Wednesday, December 31, 2008

God Help Newdow

President Elect, Barak Obama initiated Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch to make the official prayer during his inauguration ceremony on January 20th, 2009. Not surprisingly, a group of atheists are miffed.

These atheists are concerned that the use of traditional phrases such as "so help me God" misrepresent the concerns and ideologies of those that don't believe in God.

"'There can be no purpose for placing 'so help me God' in an oath or sponsoring prayers to God, other than promoting the particular point of view that God exists," the lawsuit states, according to CNN.'"

Yes, that's right. It seems that these purpose driven atheists have enough insight to recognize the biases of people who don't believe like them. Not a revolutionary insight, to be sure, but one that sparks a small hope that perhaps they might catch on to a certain corollery: the president elect, and the people officiating the ceremonies believe differently from atheists.

At the same time, these atheists lack the savvy to manage a new tactic in meeting their aims. Apparently, this isn't the first time this group of atheists, headed by Michael A. Newdow, have sought to delete metaphysical derogatories from presidential inaugurations.

"Newdow made similar attempts to take out God from inauguration ceremonies in 2001 and 2005 and was unsuccessful. This time, he believes he'll lose again but hopes to eventually succeed."

There probably isn't any coincidence that those just happen to be the years that Mr. Bush -- professor of war-mongering, ill-gotten gain, and religious hypocrisy -- gained his ascendency to the presidential seat. Again, no surprise that the same atheists would boast a little foresight: perhaps Bush isn't the best person to be including clauses like "so help me God", and thereby subjecting well-meaning Christians everywhere to his cloak of deceit. In those cases, I can agree with Newdow's bias that I don't want to fall under the same umbrella, and all 'in the name of God.'

Nevertheless, I'm unaware of any reason to extend such a forceful negation of "so help me God" to Obama's ceremonies. Unlike Bush Jr., Obama doesn't have a Bush Sr. to sully his history, or inspire any omens of war-mongering in a religiously hypocritical fashion. Playing pattern recognition with Dubbya because of H. Dubbya doesn't apply to Obama. So why take up verbal arms against a man with a fresh start? And, more importantly, why impose one bias over another bias? As if negating another's bias will effect any actual change in the presidential agenda!

And speaking of agendas, Newdow clearly has one, though it may be a little less noble than simply a linguistic overhaul in the inauguration ceremony. Apparently, Newdow is happy to take up his differences with the people using the phrase "so help me God", but doesn't consider it wise to foist his upset on the president himself.

"If he (Obama) chooses to ask for God's help, I'm not going to challenge him," Newdow said, according to CNN. "I think it's unwise."

Doesn't this remind you a little of the bullying tactics so common to playgrounds? I'll make sure to go after the weaker guys, but leave the big guys alone. You could get hurt.

Piffle, and twaddle.

Newdow is just barking because he's too afraid to bite. God help him.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Funnies



Reading Dawkins: The Deluded

Lately, I've been reading a host of atheist literature.  It seems that between 2004-2007, a whack of well-known philosophers, journalists, and scientists dented the world with a rash of atheist essays.  Some of the more familiar titles include:

The End of Faith by, Sam Harris
Breaking the Spell by, Daniel Dennett
The God Delusion by, Richard Dawkins
god is not Great by, Christopher Hitchens
God: The Failed Hypothesis by, Victor Stenger
In Defense of Atheism by, Michel Onfray

While pushing my way through some of these authors, I had to cut short my foray into the delusional world of Richard Dawkins.  Amongst Dawkins' complete mistreatment of classic Christian arguments for the existence of God, which he then summarily knocks down in a grand display of straw-man killings -- and all with the fervent pleas of an intellectual snob searching for sympathy from his readership -- the reputable Oxfordian biologist seems unable to hold even the simplest argument together from one sentence to the next.

After 190 pages of Dawkins' twaddle, I gave up.  The last straw came when Dawkins implied his intellectual superiority to anyone who is not a Darwinian biologist.

I pointed this out to one of my atheist friends, and he asked me to give references.  So I obliged.  Here is what I wrote to him.

My edition is the Mariner Books, 2008 edition. Silver cover with a big orange dot, the word 'God' in white inside the orange dot. In chapter 4, pg. 172, second paragraph, opening line:

"Maybe the psychological reason for this amazing blindness has something to do with the fact that many people have not had their consciousness raised, as biologists have, by natural selection and its power to tame improbability." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter (4), pg. 173, footnote:

"Susskind (2006) gives a splendid advocacy of the anthropic principle in the megaverse. He says the idea is hated by most physicists. I can't understand why. I think it is beautiful -- perhaps because my consciousness has been raised by Darwin." (Bolding mine)

Same chapter, pg. 175, last sentence of first paragraph:

"A mischievous biologist might wonder whether some other physicists are in need of Darwinian consciousness-raising."

Those are the comments I could re-locate at a quick glance. I'm sure there are more. It was the first and second comments in particular, that really got me riled. It could be said that Dawkins is simply advocating for the notion that Darwinian natural selection boosted his understanding, as if it were drawn upward by a 'crane' (a word that Dawkins himself employs quite frequently, and happily). However, what physicist, or modern-day scientist hasn't been educated on a rather fatty diet of Darwinism? What places a biologist in a new bracket of awareness? Dawkins does nothing to explain his cheek and idiocy on this issue, and so, comes out looking more the buffoon than the biologist.

You may disagree with me, I don't know. In any case, I'm going to have to come back to Dawkins at a later date. His brand of pugnacity reads more like a yapping chihuahua than the British Bulldog he seems to fancy himself to be. I really can't take that kind of intellectual noise without there being a suitable pay-off at the end of my endurance. And from what I've seen of Dawkins so far, he's more likely to rob me of any semblance of mental integrity than leave me with a reasonable cognitive dowry.


What do you make of Dawkins' comments?  I may return to his book at a later date, mostly because I don't like to give up on these kinds of things, and I hope to make a suitable response to the recent proliferation of atheist literature, and their 'buckshot' claims.  For now, however, I have moved on to more 'reasonable' writings from Michel Onfray, and soon Daniel Dennett.  So far, at least, they don't seem so happy to skip understanding in favour of quasi-clever remarks, and meaningless commentary.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The New Syncretism

Apparently, a vast majority of American Christians view other religions as equally salvific. It would seem then that we could thereby reduce the moniker "American Christians" to 'Americans'.

So, many Americans feel that there are many paths to salvation, even though those same Americans claim Christianity as their religion of choice.

"Sixty-five percent of all Christians say there are multiple paths to eternal life, ultimately rejecting the exclusivity of Christ teaching, according to the latest survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life."

Let's let this article slant in an unnecessary direction now, shall we?

"Even among white evangelical Protestants, 72 percent of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion, such as Judaism or Islam or no religion at all, that can lead to salvation."

My goodness. Even white evangelical Protestants? How is that a defining feature of the overall 65% surveyed? Why is it important that they're white? Is Christianity somehow different for white people? What are the assumptions that go behind isolating a certain demographic of evangelical Christians? And why does it matter if the total percentage of Christians surveyed is a clear enough indication that Christians in America don't believe like some of us may have thought they did?

The rest of the article is pretty black and white. But mostly white. It's a very strange article, even if it does present some telling figures.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh, How the Mighty Hitchens Falls...

