Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Ecclesiology is the study of doctrine pertaining to the Church itself as a community or organic entity, and with the understanding of what the “church” is — ie., its role in salvation, its origin, its relationship to the historical Christ, its discipline, its destiny (see Eschatology) and its leadership. It is, therefore, the study of the Church as a thing in itself, and of the Church’s self-understanding of its mission and role.

Worship Should Be Exceedingly Boring?

Is worship really just about entertainment / personal fullfillment? Certainly if one follows the style wars, such seems to be the case. Some are entertained, reach emotional highs, or find inner peace via the liturgy and an organ or chants, others find similar benefits via a folk, polka, or even a rock band…

Even the following from 8 reasons the worship industry is killing worship this AM points to the personal entertainment domain.

Just like good art, Christian worship demands our engagement. In a sense, worship should be exceedingly boring in that it doesn’t offer that over-stimulation that the masses crave. But to those who really give themselves in participation, it is more entertaining than the anything media (mainstream or Christian) can offer, because it offers something so radically alternative to fallen mundanity.

So, if we are looking to escape the mundane, change seems to be the answer, as over time, pretty much any form of worship is going to loose its grass is always greener over there appeal at some point. The thing is… worship isn’t just about us… its a lot bigger than that.
Somehow it seems discussions of worship devolve inwards rather than as a means of connecting to God and to the body of Christ as a whole. Certainly its a lot easier to engage in worship style wars, rather than to ponder the connections we share across a whole multitude of Christian churches, even those who are drastically different than us. Likewise, its easier to ponder painting an offshore church somewhere than it is to engage with and enter into fall cleanup tasks for a church or community center with declining and/or greying membership within a 50 mile radius… even more so if they hold to differing beliefs!

Imagine what might happen….

Thanks to for the image.

Image courtesy of

And yet, just because worship isn’t only about us, it doesn’t mean we should become gnostics and deny our anthropology. After all, we were created in the image of God… would He really approve of boredom in worship, even if we achieved all the other facets?

Likewise, service to others as a form or worship doesn’t mean we should deny our beliefs. Would God really approve hiding our light, or worse, selectively withholding our gifts to try and manipulate others into believing as we do? The body of Christ is pretty huge, I fully believe it can do this… I think the bigger question is to whether we are willing to go there.

Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows

I’ve been plowing through some of my old bass stuff, and came across Rose Colored Stain Glass Windows from back in the 80’s. It was especially cool back then, as a bunch of us were within inches of opening for Petra… but alas it was not to be. That being said, the music stayed with me over the years, this tune especially.

Its written from the standpoint of an church / belief system, where in they are so apart from the world with their white knuckle sin avoidance thing or related polity, that their light from within is so dimmed, that it doesn’t reach very far, if it does at all.

Looking through rose colored stained glass windows
Never allowing the world to come in
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
Making the light as it come from within, so dim, so dim

On a church level, yep it can absolutely resonate if one is not careful.

Going a bit further, it easily reaches down to the individual level too. In the days immediately after my wife’s passing, lots of folks said, hey, come over and we can talk… ok cool, and it ends up I end up wearing the listeners hat, as there are a ton of hurting people out there. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine… but I had a ton of stuff to process myself. More than a few times it was like, egads, my grief is tough enough in and of itself, and now I’ve got a ton of others folks issues and concerns to deal with too.

Granted, I did hose myself in this boundary wise, as grief tends to seriously impair judgment and boundaries on all sides… so traditional coping mechanisms I’d used to deal with other folks pain didn’t work worth a hoot as my boundaries were shot to bits. Fortunately an amazing friend did lend an ear and walked with me as I processed the grief of my wife’s passing. On the one hand, its pretty freaky how quickly the clouds of grief left as concerned my late wife, on the other, the rose colored stained glass windows as concerns others shot up to the moon the first week couple weeks…

Obviously they can’t remain there for too long..

Out on your doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe, they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute

Thus, the challenge, those rose colored stained glass windows are super comfortable, and one could argue that they do assist greatly with self care… but there is a point when they need to be taken down. I’ve had some fascinating super deep convo’s on walls, windows, vulnerability and boundaries this week… I’m about 30% of the way academically, but the big challenge will be reconstructing the boundaries within the construct of a new normal, whatever it is to be. I was starting the process back in early June, but alas that form of normal was not to be, so a new season of construction is in order. The rose colored stain glass windows remain.

