation, and that can lead to not taking other parts of the Bible literally… And if one has always held to a very literalistic framework, this can potentially be a bad path to go down, especially one without the support of other Christians. It can also be an awakening to a theology of the cross and a faith builder as well, but in shredding a theology of glory, there is risk.

I dont know, in some ways, the whole creation mess and evolution vs non-evolution is a distraction from the Gospel.. in others I am firmly convinced God uses it to bring us closer to him, and that’s irrespective of a path of a literal or a metaphorical Genesis.

The thing is, we all pick and choose what is literal, what is metaphorical, whats allegory, whats a parable, and what passed away when the OT was fulfilled, what is no longer applicable as the temple is gone, what falls under historical critical methods, what is applicable to a specific church, culture, or time, what is under a different dispensation, whats under a different covenant, what is in error due to translation, what is this, what is that, what is in general whatever is a good way  to not hear of the mysteries of faith, to not hear of original sin,  to not hear the free grace of God in Christ Jesus, to not hear the hard parts of God’s words

Please note, I said hear… I did not say act upon, that is the role of the Holy Spirit to convince, or not to convince. There are things which clearly are not applicable for today.. but each group will have different approaches to what is current, and what is not, and that diversity is probably a good thing, as it keeps us honest, and open to see how God reveals his truth across the body of believers. No one, not even the most fire and brimstone guy, or the most far out green dude, takes all of scripture literally.

A few examples/rants 🙂

  • Only some take Christ’s words literally as to “This is my body”, instead it is replaced with the much easier to hear, this is a remembrance type of ceremony.
  • Many do not use the model of Christian socialism as called out in Acts as something to follow, but more so.. it was good for people of that time, but social justice and taking care of the poor are the governments problem today, or no, we don’t need to take care of them at all, if they don’t work, they don’t eat!
  • Few tithe 23-1/3″ as called out in the OT, saying it passed away, yet chose to pound on homosexuality as being an abomination, all the while tithing sub 5%, even though in other matters outside of tithing may believe the OT was fulfilled, or was under a different dispensation.
  • Few forgive all debts every 7 years as called out in the OT, and instead delight when they can get 20% plus returns on their investments, despite the admonitions against usary. (well up until recently)
  • Many do not take Jesus words literally as to turning the other cheek, and instead look for ways to wage war and/or use the death penalty or deadly measures of self defense.

It is a matter of picking and choosing what is literal, and what is metaphorical, and of course what laws to follow, and what laws we can dispense with… a huge problem with works based theology, as the works selected are the ones which are the social norms of a group of people/believers, not necessarily all the works presented in scripture.

Thus, I think the authors issue is more than his version of literalistic interpretation is in conflict with the theory of evolution. He likely depends upon a literal, and chronologically correct view of Genesis and the age of the earth, and his faith is likely based upon certain absolutes which he and his culture chose over the years. To consider that Genesis is a metaphor or a parable of something much more intense and much larger, to him is anathema. Instead, he finds comfort in the readings as they are.

I think thats a reasonable conclusion, but it is not without dangers, ranging from Biblioidolatry, to a theology of glory, to works based salvation, all of which are pretty scary, but over time, can hopefully be mitigated as folks work out their salvation.

The collateral damage of nastiness

I read an interesting post this morning (and lost the url….) where the author talks about folks being nasty over smaller things, and not so much over the larger. I responded in the context of contracts, and about Christians holding their own. Ie, don’t roll over in such matters etc, and an aspect of righteous anger, and that often times there is underlying justification.

Yet, we also know that nastiness somewhat works to resolve issues… amazing how going viral on twitter can bring even the most rigid corp to their knees. It also doesn’t work at times, and thats where an unattached attorney can often resolve things. (of course the issue of Christian-Christian litigation is problematic… but most of the times, its amazing what legal letterhead can do 🙂 )

The problem with nastiness is two fold. First, we have folks trying to justify being nasty way beyond the original wrong, and second, and I believe its the real big deal is the collateral damage that results. God will deal with the justification aspect in the end on both sides… which is why Christian lawyers can work wonders in the short term, although apart from that, such justification may also be an exercise in wiggling around sin and that is never cool.