Watch here as Dinesh D'Souza slams a mental cudgel upside Christopher Hitchens' head. The debate is long and humorous, but intense and very intellectually rewarding.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All for One, and One for All

The near future may look very, well, different.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Muppets and Christopher Hitchens

I used to watch The Muppets when I was younger. In particular, I enjoyed the sarcastic and curmudgeonly old men (Statler and Waldorf) that occupied the theater balcony. Their obstreperousness and cynicism tickled my nascent perspectives on the world.

In much the same way, I enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens, a famous atheist whose most recent book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything has kindled a fire under the buttocks of theists everywhere. The book has a lot to offer by way of oblique perspectives, logical incoherence, and a sparce but spicy sprinkling of valid criticism. But Hitchens offers his piffle with such flamboyance, and sardonic derring-do that I can't help but continue plundering the pages of his book wondering what cerebral stunts he'll pull next.

Unlike The Muppets, however, I can't figure what got up Hitchens' ass so much that he'd collide so sharply with the deific Reason he esteems so highly. Especially since his Lennon-esque vision of a "world without religion" includes many of the same measures that those pesky, naughty, and bad, bad religions used to exact their vision of the world.

So from an aspiring Contrarian to another well-established Contrarian, I offer my thanks for a good laugh. But I must decline to see you, Mr. Hitchens as anything more than a fellow puppet looking down on the world stage and quipping just as many sophistries as the next guy. And who knows? That next guy might just be me.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Anti-Christianity and the Burning Stupid

Shall I dissect?  Or shall I have mercy?  I can't decide.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Belligerence, Homosexuality, and Christ's Love

I get it when mainline Christians disagree with the practice of homosexuality. I understand their concern. What I don't understand is why homosexuality is a greater sin in need of garnering more public attention than, say, physical-social-metal-verbal abuse, war, toxic spirituality within the church, indifference, racism, torture, human trafficking, or any number of existing sins within the world.

For that reason, I'm not exactly sure why waging a war via popular media against homosexuals is a necessary manouever. It's not unknown that Christians traditionally disagree with the practice of homosexuality, but why pay for advertising space to push that point when everybody knows that the end of such a tactic is only going to be inflamed tempers, misappropriations, and mud-slinging?

Christians are called to a gospel that prompts love in, with, and through all our actions. Taking out advertising space as a war on homosexual lifestyles is effectively wielding popular media as if it's a firearm. And when weapons are wielded against sinful people, who of us can say that we don't deserve a firearm pointed back at us? Or, as Jesus said, "let the person who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7).

So, while I acknowledge the sin of homosexuality, I'm not concerned to crusade against it so much as I am to love the people who practice it. For which is the greater sin: to practice homosexuality, or to foist belligerence on a group of people all the while claiming it is love? I know my answer. Do you?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jesus vs. The Beatles

In 1966, on the release of The Beatles' White Album, John Lennon remarked that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus."

Christians were miffed. Still are, sadly. I guess forgiveness is just an f-word, hey?

How dare a guru of hedonism, celebrity and moral relativisms compare a musical band to Jesus, right? I mean, is there any room for that kind of acrimony, and pomp? What gas was pressuring Lennon's head to such overexpansion?

On the other hand, what was so threatening about Lennon's remark? Would Jesus just 'poof' and disappear if Lennon was right? Were there no considerations for population density in the time of Jesus versus the world in 1966? That is, if The Beatles were utilizing much better technology to broadcast their catchy little songs to a much more populous world than the verbal ambulations of a single prophet, doesn't it stand to reason that The Beatles were quite probably more popular than Jesus? If world tours are pitted against littoral orations in Israel 2000+ years ago, wouldn't the likelihood of The Beatles winning a popularity contest start to unfold in their favour?

I would think so.

Nevertheless, 42 years have capered by, and now we're seeing experts deciding on the legitimacy and 'rightness' of Lennon's statement. Bit late isn't it? No matter, though.

Thankfully, the world's most popular Messiah is not only experiencing the passage of those 42 years, but is also outside them. Dialectically, He's already won the popularity contest before it started! But let's just let Jesus have His Christian-imposed handicap in an effort to pat ourselves on the back for a war well-waged against some upstart English rock-band, shall we? May as well enjoy making a collective ass out of ourselves while Lennon sets the record straight by what he meant:

"It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he explained.

And who can blame him for having this perception? Was youth attendance up in the churches in the 1960's such that youth groups could hope to match the fevered pitch, and bra-flinging hysteria of a Beatles concert? Were teenagers desperately and frantically traveling the world singing Psalms and hymns, and gathering in mega-church after mega-church to take in sermons from knarl-knuckled pastors? Or were they throwing themselves blindly at the next scalper, the next Greyhound, the next cheap plane ticket to the next city on the Beatles' map?

I think the answers are pretty plain. I think that 'experts' have been debating the proverbial angels on the heads of proverbial pins. It's a reality, folks: The Beatles had garnered more popularity than Jesus in 1966.

But so what? Who cares? Enjoy their music. Love Christ. Both are good to do. But only one will sing over you. The Beatles can't top that. They never tried to, either.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Talking Turkey

American Thanksgiving passed recently. Here's a reflection on the event from a cool cat at JesusManifesto.

To add to their reflection, lets invite the words of an incredible Canadian singer and songwriter, Bruce Cockburn.

"From Tierra del Fuego to Ungava Bay
the history of betrayal continues to today
the spirit of Almighty Voice,
the ghost of Anna Mae
call like thunder from the mountains -- you can hear them say

it's a stolen land

Apartheid in Arizona,
slaughter in Brazil
if bullets don't get good PR there's other ways to kill
kidnap all the children,
put 'em in a foreign system
bring them up in no-man's land where no one really wants them

it's a stolen land
Stolen land -- but it's all we've got
stolen land -- and there's no going back
stolen land -- and we'll never forget
stolen land -- and we're not through yet

In my mind I catch a picture --
big black raven in the sky
looking at the ocean --
sail reflected in black eye --
sail as white as heroin,
white like weathered bones --
rum and guns and smallpox gonna change the face of home

in this stolen land...

If you're like me you'd like to think we've learned from our mistakes
enough to know we can't play god with others' lives at stake
so now we've all discovered the world wasn't only made for whites
what step are you gonna take to try and set things right

in this stolen land
Stolen land -- but it's all we've got
stolen land -- and there's no going back
stolen land -- and we'll never forget
stolen land -- and we're not through yet"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Playtime for a Theist

Time to play.

This time we're going to play with atheism. 'Cause atheism is fun to play with.

Atheist,Voula Papas, has written a little ditty on atheism. Papas' basic thrust is that atheism is an agent of freedom that sets a person free and restores intellectual integrity. How quaint. But instead of needling, and harpooning Papas' logic, I'm going to take a different approach and re-write the article from the other edge of the sword; from the Christian theist edge, that is. Call it an extended reductio ad absurdum, or a whimsical scrap of satire. In any case, it should serve to illustrate some semantic futility. Which is always fun in the end.

Papas is red. I'm not.

"It has been said that atheists criticise religion while having nothing to offer as an alternative. The former is true, atheists DO criticise religion, and they speak out on the faults and falseness of religion. In other words we shout: THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES ON!!!"