Problems w Conservative Argument Against SSM….

A fellow from my aviation universe posted a seemingly very well thought out conservative argument against SSM. It was not meant to convince, but more so to help others understand his opposition to it. I have to give the author types a lot of credit, there was a lot of thought put into it, and unlike the hating types, these Christian aviation folks really seem to be trying to walk a Christlike path. It did receive a lot of praise, from the conservative crowd… but crickets from most everyone else.

The problem is the vastly different frames of reference… the appeals to the scriptures, the focus on love and the hope of the Gospels are shared by both camps. Likewise, the same scriptures used by those against SSM marriage, are also commonly used by those for same sex marriage…. and thus we have vastly different outcomes from mostly the same reference material.

Being Pastor Steve and I have spent way too much time arguing back and forth over the years on this very issue, I thought it would be worth shedding some light on things I discovered over the years.

The following factors are at play:

The weighting factors leading to approval or dismissal of higher criticism as concerns the 7 clobber texts (6 here, plus this one) plays a huge role. If all we had were today’s English translations, things would be pretty easy to sort out. Alas, even something as simple as reading the texts in the original languages sends a drastically different message, and that alone should raise the red flags. In addition, since we have a ton of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and literature of that time period, even more of this shifts into a land of intense gray with higher criticism. There is no easy way to resolve this…

The perception of antinomianism (anti-law) is at the hands of both parties.  In the case against SSM, if one merely dismisses the 7 clobber texts without the use of higher criticism, such a charge seems quite reasonable… the proverbial, these scriptures are too hard to hear, so we won’t consider them is very much anti-law..

On the other hand, if one looks to Matthew 25 and the greatest commandments, follow by Jesus explicit statement that the law and the prophets hang from them… the argument against SSM ends up coming from the bottom up, rather than top down… and thus, we end up anti-law mode in reference to the greatest commandments. Consider how often Jesus worked on the Sabbath… which really was more important  big picture wise than adhering explicitly to the third commandment.

Both of the above antinomianism scenarios are very hard to understand by the opposing parties on the opposing side… I’m not quite sure how to get past this one either. Belinda suggested that looking at the scriptures as a whole vs proof texting might be a helpful route.

Another factor that plays off of this is the difference between complementarianism and egalitarianism in marriage as concerns consent. Within the construct of egalitarianism, consent plays a huge role, where as its downplayed a fair amount in complementarianism. While this difference plays out mostly in the haterz realm with straw man arguments (ie what next, marry your dog or pet fish), I’ve often seen a semblance of decreased focus on consent circling through specific sectors of the conservative domain… which often leads to errant assumptions that one is talking about the same thing, when in reality they are not. I think this is one of the easier things to process through such that both parties can understand.

Lastly, a somewhat over shadowing aspect is sanctity/disgust as defined in Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory. I remember when a couple young gal friends of mine told me some years they were moving in with each other and starting a relationship. In my mind, the relationship was a most beautiful thing, but I also had some concerns about cohabitation aspect / the lack of church community support and preparation that would be available to them if they were not same gender. Even today, all these years later, I find the churches inaction in this domain bordering on negligence. No doubt it will change with time… but still, isn’t every relationship worth supporting? And there in lies a huge difference in the sanctity/disgust domain… many would not find such a relationship a beautiful thing, some might even find it borderline disgusting.

Despite all of the above seemingly impossible paths going forward, I came across the following from Brandon’s blog where he publishes an anonymous story of a young Catholic girl trying to process SCOTUS decision… there is much wisdom in the young. I think the next generation will do us proud in a variety of ways.

Jean Valjean, Stolen Cookies, and #chsocm

In Les Miserables, the main character Jean Valjean makes off with the churches silverware. He is caught, brought back to the church, where in the priest spins a tale that the silverware is a gift and admonishes him for forgetting to take the silver candlesticks as well. Such sets the stage for major change in Valjeans life.

Things are quite different at a church in Florida.

From the Palm Beach Post.