The collateral damage I’m referring to is also three fold.

  • The direct damage to the people we interact with, who often times have little to no authority to effect resolution. Being nasty is hurtful, unkind, and far from the fruit of the spirit, and its magnified with the folks its directed at being near powerless. (Gotta remember that myself should I ever interact with Alltel again)
  • Nastiness multiplies, just as kindness can.
  • Nastiness eats away from within.

I really like what Proverbs 21:6-8 has to say, and I think it can apply to a multitude of arenas in the world of business and contracts

6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue
Isthe fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.[b]
7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them,[c]
Because they refuse to do justice.
8 The way of a guilty man is perverse;[d]
But as for the pure, his work is right.

So going forward, what to do when disputes arise. James gives us good caution in chapter 3.

5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

Matthew Henry comments on Proverbs 15:4 that much good can come as well.

A good tongue is healing to wounded consciences, by comforting them; to sin-sick souls, by convincing them; and it reconciles parties at variance.

Why Aren’t Christians Known For That?

The proverbial question of what identifies a Christian is going on over at Everyday Liturgy. I sort of took issue with the premise presented, so brought it back over here. (I get too verbose, and dont want to derail another authors blog). That being said, the premise is Christians should be identified by their spiritual discipline. I completely disagree, albeit I’d rather be known as one that prays the cannonical hours, than one filled with bigotry and hate.

And bigotry and hate is a huge problem, its not just the Fred Phelps type folks. Egads, talk about a terrible witness over the prop 8 deal in CA. Ideally. one of the things things that should come to mind as to what Christians are known for is love. Sadly, the first thing that often comes to mind is anything but.. Not good at all.

Getting back to the blog’s premise and how I disagree… as far as spiritual disciplines go… we should absolutely not be known by them. Jesus upended many of the spiritual disciplines of the time, and in Mark 2, going so far as to say the Sabbth is for man, and not the reverse. His very spendy grace sets us way way away from the works oriented activities of Judiasm and Islam.

Yet, people have historically always tried to replace grace with works… even going back to some of the earlier church writings, one can see things starting to deviate, and I think thats whats happened today with love being changed to hate. Its all focused on me and to some extent power that comes from me doing… not what God does. Its likely also what is underlying the conversions of folks from Christianity to other faiths. Many are looking and not listening, and as part of that they seek to get closer to God by works, rather than allowing God to come to them. And with works, for a time, it will feel right to do so. Note the phrase feel right to do so, and thats what works do, they give a false and fleeting sense of closeness to God, a feeling. In some ways, I guess one could even replace love with works… Its a ton easier to do works, than it is to love in many cases.

In fact, this is what the Lutheran church went through with the Pietism movement, fortunately it came fast, and died away pretty fast too, albeit there are still some remnants around. It was a dangerous time for sure, sadly many fell off the narrow path, and it took a long time to come back.

Now, this does not mean I think spiritual practices are bad. Certainly the office of the hours, the creeds, even the Rosary, can be pretty powerful. However, to be known for them… that takes the gift of Christ dieing for us on the cross and throws it out the window. We need to be known as followers of Him, and the love for Him and one another, not what works we choose to do or not do.

Can the church help with state budget deficits?

Minnesota Family Council: Solve our state $5 billion budget deficit by raising taxes? That’s $1,000 per man, woman and child..

The blog author makes a good point, as to scaling back our expectations of government.  I think he is onto something… but whether the govt provides a service or not, the demand for the service is still going to exist. Granted, there is a lot of waste in govt, whether it be NCLB, huge corrections and judicial overhead for minor crimes, or layer upon layer of oversight and duplication, waste exists all across the board, it obviously does not need to stay around.