It has been said that religion criticises atheism because it offers the noun nothing as an alternative. The former is true: religion does criticise atheism and speaks out on the absurdity and groundlessness of atheism. In other words, religion shouts, "The Emperor became a MAN!"

"The point is not whether atheists criticise religion but whether religion can stand up to criticism. So far no religion could stand up to criticism, that is why religion has had to resort to blasphemy laws and the might of the state to silence and crush opposition. In some Muslim countries, anyone who criticizes religion can be charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death."

The point is not whether religion criticises atheism but whether atheism can stand at all. So far atheism has failed to even grow legs. That is why atheism has had to resort to advertising itself on busses in an attempt to inculcate the masses, by way of a religious-style frenzy, that a logic-based approach to ultimate nothings is a healthier, more politically precise way of being a decent and well-manicured citizen. In some atheist countries (e.g., North Korea, or China) even hinting at a confidence in some form of the divine will sentence you, your household, and anyone else connected with you in any suspected religious fashion to prison or death.

"What does atheism offer? One may rightly ask!"

So, what does religion offer? Good question.

"Atheism offers intellectual integrity and freedom from religion. Atheists reject religious absolutes, primitive "revelations", superstition, blind obedience and self-effacing prostrations to a tyrannical deity whose existence cannot be proven."

Religion offers wholistic solidity. That is, a 3-dimensional grasp of personhood, not just the apotheosis of the intellect. Religion also offers freedom despite atheism, but also inclusive of the sensitivities of atheists. Christian theists generally reject philosophical relativities, shoddy scientific research, materialism, and facile and diffident concessions to a system of denial that cannot establish a logical link between its denial of deity and the actual lack of a deity.

"Atheists value reason, logic, knowledge, freedom, equality and social progress. Many atheists are highly ethical people who live by the golden rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you. A lot of them are involved with human rights organisations, environmental issues, animal rights and other social issues with the goal of making the world a better place."

Christian theists value reason, logic, knowledge, freedom, equality and social progress. Many theists are ethical people enjoined to the biblical injunction to "do as you would be done by." Historically, Christians were the creators of, and contributors to some of the worlds greatest, most successful human rights organisations, and social developments. And their goal? The dignity of the people, and the honour of God for the purpose of a more meaningful world.

"Ethics need not be entwined with religion and meaningful lives do not require fictitious deities. I hope that during the course of my life I would be able to make even a small contribution into a better future for all."

Religion and ethics are necessarily entwined as both serve to deepen and enrich peoples' lives as they enjoy life with God. Like some well-intentioned atheists, those of us who are religious hope to make even a small contribution to the betterment of peoples' lives around us, and ensure that the future is not without hope or substance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Peering Into the Obvious

Perhaps it's a bit of an intellectual smugness that pushes me to laugh when I see church factions concerned about divisions within the body. It's a bit of a global contradiction to lament divisions while holding on to titles like Reformed, or Catholic, etc. Still, that's just what's happening.

"The head of the world’s largest group of Reformed churches says that the body of Christ is rendering its own peace message ineffective because of internal divisions and strife at a time when persistent threats to global peace and security make the quest for Christian unity more urgent than ever."

I think those "internal divisions and strife" have been documented from time immemorial, actually. And any time those divisions exist they are an inconvenience to the Church's message, not just now when so many things are going belly up in the world. And since when did the Church hinge its desire for unity on the global events surrounding it? Perhaps such a misapprehension of the Christocentric ontology of the Church is one of the many things causing the divisions experienced in the world today.

Said Setri Nyomi, the General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (*sigh...*) :

“Does the church have a moral voice or credibility when our divisions are so visible?”

Why, yes, actually. Is there even a need to ask that question? Questions like that simply smack of a false humility that doesn't actually connect with the issue it's trying to address. It's feely rhetoric tickling the ears of the undiscerning. And frankly, I find it insulting.

M. Nyomi, have you missed the basic point in your ascendency to the General Secretary's seat that the Church's moral voice is not posited on the perfection of our efforts to appear in any certain way to the world? The Church's moral voice and credibility is not based in our paltry and petty shortcomings. It is, in fact, a voice given from the holy, triune God who lived and died for His people in the person of Christ. That's where the moral voice and credibility of the Church comes from; not our efforts at maintaining a clean slate before the world. As if the world were in a rightful, authoritative, or even purer place to criticize, anyway!

Carrying on with his impassioned (?) plea, Nyomi foibles and fumbles into more of the same soft imperceptions:

“'How can churches and church bodies foster world peace, peace among nations and peace within nations, when there is no peace among themselves, or when injustices that are so much at the heart of conflicts in the world are also found among us?' Nyomi said that the church’s ability to speak credibly and prophetically on issues of peace and justice was at stake if it failed to reconcile its differences."

Well, Nyomi, as much as you might be adverse to thinking so, life is messy. There's a whole lot of 'stuff' the Church, despite its inter-belligerent faults, can do, and is currently doing. Let's not discount effort based on failure. That's just another failure, sir, and you're spearheading that shortsightedness right now.

But more, Nyomi, one of the credible and prophetic realities of the Church is that its failings do not equal an inability to address essential realities such as peace and justice. Or to put it more anecdotally, sir, when I lose my balance, I'm not then unable to address realities such as, say, gravity. Get the point? Good.

“'If we are not united, we are breaking with the Lord of the church, and we are making it difficult for the world to believe,' he said, reminding delegates of Christ’s prayer that his followers would become one."

Yes, you're right: we can't achieve the eschatological ends of the Church previous to God's timing. And I think the disbelief of the rest of the world is based simply on that -- disbelief -- moreso than a messy Church with messy people doing stupid things now-and-then.

Anyway, I can't say I'd like to continue deconstructing Ms. Gold's articles, and Nyomi's overarching and ill-considered comments. So I won't. It's not all bad. It's mostly just political naivety mixed with sophmoric theology rooted in worldly hopes. Poor form.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hug

First, read this (scroll down to "A Rescuing Hug").

Then, read this.

Draw the only possible conclusion, and then fall to your knees in gratitude to God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The U.S. Has A New President

And in other news, some people are just plain stupid.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 'Good,' the 'Bad,' and the 'Useless'

From a discussion with some radical unschoolers and pertaining to principles of 'moral relativity' and 'moral pluralism' expressed in child-rearing, and why I don't have any 'good boy's or 'good job's or 'bad' behaviour in my home (and am still neither a moral relativist nor a moral pluralist), I give you this...


I wanted to share that while I don't have an aversion to the use of the words 'good' and 'bad' in regular parlance, when I began a study of nonviolent communication, I realised that I had personal baggage relating to those words. I do have a strong moral compass, though, so navigating my language and thoughts to incorporate my values and also honour the intentions of others while still having the freedom to evaluate- well, that was a task!

What I did discover about myself is that while I am innately a creative person, I was very uncreative in the way I was viewing and expressing my evaluations. It also became clear to me that this limitation was not very helpful to my children when they were trying to solve difficulties and communicate with me and others. So, I eliminated 'good' and 'bad,' and forced myself to use more accurate words to describe my evaluations. Instead of 'bad' I used 'harmful,' 'injurious,' and also completely reframed of my view of behaviour that included much more observation, validation, and exploration of potential options- behaviours to try, empathy/sympathy with intention, etc....