A homeless man stole cookies from a church in the 10700 block of Okeechobee Boulevard. A deputy found him sitting by the building’s entrance. He said he had been looking for assistance, pulled on a door and it opened. He helped himself to the cookies, but a cleaning person saw him and called 911. A church employee arrived at the scene and said the church would press charges. The man was arrested and taken to the county jail. The value of the cookies was $2.25.

Egads… what were they thinking? Talk about a negative witness to the Gospel. It made me wonder if they were some type of get rich quick type cult, or some entity which uses a bible with Jesus words removed or something… alas, no, they do have a statement of faith aligned with the southern baptist convention.

Something is way wrong somewhere in this… but then how many of us have given Jesus the bird by failing to act, or acting counter to the Gospels? Mistakes happen, even with the best of intentions. Perhaps the folks in charge had just finished double shifts and were not thinking? Perhaps the church had recently had its silver stolen, perhaps anything… and when you make quick decisions in the heat of the moment, the probability of blowing it ends up being pretty high.

In years past, the above would have been a non-event. The DA would have had a serious “you gotta be kidding” discussion with the church to get them to drop the charges, the kid would have spent some time in the grey bar hotel while it got sorted out, and short of the kid likely having a negative view of churches, that would be the end of it.

Alas, in today’s world, you never know what may go viral online. Granted, the Jean Valjean parallel, the anti-church views of many, and the mere insanity of it all set the stage for virality. The result is that the churches name is now mud. If you google it, the first link that comes up is negative google reviews, followed by news articles of their pettiness. In other words, the light of google lit up their darkness for all to see.

The scriptures state any sin keeps us from God, but unlike someone running off with the churches funds, or a pastor having an affair, (which are localized), chucking Matthew 25 to the wind combined with social media, shoots a massive hole in Christian witness everywhere. The outrage is huge, both among believers and non-believers…. I’ve seen comment counts running in the ten thousands.

But, there is an individual at the bottom of this… If for whatever reason they thought they were doing the right thing, is all this anger reasonable? Sure, I get the fact that a young homeless kid may end up with a record over cookies, and Christian witness is severely compromised… but what if that church individual was sincere, albeit misguided that this was actually the best way to go? Believers vary widely in their knowledge and application of scriptures, to say nothing about making huge errors in judgement from time to time. Is there any room for forgiveness for them?

Certainly if there was a  church apology, a dropping of charges, and true repentance including covering rehab for the kid, such would go a long way and could turn things around.

Thus, I went looking to see what I could see.

I started with one of the churches pastors sermons on vimeo. It was based on the scriptures where Daniel refused to eat the kings food… a little too much prosperity gospel and moral therapeutic theism leaning, (using Chikfila profitability and ATT to demo a point is a bit out there), but overall it was pretty decent, and being a Baptist church, they had sort of an altar call thingy. My elevator speech summary:

One needs to be bold, and to prepare yourself ahead of the time to walk with the scriptures, not default to the principles of the king. The scriptures do not reside in a vacuum, neither does your witness. A line needs to be drawn, are you bold enough to do it? Do you trust God enough to do the right thing, or do you default to the ways of the world? God shows himself strong throughout the world.

Some good words there… so I would think repentance would be forthcoming. They do have the worlds attention. Its entirely possible to turn this around.

Shortly there after, I found this

 “The young man appeared to be under the influence. Since he was wandering around the neighbourhood, the officer suggested the best course may be to press charges for the incident which would enter the young man into the system where he could find help.

“The church staff member agreed. Although our church partners with PBSO to provide hundreds of meals for needy families, this time we agreed with the officer’s suggestion that the young man needed more help than just a free meal. We have contacts with rehabilitation programs. We do refer individuals to such programs and in retrospect we might have done so with this individual.”

Egads… as expected, such a response just fanned the flames some more. They have since pulled their facebook page, as well as their staff and pastor page on their website. This is crisis mismanagement 101 type stuff… granted, I don’t expect the average church to have a PR guru on staff, but its not like things spun out of control overnight. The event occurred on July 24th, there was plenty of time to get the ducks in a row, fess up, make things right, and turn an ugly situation around… but no, they dug a deeper hole for themselves.