For things that are real needs, what if the church were to step back into the role of the early church. Or what if at a minimum, the churches thought was not to direct people to government right away, but to consider that there may be other solutions. Far too many times, I’ve heard churches throw up their hands, and send even their members to the govt for help. Whether it be financial/mortgage issues, childcare,  chronic illness or disability,  elder-care, or even utility emergencies, the churches response is all too often… go see the govt, they should be able to help, we cant, or we can’t anymore. And I’ve heard that from even the most pro big business, pro Republican, pro small govt, anti tax, uber conservative churches I’ve ever come across… It makes no sense, but it is what it is.  (One of the bad parts of being on the inside of ministry, you get exposed to a ton of garbage…)

Granted, the church is not a end all solution… as there will be people that find the churches teachings anathema, or due to very bad experiences with churches/minsters/etc, will not come anywhere near a church. And for those folks, and for when the church fails, govt still needs to have a safety net, but such net could be a much much smaller one and a much lower cost one that what we have today. Imagine the savings, if the church did step up to the plate, Even if the church succeeded only 25% of the time, the savings alone could erase much of the states deficit in the human services domain.

A fellow I used to minister with used to call me too idealistic, and yes he is right… such a plan is filled with the potential for failures left and right.  Churches will not want to step up and take on an alzheimers patient, who is too far gone to really stay alone, but still of right enough mind to be 90% independent. Nor will they want to cover the utilities for a young single mom who lost 4 jobs in a row due to the economy crashing, or the paraplegic kid who fell off a cliff, and whose mom needs help getting him back in bed at 3AM. These are all things the church could do, but likely is not willing to do.

The thing is, rather than throwing these problems over the wall to the govt, there may be partial solutions. It may be a group of folks who will take the 3AM call on a rotating basis, it may be 10 or so members who each step in to help out someone with a utility bill or weatherization, or even a group of folks to check in on the alzheimers patient periodically.  None would necessarily be an official church function, but if church members individually knew of a need, would they step up to the plate.

I think many more would than those who would decline, and I also think many would do so over the long term. Remember the paraplegic kid will grow old… but if he falls, someone needs to help him at 3AM even when he is 60. Govt may yank his chain and fail him by cutting funding for an overnight aide during a budget cut, leaving him to lie on the floor until the morning. However, if the church has stepped up for 40-50 years, one could be pretty sure, there is no way a a group of church volunteers would ever let that happen.

These, for the most part are things which are not expensive when covered by volunteers, but are spendy when provided by the govt. For the financial side of things as well, there is almost always a way, but it may take a creative approach to make it happen, something which again, govt is ill equiped to handle, ie rules and regs make creative solutions impossible, but well within the realm of the church who can operate unhindered for the most part.

2 Kingdoms, 2 storeys, 2 universes

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Sermon: Being Missional: It’s All God’s.

Jim makes some fascinating points on contemporary Christianitys stance on separating the sacred from the secular, perhaps even more poignant as to how such a stance ties into the genocide in Rwanda.

He also mentions a parishoners comment about paid clergy getting to live God’s way in sort of an alternate world. Again the separation of the spiritual from the secular world.

In the comments, a fellow mentioned an Orthodox priest’s blog where he looks at things in a similiar vein. Ie the separation aspect. The title is Christianity in a one storey universe, its a must read.

Now, as  Lutheran, this could be problematic sort of…. We have Luthers two kingdoms to consider, where he specifically looks at authority in 2 parts, the spiritual realm, and the secular  realm. Apart from it being historical within my faith tradition, scripture backs it up pretty solidly. Ie, Jesus states his kingdom is not of this world, and to render unto Caesar etc. However, one has to go a bit further, and look at what Paul wrote as well… We are to obey authority, but only up to the point where it does not conflict. This is also driven home in Revelation as concerns the beast.

The thing is, Luthers 2 Kingdoms, Christ’s words, Paul’s writings as concerns the separation aspect, really only look at the civil authoritation role… they do not split life as a whole into secular and spiritual. (Fwiw, just as I wrote about earlier today, wearing the minister hat or the tech hat in life… I split it right there… today!!!!) Looks like I really needed to hear Jim’s sermon!