Through having done this, I became more selective about what adheres to/contravenes a code of morality. In my opinion, there are very few actions that can be evaluated within a moral code- at least the one I understand. Most actions are derived of preference. I think that intention must accompany any act that directly contravenes what is moral; for instance, killing a man could be either moral or immoral depending on the intention of the one killing. I have a moral impetus to defend my children, and if that necessitated killing, I would do it and fit within the precepts of what I think is moral- even though if my intention was malicious, killing would most certainly be immoral. With this sort of thinking, it becomes much easier for *me* to evaluate what others are expressing through their actions and words, and to communicate in ways that are much clearer to everyone.

I would not do away with morality as though it were simply a matter of personal value; but I am still much more selective about what-fits-where now than I was previously. That, and it has been very freeing for me to not hold others hostage to my preferences.

It is also interesting to me how personality plays so much into how this process unfolds. I am INTJ with developed feeling (I'll spare you the unfortunate circumstances that necessitated this albeit valuable trait), and strong tendency toward extraverted judgment. My natural tendency to evaluate and 'judge' the validity of everything outside myself was crippling me and my relationships. It was necessary for me to learn the appropriate application of morality vs. preference in order for me to grow and mature, and necessary for me to take a hard line with myself (via self-evaluation, beyond my extraverted judgment) to enact the essential habit reformation.

Ds1 is like me, and has needed the same training, although in a very different way since with the knowledge I have acquired, I can make the environment so much gentler than I had as a child, and within which I had to enforce my new-found values, and he learns without shame. Ds2 and ds3 seem to need none of this because it comes to them naturally and they just tend to view themselves and others with compassion and willingness to observe (rather than judge) and participate when they feel inclined; ds2 is also an amazing 'judge' of character. Ds3 will probably need the most guidance with choosing friends because he is so willing and trusting; he'd probably believe someone who told him to come and that they wouldn't hurt him.

The interesting thing is that I don't think that I'll use the words 'good' and 'bad' to help ds3 with this since they are so vague as to not really be of use except in casual (or philosophical, lol) conversation. Certainly the concepts of what is ultimately 'good' and what is ultimately not must be clearly delineated, though, and maybe my vocabulary will end up being more graphic, and potentially more concerning than the use of such vague terms as 'good and 'bad' might be to some. Maybe I miss out on the 'short-hand' effect of those words and expose myself, or lose some, but in any case, in my commitment to change my communicative habit, I also committed to attempting to build-in understanding between people through creative vocabulary where not doing so would have rendered the point of communication useless, imo.



So Suneal, ask me how I am today, lol!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mucho Mullah for Mister Dollar

Kenneth Copeland, leader of Christian über-capitalists everywhere, has spawned a generation of prosperity preachers. Among them, Creflo Dollar, a boistrous preacher that vaunts such heresies as

"Man is equal to God in every respect. Or, in the words of Copeland, 'You don't have a God in you! You are one!'"

Or, for Gnostics everywhere, Creflo opines,

"Jesus was not the son of God, he was a man empowered by God to be just like God, and everyone who knows this can do the same thing."

And just to reinforce the salacious savvy of Creflo's dollar avarice,

"Any Christian who believes in poverty is outside God's will."

Wow! Hot damn, those are zingers, aren't they?! Mmm-hmm. Always nice to know that God really isn't who He said He is, and that we can step-up and not only have God in us, but be God, too. And then, we can demand of ourselves that we will not accept a divine Christ, but instead, will just go after the same empowerment that Christ had and become 'just like God' (oddly, that sounds quite a lot like the original temptation, doesn't it?). At the same time, we can just add a little venemous contradiction into the mix and be outside our own wills (remember, we're God, according to Copeland and his ilk) because we might just believe in poverty.

Oh, God! the stupidity... Hey, did I just lament to myself when I wrote that?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Am I A Moral Relativist?

I'm not sure that asking if a person is a moral relativist is really a relevant question, honestly. Unless a person is a sociopath, how is being relativist really going to make a lick of difference in the way you live? I'm willing to bet most people want the same basic needs met: food, water, shelter, and the means to make those things happen. So, since morals address actual needs and how they're met, relativism mostly applies to projected situations: what would you do if?

Exceptions might include a philosophical commitment to a certain ideal; e.g., deontology vs. utilitarianism. Or perhaps adopting a religion like Christianity, or Judaism. Even then, however, the moral systems incumbant on most of the world's philosophies and religions come down to meeting the same basic needs and how one does that; and most of them also suggest in one way or another that it is an absolute ought to consider the welfare of the people and places around you.

So, while a person may consider themselves a moral relativist, the term only aides in describing that a person may have a different philosophical commitment about how to meet essential needs (a strategy). In all practicality, however, refusing to meet those needs, regardless of philosophical/religious/a-religious commitments simply makes a person immoral, and not a relativist. Hence what is absolute is that it is incumbant on all of us to be moral; what is relative is how we go about doing that.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mark Driscoll: Sissy-Boys and Kicking Ass

Sigh. The burning stupid.

Rebuke: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23, English Standard Version).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rotten Tummaydaz

I hate seeing all those pasteurised, vinegar and sodium benzoate and other icky things- filled jars of 'preserves' all lined up row upon row in the grocery store. In fact I find being in the grocery store so upsetting that I really need to find somewhere else to buy food. Or barter; I'd prefer that. Anyway, it occurs to me that most people think that those preserves are fine, if not a bit too heavy on the salt. Without going into a defense of salt, I thought I'd share what I do to preserve veggies that leaves their enzymes and vitamins intact, and nourishes your body better than if they had been eaten raw or cooked.

This is adapted from a letter I sent to a woman who wanted to understand how to begin this process:

I'll briefly explain fermentation so that with this information, you can ferment anything. I'm feeling cheerful because I am right now enjoying the best batch of fermented broccoli I've ever had. We've moved north of 60* in Canada, and my ferments are so much better. I don't know if it's the quality of vegetables or the climate that has made the difference; it's probably both.

The active microbes in the fermentation process are called lactobacilli, which is why it is called lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli (l-b) cover the surface of all living things, and you can even see them as a thin white film on the stalks of broccoli and on cabbage. This is the reason for only rinsing and not scrubbing foods that you want to ferment; if you scrub them (l-b) off the surface, you'll have to rely on wild yeast to ferment, which is doable, but depending on what you're fermenting, can just make alcohol instead of sour and crunchy veggies.

*Wild yeast will ferment flour for bread-making, which is better than store-bought yeast. This is called 'natural leaven.'*

So, rinse the veggies, do not scrub, or peel for the same reason as above, cut into bite-sized pieces, and pack tightly into a jar. I cut broccoli stems in slices about 1/2 centimetre thick and if I ferment the florets, I cut them in pieces that our dc can just pop into their mouths. For a 1 litre jar, I add two cloves of garlic cut once or twice and about 1.5-2 tablespoons of very coarse unrefined sea salt. I don't know how that would translate to a finer salt; 2 TBSP of fine salt might be too much.

The salt is in for flavour, minerals, and also to keep the food from spoiling while the lactobacilli grow and reproduce in the anaerobic (no oxygen) environment, at which point, the salt isn't needed to preserve, but it's already in there and it tastes very good. If you use too much salt, you can use the fermented veggies as an additive to salads and then use the leftover salt/l-b brine for the next batch; this batch will ferment faster and will not require more salt because the brine will be full of lactobacilli and you'll see that because it will look cloudy-white.