#chsocm provides for amazing witness for a local church, even a small one can reach the world… but as easy as it is to show the Gospel, ones actions counter to it can also be propagated at the speed of light. Crisis management plans should be a key part of any social media activity… this is not the sort of thing you want to learn on the fly at the 11th hour.

World Vision Blow up and People of Strong Faith

Its really not about you. There are people of strong faith who had significant heartburn over WV’s decision to change their employee agreement to provide for local church autonomy as concerns same sex marriage. There are also people of strong faith who applauded WV’s decision and were dismayed at its reversal.

The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon.

Folks comments on Christianity Today ventured into the domain of the darkest corners of the internet… I’ve seen more of the light of Christ coming from 4chan members than from CT.  Others noted this as well.

The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

It didn’t need to happen this way…

Certainly Pope Francis is no advocate of SSM, but his approach is one of pastoral sensitivity, not of do a little evil that good may come. Even his statements concerning civil unions while very much supporting his church were of a pastoral nature rather than condemnation.

Our own Pastor Nadia, in her no-nonsense manner stated the following after the WV reversal.  “I’m very disappointed, but still happy to support their work. The critique of pulling support for charity due to an employee hiring practice I disagree with has to cut both ways or it’s bullshit.”

The fire, brimstone, brood of vipers bloodbaths that went on this week are a negative witness and counter to the Good News of Christ… who would really want to be a part of that? The actions done in the “name of Christ”, no matter which side one is on are repulsive. Imagine how folks would feel if rather than SSM, this was an issue over divorce or remarriage?

We need to pray for the weaker brothers and sisters who faith was destroyed or nearly destroyed this week. We need to pray for GLBT-Q folks, both celibate and married for healing and ask for forgiveness.The hatred and vitriole WV employees have experienced this week has to be incredible demoralizing and they need prayer as well. Lastly, we need to pray for those who whom WV serves… imagine being a teenager in an impoverished country and hearing about this?

People of strong faith, its really not about you.

*My general comment policy is to allow all comments, short of spam which I can readily identify and/or excessive TLDR. For this specific post, any comments relating to SSM from other than a pastoral nature will be deleted. There will be no blood bath, brood of viper, or related garbage on my blog, no matter how well you feel its supported by the scriptures. All other comments are welcome.

Transfiguration Sunday and the Wisconsin Bible Ban

Its human nature to try and extend exceedingly cool / awesome times, and Peter doesn’t disappoint in last Sunday’s Gospel reading. “Hey, lets build some places to stay at, this is awesome…” Alas God had other plans. Perhaps even more so, Peter James and John were instructed not to talk about i, at least for a while. While we don’t have a ton of insight into the personalities of James and John, no doubt this must have been an especially trying deal for Peter.

Get your world rocked, and be on top of it in a huge way…

You want this to never end!

The top of world experience ends in a flash, and no, you can’t talk about it, at least not for a while.

Many Lutherans in Wisconsin back in the late 1800’s were on top of the mountain in a lot of ways. Tobacco while labor intensive was a huge money maker and the wheat market was nothing to sneeze at either. Many folks did quite well for themselves, and not only that, they had have a fair bit left over and many chose to invest in their community.  Many churches were built as were many schools…  Rather than 1 pastor who would circulate among a boatload of congregations, many congregations found they could now afford half a pastor, and some even a full one. Granted, not everything was perfect… folks would have a bird over this or that and because giving was abundant, congregations could split, and build a new church a mile away or less… and bring on their own pastor from the myriad of synods that had come into being. Pastor density was pretty high as were the numbers of growing congregations. As a result, it was not unreasonable that many felt the Bible should be read in schools. The belief was so commonly held that even the State Superintendent of Public Instruction added the KJV Bible to the recommended book listings for the entire state. Ascribing to sola scriptura, even many legal minds who might have had fits over the constitutionality of schools picking one faith over another, felt that as long as interpretation and doctrine were left out (reading only) in the school room, there would not be any problems as concerns church and state separation.

When your faith practices are a majority and/or share much commonality with others, its easy to gloss over the headaches and problems that others outside a majority faith practice endure. You are on the mountain top, you want to stay there… you likely don’t even notice the impact on others who are not right there with you.

