Monthly Archives: January 2011

Confirmation Sucks, A Rebuttal Pt 1 of 3

Rob Hahn presented an interesting article entitled Confirmation Sucks… and while I agree with him as to a number of points he made, my thought is not that confirmation sucks, but more so that there is a lot of room for improvement. Its not so much in the confirmation process itself, but moreso the often lacking Christian education leading up to it.

His analysis of the focus on knowing “about” God vs. “knowing” God is pretty on the spot though. The ELCA has a multitude of amazing resources that can do a great job of presenting much information about God. Where the rubber hits the road though, is making the connection from knowing about God to knowing and experiencing God.

Robs primary objection, is that the focus ends up being more knowing about God, than knowing and experiencing God. Sadly, the resulting outcome of such is pretty predictable. For far too many, they just walk away after confirmation. They were able to jump some hoops, parrot back some information, and then they think, yep, done with that… Most certainly the statistics of youth falling away from the church lend credence to such analysis.

Where I think his analysis falls apart is his assumptions that knowing about God from the get go is not that important, that one can learn what they need to later on. Granted, such a view seems to align with Luther writing’s quite a bit… most assuredly Luther was not impressed with confirmation, albeit he did not prohibit its usage. It’s also true that the apostles didn’t go through a lengthly training program before Jesus asked them to follow Him (all one has to do is look at some of the outlandish statements and questions they asked to find they were pretty lacking Christian education wise).

Luther

It is quite true that “knowing” God for some, can come about the hard way through experience, when everything crashes and burns. Its also true, that “knowing” God can come about an easier way, through knowing God a little bit, and knowing a fair amount “about” God first, so that when the hard experiences come, one is somewhat ready.

Yes, scripture alone doesn’t bring one to that point of view… but most assuredly tradition, reason, and the experience of others certainly reinforces it

Yet another aspect that I think is important is God’s action in confirmation. Again, Luther dint hold such in high regard… but then we must consider a couple bits of scripture. First, God’s word doesn’t return void, as noted in Isaiah 55:11, albeit such is something far outside our scope as humans to understand. And yes, we can hose things up as demonstrated in Mark 7:13. Perhaps such might be part of Lather’s justification for his views. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to see the incredible retention aspects of confirmation when someone returns to the church after a 20-30 year absence. I’d say that without God acting, such would be impossible…

Lastly, there is the basic ad psyche principle of material learned first is retained to a greater degree than later material. It should also be noted, that if later material ends up being in conflict, it could take a long time and significant effort to relearn things another way. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the following video where Father Barron discusses you tube heresies.

Imagine how ones world would be rocked if they grow up in one Bibliological reference frame, only to have to relearn what their church actually teaches years later. Multitudes of conflicts and internal struggles show up due to vastly different Bibliology, with CWA09 being one of the most recent examples of differing reference frames in conflict.

Confirmation is just too important not to be taken seriously. Part 2 will look at some of the problems in greater depth, and part 3 of this series presents some solutions..

W2 Verification of Tithing, Cool or Not Cool

“Is it all right for your church to ask you for your W2, for tithing purposes?” was a question Brant posted on facebook and the comments lit up like a wild fire (over 200 in a short period of time). Most folks were aghast, and the “its between God and you” which somewhat aligns with the scripture about not bragging about good works came up time and time again. On the other hand, the verbiage commonly used in the comments suggested it seemed more so a privacy/culture issue than a sin avoidance one. Also considering the average tithe is around 2%, rather than 10%, much less the 23-1/3% called out in the OT, all the outrage in the comment section doesn’t add up either. Ie accountability would seem to increase those figures, and that would be a good thing.. but then its personal accountability, not the other guy, so maybe not. (bearing in mind, the law is fulfilled, and contemporary tithe concepts are drastically different than what the OT actually presents)

Upon a bit further thought, I came across three big logical inconsistencies.

First, many commentators have suggested it would be fine to require W2 submission if the church was providing help to a down and out person. Face value wise seems to be a double standard, the poor have to share the info, the rich can keep it hidden away. It seems counter to the whole bit about those who have been given more, are also subject to being required more etc. Admitted, it does seem like good stewardship to minimize fraud via verification.

Second, why should the church membership operate under less accountability than the government and charities, where salary data is published for accountability purposes? It would seem that the church body should set the example when it comes to accountability, rather than preferring to hide things in the dark.

Third, Jesus asked the rich young ruler to sell all he had and to follow him. Simply providing a document is pretty minor in contrast with what was asked of the rich young ruler… and he had already heard Christ’s words, the door was open, but he chose to walk away. Yet, many commentators openly said, if such were to occur, they too would walk away. Granted, folks are at different places in their walk, and also they are called to different things… but to walk away?

That being said, I would tend to think of such a practice negatively, knowing that if implemented, other sins within and around the body of believers would likely multiply. It also might present a barrier to the Gospel, if showing said W2 was necessary to venture in the door. Lastly, there is also the aspect of obligation, vs responding in love for God and one another. The W2 aspect would shift things into the obligation realm, rather than the love one, which obviously would be not cool…

It is an interesting question to ponder though.

Sanitizing the Wise Men

I’ve been thinking about Epiphany and the wise men for a bit. Its interesting how a so called sanitized view of those fellows seems to pervade much of Christian society.

Many folks hold them out to be Kings, and I think such is reasonable if one looks at their visit fullfilling old testament prophecy. The thing is, to simply state they are kings from afar, and that they were astronomers is only part, and realistically only a sanitized part of the story. More so, I think we loose something if the story is just left at that.

The study of the stars is what leads us to think of astronomy, today, a very hard science with an incredible amount of really nasty mathematical equations behind it, albeit extremely visually appealing. Back then, the study of stars was likely a lot more oriented along the lines of astrology, rather than orbital mechanics and spectral analysis.

The word magi is sometimes used to describe the wise men. Magi, were typically followers of Zoroaster, and for all practical purposes were Persian priest astrologers. If we do a bit of digging into the term “wise men”, we find it also refers to Simon the Magician (a believer, albeit an inept one, and for whom the sin of Simony is named) in Acts, yet another connection to astrology and sorcery. We also find Elymas, another sorcerer, albeit one who tried to lead people astry.

Lets look at the gifts they brought… gold, frankincense and myrhh. A vastly different type of offering than sacrificed animals as was the common practice of the day. Some records suggest that Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh were given to the mythical God Apollo hundreds of years prior. In todays world, we think very positively of the gifts… I’m not so sure said combination gifts would be looked at as being very popular amongst those who ascribe to a legalistic point of view back then.

Even more so, imagine the outrage amongst those who didnt like it that Jesus ate with sinners, that the first ones who came to be with him were sorcerers, and were guided by a star. God pretty much condemns folks who practice such in the OT, but yet he used exactly such folks to be the first recorded to see his Son.

What I find really impactful, is despite the practices and lifestyle of the wisemen, they knew of the Messiahs birth, they gave homage to God in his most humblest state, as a mere babe. If one does ascribe them to be Kings, their actions seem even more powerful. They set aside their works, their world, their lives to find what God had illuminated to them… They didnt miss the point, like so many others, who had the right lifestyle, the right actions, the right ancestry… yet got it all wrong.