I use two-piece lids and leave them loose or the jars might explode. With the lid just placed on top, the gases can escape while no/very little new oxygen is introduced to the jar. Some say to put the lid on tight, but if the fermentation is happening fast, you might end up with either a broken jar in the morning, or when you open the lid to let out gases (which you would absolutely have to do with a tight lid), it may explode out like champagne (I've had this happen- sauerkraut garlic juice all over- not nice).

Then I wait. I might check the top if there are bubbles in the jar to make sure everything has stayed under water; anything left popping up will spoil. When I see bubbles forming, I jiggle the jars a bit to help the bubbles rise so that the food isn't pushed out the top. After I've been seeing bubbles and they calm down, I start taste-testing the food. When it's as sour as I like, and still crunchy, we eat it. Previously I had to refrigerate it to stop the fermentation from continuing, but here I keep it in a cool room.

Exclusively fruit ferments will need some added whey (from homemade yogurt or cheese- not powdered stuff) because it doesn't have as much lactic acid or lactobacilli as vegetables do, but I haven't had any trouble with tomatoes, so you'll have to experiment. If it were me, I would try a combination of fruit and vegetable, such as carrots and orange marmalade, or beets and apples (with cloves, yummy), just to make sure there's enough lactobacilli.

I have found that the slower the fermentation, the higher quality the end product. In the fridge, the process is likely too slow (unless you have a second fridge that you could keep at about 60-65*), but a cool place works very well. This is how you'll get crunchy, pleasantly sour veggies without much of a fermented taste- it's more like a very mild vinegar or a lemon-like sourness. If it's warmer, they'll ferment faster and be more like squeaky rubber and have a stronger 'fermented' flavour- still tasty though. Too warm, and they'll start to be mushy before they've finished fermenting and will be very strong tasting.

I don't keep recipes but I can estimate what I put in my 1 litre jars. I typically add 2 cloves cut garlic to broccoli, a TBSP black pepper corns to green beans, TBSP fresh cubed ginger and garlic to carrots, one tsp dried rosemary and 1/2 tsp nutmeg to cabbage/coleslaw, 2 cloves garlic and 1 TBSP peppercorns to cauliflower, 1 tsp cloves to pearl onions, nothing but salt to garlic (but I haven't done much of that- we eat so much fresh that there's never enough around to fill a jar), and I also make a tomato salsa: chopped tomatoes, finely chopped green, red and yellow pepper, green onion, garlic, salt. I've also used 1 TBSP mild curry and 1/2 cup raisins in a cauliflower ferment and it was yummy.

The queen of the ferments is sauerkraut. I rinse the outside of the cabbage, then quarter it, slice it very finely, put into a bowl, add some salt, dried and crumbled rosemary leaves, 2 cloves of cut garlic, and mix it all up, then go do something else. I come back after an hour, pound the cabbage until it's all bruised- it turns translucent when bruised-, pack it into my jars and push my pounding dowel into it until the cabbage juice rises to the top. I continue to pack it until there's only an inch left at the top of the jar. Then I let it sit. When it is done, you'll wonder why you've never had sauerkraut before and what that store-bought stuff really is. It usually takes two two-handed cabbages to fill one 1 litre jar. Then I go rest; this is labour intensive, unlike the lazy veggie ferments above. I pound six to eight cabbages at each sauerkraut session.

Oh, and a little garlic goes a very long way. If your ferment turns out too strong for you, just refrigerate it for a few months, and then try it again. It may have mellowed out and have become very tasty. Sauerkraut is supposedly better after 6 months of mellowing, but ours is eaten so quickly that I haven't been able to test this.

I think the key to figuring out what works best in your climate is to just start trying it. Start with the most simple recipe- maybe the broccoli stalks you may have thrown out before- slice thinly, pack them in tightly, add salt and water. Then watch them, and taste them every day (or more often if it's hot) so that you gain a sense of what is happening at each stage of fermentation.

I would not use refined salt of any sort- especially not table or pickling salt. If I absolutely had to use a 'grocery store' salt, I would find one that doesn't have any additives (I have heard that iodized salt spoils the fermentation process, but I have no personal experience with that), like a plain sea salt. It should stick together like a rock; if it flows, it's not just salt. Can you find a source of naturally harvested sea salt with all of its minerals? Ours has large and small crystals, all square-ish with one side of the crystal sinking inward. It's grey-ish and always wet.

It seems like so many instructions, but once you're doing it, it literally takes less effort than making a salad. I read and read too, and then when I started doing it, I kept thinking, "Is this it? I must be forgetting something." But it is it. It's very simple.

Fermented foods are very, very high in vitamins, especially B, and will recolonise an injured gut with microflora necessary for absorption and digestion of foods. Many cultures serve a fermented food at every meal for this reason. In Korea, they serve Kimchi, in Japan, pickled veggies; this is why a pastrami on rye is served with a pickle- it's supposed to make digesting the meat and bread easy and comfortable. The vinegar grocery store ones don't do that- they cause acid reflux, which is worse for eating ameat sandwich without adequate microflora, and many people are popping antacids for the rest of the day regretting the sandwich well into the night. A naturally lacto-fermented, UNpasteurised food with that sandwich will fix that problem.

Happy eating!

A Skeleton In Their Closet?

Yes, it seems the Catholic Church has to answer to a few questions.  More specifically, was their beloved John Henry Newman gay?  And even if he wasn't, why are they choosing to beatify him and move his grave despite his wishes to be buried by the man he loved, Fr. Ambrose St. John?

More meddling.  More peddling.  I think Luther would've been somewhat irked.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Uh...


...yeah. Anybody else see this and think, "whoa. Creepy"?

I'm pretty sure it was Jesus who walked on the water, not sank into it while throwing his hands up for help.

Armour of God PJ's!

From the good folks at Ship of Fools, I present:

"Isn't it about time for Christian kids to lead the fight against secular pajamas? Yes it is! And what better way to do it than by getting them into costumes straight out of the good old days of the Crusades. These amazingly realistic PJs are silver coloured so they actually look like medieval armor – but don't worry, Mom, they're not really made from steel!

Kids just love donning the breastplate of righteousness, being girt with the belt of truth and taking up the pillow of faith at bedtime. And meanwhile, you can sleep easy. Don't let it bother you for a moment that when your offspring grow up, it will take years of expensive therapy for them to get over this and all the other fundamentalist looney tunes you've imposed on them!

Buy your Armor of God PJs now! Only $39.95 plus shipping. Available from these Bible-believing folks in Florida."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cabbage in the Pulpit = no offense?

Tonight I talked with my husband, Christopher of St. Cynic, while sauteeing cabbage and onions. In this position, I could be rebuking, telling him a profound truth, sharing a vision or a godly insight, quoting holy scripture, arguing a theological point, informing him of my beliefs regarding holy communion, or any other such thing, and as long as I am stirring the pot (hehe)- in this case one full of cabbage and onions-, I can have free reign of the *pulpit.* In fact, I am fairly certain that even if he had a group of his most mainline, most traditional christian friends over to eat with us, I could go on and on without offense, with my wooden spoon firmly planted in that 5 quart sauce pot.