And I know this… I get bent out of shape over errant eschatology, as it often makes heaven on a separate plane… and it leads to a rather cavalier approach to the hear and now, just as a focus on fire insurance soteriology, as contrasted with a sacremental life of picking up the cross,  and its continual connection and walk with God in the hear and now… rather than yearning for the next at the expense of today.

Of course there is a hope aspect… sometimes things can be pretty dark in the hear and now, yet that is where Revelation also gives us hope in the here and now. Its only when we misdirect our readings and put the hope and love presented in Revelation, that we get in unobtainium domains, and hope changes to trouble and love fades.

If you knew, what would you do?

Mobasoft, LLC » Blog Archive » If you knew, what would you do?.

A fascinating question… I think there are 2 issues at hand when it comes to dealing with others as concerns compassion, and to add a tad more complexity to the mix, there is the issue of differences in the type/level of compassion appropriate to the situation.

First, coming at this with a technical pov… the issues are scalabiliy, and sustainability…. followed by types/levels.

On a scalability pov, I dont think its possible, nor healthy to be fully “on” with everyone we meet. Certainly when I have the minister hat on, its fully engaged for the most part, but when I’ve got the tech dude hat on, much less so.  There is a time and place for downtime, and being few of us can retreat to the wilderness, we retreat inwardly, despite appearance wise being very much in the world. I guess the challenge is to develop the discernment needed to come back up at the right times… Almost makes me wonder if the wilderness deal is really where its at.

The other thing is sustainability. Its reasonably easy to jump in when needed if one can plan around it. Its a ton different when its something like long term chronic illness. In the example portrayed, there is no time duration presented.., if the person was going to die in a car crash in 3 weeks, full bore commitment is a non issue, it would likely be easy for nearly anyone. If its going to be 10 years where someone is gravely ill for much of the time, thats another deal entirely.

And that brings us back to the issue of intensity… the example portrays an extreme case, knowing when a person is going to die, and our response. The thing is, life is never clear cut. Is it the person we ended up brushing off on the way to a meeting? Or is it the person who seemed like they might want to talk, but needed encouragement to do so, and we were to slow to pick on it, and they walked away instead? Or is it the staff member at church who seems to have it all together, at least on the outside? And then our responses, is it overt, is it fixit-fast,  or is it just being there, or even just being available…  Discernment is never cut and dried….

Whether in ministry, or tech, on the way to a meeting, or just hanging out, we should never blow others off, or disregard their feelings, but always try to be compassionate, and concerned. Thats really the bigger picture we need. The discernment, and the how part may come in time, but taking the first steps is perhaps the biggest step one can make… an error at an attempt is 1000000 times better than an intentional error to ignore someone in need.

Pope Benedict on World Communications day, tons of good stuff!

Some pretty powerful concepts imho. The full text is at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20090124_43rd-world-communications-day_en.html

The theme for the year…

In anticipation of the forthcoming World Communications Day, I would like to address to you some reflections on the theme chosen for this year – New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.

Online Friendships

Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about the real love that is at the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk 12:30-31). In this light, reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

Moderation

We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation.

End the digital divide

We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.

Web Evangelism

I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. In the early life of the Church, the great Apostles and their disciples brought the Good News of Jesus to the Greek and Roman world. Just as, at that time, a fruitful evangelization required that careful attention be given to understanding the culture and customs of those pagan peoples so that the truth of the gospel would touch their hearts and minds, so also today, the proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent”. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm.

The Cree Catechism, Vatican Splendors, Evangelism

I was able to attend Vatican Splendors and one of the things which was absolutely fascinating was the Cree Catechism. Talk about a nifty tool for Catholic evangelism… but short of the exhibit I saw at the Minnesota History Center, it seems its dropped off the planet. Its really too bad, as the potential seems so incredible, albeit obviously the text would need to be translated into a different languages.