Not every Christian practice ascribes to sola scripture. Not every Christian practice ascribes to even the same translation of the scriptures. Even within the Lutheran traditions, there are often significant variances as to what is believed to be an obvious interpretation. As a result of the readings of the scriptures in schools, minus doctrine and interpretation, some students actually changed from one faith practice to another. In other cases, commonly held interpretations ended up not being anywhere so obvious. For the most part, these issues not even on the radar screen of the majority and complaints to school boards were often dismissed off hand. Over time, the conflict eventually made it into the legal system going all the way to the Wisconsin supreme court, where upon Bible reading was banned from the classroom… Folks came off that mountain pretty fast… but unlike the restrictions on Peter and crew, there was no small amount of vocal teeth knashing over it. Consider the following from the WI supreme court transcript.

The drift of some remarks in the argument of counsel for the respondent, and perhaps, also in the opinion of Judge BENNETT, is, that the exclusion of Bible reading from the dis-trict schools is derogatory to the value of the Holy Scriptures, a blow to their influence upon the conduct and consciences of men, and disastrous to the cause of religion.

The dialog over the  loss of Christian privilege rippling through a fair bit of the blogophere doesnt seem to be a whole lot different than those words penned over a century ago. The bottom line is actually pretty simple though… Christianities vibrancy or lack there of is not a function of legislation. The followup to the above from the transcript hits this head on.

The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and, above all, by parents in the home circle. There, these truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated, in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience. The Constitution does not interfere with such teaching and culture. It only banishes theological polemics from the district schools. It does this, not because of any hostility to religion, but because the people who adopted it believed that the public good would thereby be promoted, and they so declared in the preamble.

Coming down off the mountain of privilege back in 1880 looked to have had a mighty fine landing… may we do likewise.

Calculus Matters – ELCA Membership Decline

@Feralpastor posted a excel chart of ELCA and predecessor groups membership levels from around 1950 up until recent times. A quick glance might lead one to think doomsday scenario… but I thought I saw some wobbles in the data.

As a result, I pulled the data off the ELCA website and took a look at the 2nd derivative… basically how quickly the change in membership numbers are changing, or in car talk, whether we are braking or stomping on the gas.



While a near continual loss of members since the ELCA”s inception is not good, to see such a change in rate of decrease is a significant positive.

The following graph adds in the yr-yr loss of members in green.


In a nutshell, we are no longer in brake lock up mode post CWA09, In fact, once the 2013 numbers come out, I would not be surprised if we are back to the same state we were in pre CWA09 as concerns the yr to yr loss of members.

Causality is always a tricky thing, and often is not correlation, but I’ve been pondering this for years and more and more my hypothesis seems to make sense. Namely I believe the ELCA since its beginnings has been undergoing a long term shift to higher Fowler models.

The predecessor bodies were quite ranging in approach. Some catered to a lower Fowler model, some catered to a higher one. Since the ELCA”s formation, many CWAs have leaned towards a higher numbered model. This seems to correlate with the negative peaks in the 2nd derivative as folks self selected out. The overall trend to a smaller size would also make sense, as the higher numbered Fowler models embrace smaller numbers demographically. Ie, a Fowler 2 or 3 is often a growing stage, where membership decline is pretty common in a Fowler 4-5.

Authentic Rocking World Worship

I previously wrote about music that blows chunks, but which endures due to the memories associated with it. If you take the same music, and spin it out in front of folks lacking any memory connection, the chances of them being impressed is about nil, and they may well think you are off your rocker should you sing its praises.

I’ve been pondering how this relates to worship. A friend of mine describes almost every Sunday service as sort of like seeing a arena rock concert for the first time. (Feel free to replace arena rock concert, with Opera, jazz, country, whatever…). I’ve heard the same from a number of folks over the years… the worship service rocks their world. Such views are not limited to full bore high church liturgy with a massive organ, they could be low church with a folk band, or even without any music or liturgy at all. Even more so, for some folks this is a near weekly occurrence.

Such is not my experience. There may be a profound sermon here or there, and I do have a real affinity towards weekday morning masses at a Catholic church… but worship rocking my world, um no.