BUT if I were to do the same from a pulpit in a sanctuary of a church building, then I am committing an offense, a controversy, breaking with tradition. I am acting outside of my station, my role, my God-given 'place.' Right?

Okay, now imagine I'm standing at the man-made pulpit in the man-made sanctuary, in the man-made church building, BUT I am cooking! Is it okay to teach then? If I speak, and someone learns something from what I shared, am I not teaching? 

Today I sat in a church building erected by human hands, and listened to a woman teach with words of wisdom from God- from the pulpit (or lectern as was the case), and I wondered what about this arrangement is so offensive to the church groups that I have known in the past? If she had shared the same thing during a potluck with everyone eating together, nobody would have been offended, and everyone would have been blessed by what wisdom the Lord had given her to share with us. So, I can only conclude that it is actually the import we place on the man-made thing, and the rules surrounding it (none of which are found in the scriptures to my knowledge) that are the reason for banning women from teaching in the church. 

As far as I understand, the pulpit is not the altar of God, our hearts are His altar, and if the words the woman at the front shares come neatly to that altar in my heart, edifying and strengthening the relationships I have with the Lord and His people, how could it possibly matter to anyone who spoke them? 

Man, woman, child- when quickened by faith, and enabled by the Holy spirit, speak words of wisdom and truth, it is all from God right?  None of us belongs to him/herself either, right? As one body, we are intertwined and interconnected such that we cannot live without one another, need one another. Should the hand not inform the arm that the burner is hot because it's a girl? Or a child? 

Don't worry, if you learned something- it's okay- I was typing this in the kitchen, where I belong. *Rolls eyes*

Little Woman, BIG statement!

High-5 to Dr. Veith for posting this saintly statement.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Spel Cheque


Oh, the irony...

Tip 'o' the hat to the boys (and gal!) over at Canadian Cynic for this one.


(Warning: if you're easily offended, or have strange and inexplicable affections for right-wing politics, then don't click on the link above.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Twilight Zone of Advertising

By way of "10 Creepiest Old Adds", I bring you the following:


(Thank you to: Unrepentant Old Hippe)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Forclosure

Our neighbours to the south, and across the pond are all seeking bailouts. Apparently subprime mortgages, and irresponsible lending combined with an insatiable inclination to live beyond means in a credit/debt society brought about forclosures at unprecedented levels. Whether that's true or simply what's being spun to us, I don't know. However, I think Megadeth's song Foreclosure of a Dream is strikingly appropriate for such ominous times.


Rise so high, yet so far to fall.
A plan of dignity and balance for all.
Political breakthrough, euphorias high.
More borrowed money, more borrowed time.
Backed in a corner, caught up in the race.
Means to an end ended in disgrace.
Perspective is lost in the spirit of the chase.

Foreclosure of a dream,
Those visions never seen.
Until all is lost,
Personal holocaust.
Foreclosure of a dream.

Barren land that once filled a need,
Are worthless now, dead without a deed.
Slipping away from an iron grip,
Nature's scales are forced to tip,
The heartland cries, loss of all pride.
To leave ain't believing, so try and be tried.
Insufficient funds, insanity and suicide.

Foreclosure of a dream,
Those visions never seen.
Until all is lost,
Personal holocaust.
Foreclosure of a dream.

Now with new hope some will be proud.
This is no hoax, no one pushed out.
Receive a reprieve and be a pioneer.
Break new ground of a new frontier.
New ideas will surely get by.
No deed, or dividend. Some may ask why?
You'll find the solution, the answers in the sky.

Foreclosure of a dream,
Those visions never seen.
Until all is lost,
Personal holocaust.
Foreclosure of a dream.

Rise so high, yet so far to fall.
A plan of dignity and balance for all.
Political breakthrough, euphoria's high.
More borrowed money, more borrowed time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Breaking Wind, er, News

Wind turbines are growing in popularity as an alternative source of eco-friendly energy. The problem is that people who prop-up wind turbines beside their houses are finding out that, yes, they're eco-friendly, but not people-friendly.

In fact, wind turbines have earned themselves the dubious honour of being a new health problem. It's called Wind Turbine Syndrome, and it's generating a host of medical problems for pockets of the world's populations.


Would it be rude of me to say that this news blew me away?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Listen and Learn

Do you like your brain? So does Dr. Andrew Moulden. So hear him out, and understand what's at risk.

And then, if you're interested, go learn how the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world has been including cancer in vaccines.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Authority and the Church P. II

Once again, for your delectation and delight, TJG's comments will be in red and mine will be in black.

"Any leadership function or role that one has presumed to fulfill if not based on a foundation that is rooted in the truth then can we give our approval?"

I think you may be missing some words in your question. I think I get the gist of it but I don't want to risk misinterpreting you; can you re-work the question so I can think about it, and offer an answer?

"But first let’s look at ways that Christian leaders function contrary to the word of God. The most obvious role that leaders depart from the scriptures is the prominent place of Christ amongst God’s people.

"They speak on the behalf of the Holy Spirit and stop the mouths of the saints by not allowing them to minister. This passive pew devotee is weakened not strengthen in his spiritual walk through his own inactivity and order of the meeting that both the leadership and the people (not all) have agreed to."

You know, I want to make it clear, my friend, that I'm asking these questions, and making these comments not because I want to fight, or discourage. I'm asking because I want to make sure that as Christians, whether we meet in homes, or in Church buildings, charity dominates our perspectives, not moralisms.

There are a brace of reasons why the traditional church would pooh-pooh the notion of house church, and visa versa. In the end, I really have to make the point that it doesn't matter. As Christians we are to embrace each other lovingly, and with humility. Enumerating wrongs is a matter for people of sounder judgment than me, and as long as we're able to "dwell together in unity" I'm under no obligation to crusade for one format being better than another.

Having said that, can we agree on the following (about leadership speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit): human agency is about God using people to speak/write His words? If so, then we know that that arrangement is always, and logically, an 'on behalf of' arrangement. The only way it can't be is if God speaks to us Himself. Even the Bible is an 'on the behalf of' arrangement: it's a text recording the inspired words of God, but it is not God Himself.

I agree with you though, that brandishing a position removed from the common aspect of the congregation, and dominating the time for sharing God's Word every week is reprobate. Interestingly, the Lutheran Church in the North Americas, up until about the late 1800's, used a very interactive sermon format: the pastor would preach, and the congregation was free to ask questions, and add Scriptural references, or information as they were led to. In that scenario (which I personally enjoy), the leader is funtioning in such a manner as to keep watch over the congregation's souls (Heb. 13:17). This is how the Catholic Church used to preach in their early days, too. St. Augustine was famous for it, in fact.

"The same spiritual reality in the Old Testament when the people asked for a king that he might go before them and fight their battles applies today. Those people rejected the headship of God to lead them directly, so it is today, men have their minister not the Holy Spirit to lead them directly together."


I may have talked past your point on the issue of a king the last time I wrote about it. I understand that you are suggesting the position of a pastor, bishop, what have you, in today's modern churches is simply a political figurehead, the guy that rules the roost. Unfortunately, I can't disagree with you on the current practice of ministers -- that they're political leaders towing a denominational line. In that sense, you are right that they are treated as if they are kings.