Now, being this is a Lutheran blog, why discuss a Catholic evangelism tool… Well, there is a problem imho. Sacremental based Christianity, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, etc doesnt lend itself to bullet points such as prevalent in other faiths theology. Ie things like the 4 Spiritual Laws, the Navigators etc. For us, the Gospel is life, not a series of steps, where in one gets fire insurance and walks away in the worse case, to the best case where someone gets on fire and has a great lifelong walk with Christ, yet still carries remnants of a theology which may or may not come back to bite them. Dont get me wrong, some Lutheran churches do use the 4 Spiritual Laws and the Navigator tools or their likeness… but then correct the theology in follow up… But why do we have to present problematic theology from the get go?

And thats what got me thinking about this Cree Catechism. Its a pictorial presentation of the Gospel, and it presents key Catholic doctrine pictorially on a colored scroll. Sure, its not as concise as bullet points, but I believe the images do a good service to Catholic theology, esp the unchurched, and with the doctrinal concepts covered visually as well… talk about a great tool for evangelism!

Now, some Lutheran take the view that all we need is scripture, some go so far as to even condemn overhead projectors/technology in worship. And in many ways I can sort of agree… yet, to not use the arts, to not use our understanding of the human mind, cultures, and technology to present the Gospel I think causes us to be a lot less effective than we could be. Remember how Paul preached in Acts… he met people where they were at, even preached all night. Had there been some tools available to assist, I can’t help but think he would have been an early adopter. Thus, I dont think its appropriate to nay say other ways of doing things… even Paul rejoiced when others preached the Gospel out of envy. Thus, even if a guy got rich off of a late night informercial multimedia theologically correct Gospel presentation CD series, I think we ought to rejoice as well that folks were being reached for Christ, even if the motivation was pretty iffy.

And that brings me back to this Cree Catechism. Its a scroll, its in color, its visually very artfully done, and its theology seems to very much align with the Catholic church. Within the ELCA, we have uber huge and diverse educational offerings, in many ways, I think we are way ahead of most other churches, especially in breadth… yet for envangelism tools, we still seem lacking, especially in reaching out to the unchurched. No Lutheran church should ever have to default to the 4 laws and the problematic theology that goes with them. On the other hand, I do respect the churches that choose such a path… but then their evangelists need to do a pretty good job to explain out the problem areas, and even more so during follow up.

Thoughts on Psalm 26 cocky or not ???

So last night, we were reading Psalm 26, and its like whoa, whats up with this deal. I chose some selected verses, rather than the whole thing.

1. Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
without wavering.

4 I do not sit with deceitful men,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;

5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers
and refuse to sit with the wicked.

9 Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
my life with bloodthirsty men,

10 in whose hands are wicked schemes,
whose right hands are full of bribes.

11 But I lead a blameless life;
redeem me and be merciful to me.

Its pretty cocky, and Pharisee like, and on the surface, seems counter to much of the rest of scripture. I did a fair amount of googling, and few if any want to look at this, and of those, many try a fair amount of wiggling… I even went to a Jewish website to get their take on things (for much of the OT, Rabbi’s have incredible insight!) and of course the CCEL to see what the ancients had to say.

The end result, I’m really not convinced by the commentary of others… I look at the plain text meaning of things, then look at history when its available or can be inferred, and see if that will then jibe with the plain text presented.

The end result, as far as I can figure, this may well be a case of David being over righteous prior to his fall. Sure, there is the possibility of him looking to the future, and God’s grace making him whole (many commentaters allude to this) but to me, it doesnt square all that well with the plain text reading. Another possibility is he is bargaining with God… some commentators alluded to that aspect. Verses 2-3, 6-8, and 12 which I left out earlier may lead some credence to that aspect.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind;

3 for your love is ever before me,
and I walk continually in your truth.

6 I wash my hands in innocence,
and go about your altar, O LORD,

7 proclaiming aloud your praise
and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

8 I love the house where you live, O LORD,
the place where your glory dwells.

12 My feet stand on level ground;
in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.

I just dont know for sure… bargaining, grace, cockyness, over righteousness. There are a lot of things here for sure, its a most interesting read, especially in light of Jesus words.