In fact, when I look at Revelation and such… and things going on 24/7, its like hmmm. I get that we will be changed, I get that super holy stuff has to be rock my world awesome beyond belief, but its such an abstract thing, it just doesn’t connect.

On the other hand, as a pilot, the words of a tv copy editor wing walking for the first time rings very true. I get exactly what she is saying.

Thanks to Jane and Charlie, I now fully understand the poem “High Flight” by John Magee.  I paraphrase, but I truly felt I touched the hand of God.

Very few people will believe or understand this, and most of you will think I’m high (never did drugs, for the record) but strange as this sounds…at one point the wind stopped clawing at me. The motor roar stilled. I was suspended in a peculiar time and place where I felt the presence of, well, quite frankly, my grandparents and guardian angel slightly behind me on either side. And I felt their happiness and approval.  For just a moment, I felt the ethereal presence of those who at one time loved and protected me as if they were physically at my back. Call me nuts as my last name means in German, but there you go.

There in likely is just a tiny view of what the Revelation text talks about… I capture this in a plane should I be in “flow”. An old friend said similar things about being in the midst of storms in his boat on the great lakes. As a bass player, I’ve caught fleeting glimpses of this too if I’m literally rocking the stage with 5000+ Watts of power so to speak…

I came across the following this evening as yet another descriptor of encountering God’s hand so to speak.

…an intimate connection with the God who created us, an inner peace unlike any our five senses can provide?  It’s scientifically inexplicable. It’s mystery beyond any words.  Yet there is where we most clearly experience and encounter God.

I can try and attach memories and run with them, but unless in the cockpit half upside down, on the stage, or in the storm so to speak, merely attaching the memory doesn’t make the connection. It has to be authentic… a memory attachment alone won’t work.

This then brings me back to folks for whom worship rocks their world. If it makes such connections as above, it cannot be an attached memory thing, it has to be real, it has to be authentic.

It makes me ponder…

Outrage Limiter

Back in the 70’s, Gene Simmons did this blood spitting thing for the rock group Kiss. It brought about a fair bit of lamenting at the time as to how horrible it was… but it worked as intended, going outrageous made his mark on the world, it sold a ton of records, and made him a boat load of money.

In the 80’s, Ozzy did this thing with a bat on stage…

Back in the pre-code days of Hollywood, many of the early talkies were pushing the sex envelope in a huge way, it was outrageous, and it sold lots of movie tickets.

Is it any wonder what we had a meat dress a few years back, or something totally bizaro a couple days ago?

Sex and shock sell… if there were no market, they wouldn’t. If the outrage was too great, the market would reject it, but it rarely does. Its no longer just an artist like Gene Simmons coming up with an idea, its high level market research driving ideas to appeal to a given demographic to maximize profit. In fact, I would not be surprised to find out that datamining is a significant driver…

Folks have been chatting about the evils of capitalism on steroids, sexual exploitation, declining morals, loss of community, extreme individualism, loss of Christian privilege / influence in society,  self esteem going too far, artists selling out, the death of eros… and I sort of agree to a point with all of them, but I think the answer is something far more foundational.

Market driven art eventually rings hollow as the market will at some point see it for what it is, an emperor with no clothes, no meaning, just a means of efficient leveraging the actions of the masses… this being a primary driver of why interest in pop music generally declines with age. Its not so much us geezers crabbing about the music of the younger being a bunch of noise, as much as it is that BS detectors improve with age.

Some of the 70’s and 80’s music I played and grew up with blew chunks, some of the 30’s and 40’s music my Dad grew up with also did. Its the same today… a cohort of good music from each generation will survive and thrive over time on its own, another cohort, even if it blew chunks, will survive and thrive due to the memories attached to it, but huge sectors will die on the vine, and for good reason.

If you followed this far, you are probably thinking, why on earth is this on a church blog… Just replace the word music with church practices.

We may not have pastors taking a bite out of a bat in a sermon, but there are a few church practices in each generation that jump the shark. We also have a fair number of practices deriving their meaning via institutional memory rather than standing on their own.

The BS detector for each generation as they become more and more proficient with handling information overload becomes more sensitive. Is there any wonder that the target market for pop music has been trending younger and younger for years? If not for attached memories, there likely would be a pretty abrupt cutoff in the high school range…. not unlike what we see in church membership demographics.