I'm not sure that I could simply make my brush strokes so wide from that admittance, however, that I could conclude "therefore all ministers in modern churches are just kings usurping the place of Christ in His congregations." Like I said previously, some of these men are God-fearing, sincere men who live to serve and teach; it's what makes their hearts beat. They do not consider themselves kings, nor do they act like them even when they are nominated to be one by a group of Christians who are unaware that they've got a wrong perspective on how a minister should minister. They're simply men who move within the body of Christ teaching, loving, and sharing; they are exemplars.

"This kind of listening fosters spiritual infants, since only a child must be feed and can not feed himself. The purpose of ministry is to mature the saints, edify the body of Christ and bring them to be the fullness in Christ. (Eph.4:11-14)"

I must disagree with you here, flat-out. First, there are many exemplars (saints) of the faith that have come out of the churches you are accusing of fostering 'spiritual infants'. In fact, they are too numerous to list here. Add to their numbers all the theologians, apologists, martyrs, wise ole grannies and grandpas, etc. You mix all those people together and you've got a good batch of people who've come through the 'spoon-feeding' church, and grown into people even you and I can look up to.

Second, the format of today's churches, granted, can and often does lead to a lack of substantial teaching, and discipleship. However, it is not the sole responsibility of the people around a believer to bring that person into the fulness of the faith; it is also that believer's responsibility. So if a person is not pursuing understanding outside the format of a given church, it is hardly the fault of the church that person is attending. Hence any believer can foster spiritual infancy if they wrecklessly, negligently, and needlessly stay in an infantile state.

"These leaders promote the clergy laity division which is a lie."

Please establish this argument from Scripture and history.

"These leaders nullify the functioning priesthood of the believer through their exclusiveness."

Recall that historically, it was the people who called for someone out of their midst to act in an exclusive role. People wanted to be led. People still want to be led. From that, it can be argued that the historic priesthood of believers nullified themselves. So now what?

"There is a tendency for these leaders to foster family ties and promote themselves (son,daughter,etc) through the financial benefits they receive."

This has always been the case. Nepotism is something that accompanies many organized peoples. It's next to unavoidable, really. Nevertheless, it does, you're right, set up a tangled web of preferential relationships rather than a wholistic, biblical qualification to leadership.

"They do not produce might men or valor. They take a name for themselves showing their carnality through dividing themselves from the rest of the body of Christ. (1 Cor.3: 1-3 )"

Again, the 'mighty men' and the 'valour' you write about: there are pages and pages of countless volumes of mighty men, and men and women of valour who have been swaddled, indoctrinated, and rasied in the churches you regard as sub-standard, or misleading, or whatever descriptor you want to place on them.

On The Brink

While the US teeters on the brink of a financial collapse, France is hitting up the European Community for the same solution: a bailout. Does anyone else see this as a big sign for depressive times ahead?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Law of Prayer

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch has a very insightful article, here, on the maxim lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of believing).
"That is, the way (and the what) that one prays is intimately and reciprocally related to the way (and the what) that one believes."

It is a simple fact that "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45). And it is reasonable to extrapolate from that that our understanding of our Christian faith will come out in prayer.

This, if anything, should give us impetus to "go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen" (Matt. 6:6). For it is there, in your room, in prayer, that your real education will begin (Dostoevsky, Have Mercy On Those Who Come Before Thee). It is there that what you believe will be meted out under the beneficient guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is there that you will "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). It is there that the soul stands taller when the body is on its knees.

If the 'law of prayer is the law of believing', then what an amazing opportunity we have to step into the Holy of Holies and ask God what it is we should believe, how we should go about practicing it, and how we can articulate it in ways that help others (1 Pt. 3:15-16)! If what is prayed is what is believed then each of us has a duty to listen that much more closely to the prayers of our brothers and sisters so that we can learn from their life with God, and gently correct if what they pray is not what they practice. At the same time, we are wise to receive admonitions from our brothers and sisters if what they hear us praying is not what they see us practicing.

So what is it that we can be confident about believing? There has to be some baseline, some suppositional starting point where we throw ourselves into the mix and try and figure out what is right to believe. And the primary answer to that is, the Word of God.

Our prayers should be steeped in the Word of God, drawing on His words to inform our hearts, minds, and bodies. We are to let the Word of God indwell us, take up home in us, live in us (Col. 3:16-17), and by doing so, "whatever [we] do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

It is a linear application: the Word of God prompts its own expectations. That is, because the Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12), and indwells the believer, it urges what it teaches; it spurs the believer on to what it declares. In that sense,

"...doctrine informs practice, but practice in turn shapes doctrine. What the church does, and how she does it, not only confesses but in time also determines what she believes and teaches. The practice of prayer is a way of teaching; indeed, it is a primary means of catechesis, which forms thinking and believing."

The living Word of God that indwells each Christian is the baseline for all Christian belief. What God has said, we believe; what we believe should be what we practice. Hence there is a direct correlation between what a Christian prays who has the living Word of God indwelling him, and what he practices. And what should the Christian practice? Matthew 25:31-46 and James 1:27 give clear, though not exhaustive answers to that question.

The secondary answer to what is right to believe comes down to us through the "democracy of the dead" (G.K. Chesterton). That is, through the creeds (Apostle's, Nicene, and Athanasian) and traditions of believers who have gone before us. The creeds (from the Latin credo, "I believe") summarize the heart of the Christian faith by placing the chief doctrines of Scripture in brief.

Looking to the freedom of the saints of the past points us to the freedom we can enjoy in Christ both now, and in the future. Their exemplary lives serve as a constant guide for how 'the law of prayer is the law of belief' by highlighting the intersection between what they believed and how they practiced it.

We do well to heighten our attention to our prayer lives. Prayer is our umbilical chord to God. It is how we are fed, because in prayer God reinforces His Word so that it indwells us. From there, what we pray forms what we believe, and what we believe becomes our practice. Rev. Stuckwisch can have the last word on this subject:

"So we are rightly concerned with "prayer," broadly speaking, as a teaching and confessing of belief. Right praying serves, supports and substantiates right believing, in much the same way that heterodox praying is both indicative and precipitant of heterodox believing. That's basically the affirmation and the warning implicit in "lex orandi, lex credendi," as it is typically summoned to duty."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Good. Now...

...if they could just phase out the dead babies problem.  Maybe then there'd be a little more merit to the shot.  Of course there's the whole flawed germ theory.  But we're not counting that.

Harping About Alberta

Primeminister Harpy is shrieking that the Liberals are against Alberta.  I suppose if they are it's a bit of a tempest in a teapot given Harpy's anti-Canada-make-me-an-American stance.  Nice try Harpy-boy.  Go crawl in a hole somewhere.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Actual Newspaper Headlines

I was exiting a convenience store a while ago, and I caught a glimpse of a headline from a local newspaper. It read: "Man Seen Walking Out Of Bar Dead". Needless to say, I was shocked: how does a dead man walk? And where was he walking to, 'cause I don't want to be anywhere near that!