Penal Substitionary Atonement, and the Dangers There of

The early church fathers for the most part did not ascribe to substitutionary atonement. For sure, some scriptures do very heavily lean that direction. Yet, other scriptures end up throwing a pretty massive wrench in that direction. Whats perhaps the most troubling, is it appears some contemporary preachers go so far as to nearly equate the Gospel to penal substitutionary atonement.

I’ve often found it interesting that the early church fathers did not hold so such. Origen (185-254 CE) presented the ransom theory

He suggested that, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, Satan had acquired a formal dominion over, and ownership of, all of humanity and the rest of the world. In order to free people from the grip of Satan, God agreed to arrange the death of Yeshua, his son, as a ransom price to be paid to the devil. This would formally compensate for Adam and Eve’s sin, and would release humanity from Satan’s grip. Origen wrote: “The payment could not be [made] to God [be]cause God was not holding sinners in captivity for a ransom, so the payment had to be to the devil.” Origen believed that Satan accepted the offer because he assumed that he would end up with ownership of Yeshua. The devil didn’t realize that Yeshua would escape his clutches. God deceitfully pulled a “bait and switch” operation by resurrecting Yeshua a day and a half after his death on the cross. This left Satan without any reward. Yeshua had escaped Satan’s grasp and was reunited with God. Origen concluded that humans can then be reconciled with God if they trust Yeshua as Lord and Savior.

A couple disturbing things I’ve come across over the years are the following.

1. Folks who have seemingly walked away from Christ, often see God’s actions in PSA as cruel and barbaric.

A blogger over at arewomenhuman stated the following:

I couldn’t stomach the thought of standing in church and singing hymns thanking God for killing someone “for” me.

Another good discussion of this is presented in “The cross is an Insult to Forgiveness”

I’ve often wondered if the doors to trinitarian heresies are opened by PSA. For many in the pew, its almost as if the focus shifts to God torturing Jesus. Its as if Jesus was not God, and as such, it seemingly pretty much throws the trinity by the wayside. Anselm’s (1033 to 1109 CE) satisfaction theory (which predated PSA), in his Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became Man) presents the following:

  • Chapter 6 “…the price paid to God for the sin of man [must] be something greater than all the universe besides God….Moreover, it is necessary that he who can give God anything of his own which is more valuable than all things in the possession of God, must be greater than all else but God himself….Therefore none but God can make this satisfaction.”
  • Chapter 9 “…God, he will possess omnipotence….He can, then, if he chooses, lay down his life and take it again….Therefore is he able to avoid death if he chooses, and also to die and rise again….the gift which he presents to God, not of debt but freely, ought to be something greater than anything in the possession of God….Now this can neither be found beneath him nor above him….In himself, therefore, must it be found….nothing can be more severe or difficult for man to do for God’s honor, than to suffer death voluntarily when not bound by obligation; and man cannot give himself to God in any way more truly than by surrendering himself to death for God’s honor. Therefore, he who wishes to make atonement for man’s sin should be one who can die if he chooses.”

2. It is possible that PSA may open doors for spiritual abuse and/or the replacement of God’s love and grace with toxic soteriology, even more so without the solid grounding of the trinity. Arewomenhuman presents the following:

Substitutionary atonement requires us to accept that it’s alright for God to behave in ways that would be considered cruel and capricious from anyone else. It requires that we claim God is “good” in a way that doesn’t resemble what we would call “good” in any other context. It preaches a patriarchal God who brooks no defiance and demands perfection from others that “he” doesn’t live up to, and doesn’t have to live up to. In so doing it provides a script and model for authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationships between human beings that mirror the authoritarian, hierarchical, abusive relationship between God and humans.

While I’d be in error to attribute causality, my experience with multitudes of de-churched folks over the years, has often indicated that when PSA leans towards or replaces the Gospel, spiritual abuse is often right around the corner.

I wonder if perhaps the early church fathers anticipated this danger, and thus shied away from PSA? They had the same scriptures we do today, and its not as if there were not historical discussions seemingly pointing to PSA… but it was left by the wayside.