Anyway, I remembered that incident tonight, and thought I'd post some other daft headlines. Here's the source. And here's the fun:

SOME ARE JUST SLIPS OF THE TONGUE:
Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
House passes gas tax onto senate
Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
William Kelly was fed secretary
Milk drinkers are turning to powder
Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
Quarter of a million Chinese live on water
Farmer bill dies in house
Iraqi head seeks arms

SOME BECOME UNINTENTIONALLY SUGGESTIVE:
Queen Mary having bottom scraped
Is there a ring of debris around Uranus?
Prostitutes appeal to Pope
Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes over
NJ judge to rule on nude beach
Child's stool great for use in garden
Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper editors
Soviet virgin lands short of goal again
Organ festival ends in smashing climax

GRAMMAR OFTEN BOTCHES OTHER HEADLINES:
Eye drops off shelf
Squad helps dog bite victim
Dealers will hear car talk at noon
Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
Miners refuse to work after death
Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter

ONCE IN A WHILE, A BOTCHED HEADLINE TAKES ON A MEANING OPPOSITE FROM THE ONE INTENDED:
Never withhold herpes from loved one
Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
Autos killing 110 a day, let's resolve to do better

SOMETIMES NEWSPAPER EDITORS STATE THE OBVIOUS:
If strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
War dims hope for peace
Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
Cold wave linked to temperatures
Child's death ruins couple's holiday
Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn't seen in years
Man is fatally slain
Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation

Authority and the Church P. I

Alright, kids. I'm going to be posting a debate over the next while I had with a couple of well-meaning house-churchers. You can make up your own minds about the validity/invalidity of the participants' comments. Suneal, feel free to throw in your part in the debate if you want. If not, that's cool, too.

My comments will be in black, and TJG's will be in red. Let's play!

lets look at the way the body of Christ is controled by men and women who somehow think they have authority over the body by some kind of decree, ordination, position. Lets look at this and find out what the truth is.

I like Truth!! John 8:31,32; 17:17

I'm not sure I quite agree with the implication of your wording, TJG. In particular, I disagree with the implications that follow from "men and women who somehow think they have authority over the body by decree, ordination, position."

First, the implication here is that those who are taking up a place of leadership within the church are somehow strong-arming the rest of the body; or at least attempting to. I think it would be disingenuous to assume this of people in leadership simply because they're in a place of leadership in a model of church that may, or may not be representative of Christ's intentions for His people.

Many leaders are where they are at simply because they have been approved by local congregations to teach, preach, and counsel. I could fire off at least a dozen names of men who love serving others, and don't see their positions in leadership as a way to manipulate control over the fold. And further, assuming this of leadership is an abrogation of our responsibilities under the 8th commandment, to "not bear false witness against our neighbours." As Martin Luther explained regarding the 8th commandment, we should strive to "put the best construction on everyone." Or, in other words, assume the best of them until they have proven the worst of themselves.

Second, as you once explained to me, ordination simply means 'appointment'. You're exactly right! By implication then, the local congregations (who are part of the Body of Christ) that elect, or appoint someone to lead them are doing so as a God-given right. And, as Paul says, "all things are permissable, but not everything is beneficial" (1 Cor. 10:23). So if they want someone to lead them, they are free in Christ to seek that out.

This is not the same thing as desiring a king, just to look into that for a second. In the Old Testament, the King did not fulfill a priestly role, and was barred access from the Holy of Holies. With Christ, we are all given access to the Holy of Holies -- the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). With Christ we have our Lord and King. We also have our Prophet and Priest. So to elect, or appoint a person to lead us is roughly on the same level as seeking out a tutor for math, or English, or what have you. The intention for a leader within the local church is not to have a king, but a guide and teacher. I think that's perfectly well and fine, to be honest, since not all of us should presume to be teachers (James 3:1), and not all of us have been given the same gifts (1 Cor. 12:28-30). We should all work together with what God has given each of us. For some, that includes teaching. And since God has marked their lives out with such an appointment, or gift, why would we deny that simply to be different from a model of church we have a hard time appreciating?

Can we say that there has been and presently is a departing from the scriptural basis that leaders are functioning in?

Has been: All through Christian history one communion has kicked at the goads of another, yes. And to that end, they've claimed that the 'other' is being unbiblical. The nascent Catholic Church, for example, ram-rodded the Donatists for their rigorism, and pleasantly off-base understanding of purity and the eucharist. Wycliffe was brushed under the carpet for his pre-Lutheran attempt to rain Scripture down on the masses with an English version. Huss was burned at the stake while his supporters rallied scriptural bullets to riddle the philistine Catholics. Then there's Luther: he was given a shake for tacking thoughts to a door, and following through on their logical conclusion; the chagrin ran high on both sides of the electorates.

In the end, the past has seen a good deal of abuse in the leadership of the Church; there's been a good deal of abuse of the leadership of the Church, too. A swarthy distinction, but pertinent.

Present: No different than the past except that word gets 'round a little faster these days. The political stakes are just as high, and the same bodies of believers are still doing the pee-pee dance while denying the right to the 'other' to use the facilities, you know what I mean? In other words, it's all just b.s., and part of what people do when they organise with a common cause. Doesn't make it okay, but until we're perfected in Christ, it won't go away.

Having said that, I have to ask a few questions in return: what makes you think that doing Church as a House Church will avoid any of the partitioning, and pandering that accompanies conventional churches? And just to keep in focus with your question a little more, why do you think a house church model will avoid the pitfalls and downswings of churches as they've been through the centuries? The leadership is still there and just as easily compromised, so what really changes apart from location and liturgy?

Just because a body of believers allows themselves to depart from what the bible gives us as acceptable leadership, is that body, then free of correction or even rebuke?

No, but are they forbidden to do what best suits their needs, if by doing so they're not sinning?

When I wrote about the body of Christ that is controlled by men or women my intent was to bring out the biblical model that we find in the scripture that would promote and define what authority if any a leader has and in what capacity is that person to function.

By comparison of what is the biblical norm concerning leadership, with what is common today we can contrast the differences between the two and filter out what is true with what is false. We can see the difference between those who follow the Lord’s ways and those who function contrary to the Lord’s ways.

Okay. I can accept a compare and contrast method, but it does have a fatal flaw: it is based on a static view of the object being studied. In this case, it's the Church and Church leadership. By comparing and contrasting the Church and its leaders as we see them in Scripture (a purely historical endeavour, it seems) with the Church as it is today (minus the house church for our purposes) we only see the black of what was, and the white of what it has become; there's no understanding of the grey shift that happened through history when the black morphed to white. It's just an examination of the early church versus an examination of the church of today.

The Church is more dynamic than that; it is a growing entity, a body of believers through history. It isn't simply two end-points on a timeline, as the compare and contrast method would accidentally promote. What are the reasons for the way Church has become? Why are those reasons right or wrong? What happened that Church leadership became what it is commonly understood to be? There are so many questions that need answering before we can simply state, 'the biblical church was right, and the modern church is wrong, therefore we'll be a house church because that seems biblical.'

But on a more reflective note, not everything is demarcated between what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'. I think God made that abundantly clear when He inspired St. Paul to pen the words (and I pointed this out earlier) "All things are permissable but not everything is beneficial." Clearly, some things require a moral judgement. At those junctures it behooves us to keep a clear, biblical stance on an issue. But I do have to question though, is the format that people choose to fellowship by morally wrong simply because we can establish this-and-that claim about another format evident in Scripture, namely, meeting in homes? I'd hesitate to answer 'yes'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Let Them Eat Metal

Huh. How ironic that the Mercury News would spotlight a column on the flu vaccine. I wonder how many aborted human fetal tissues went into this new elixir? But more than ever, children between the ages of 6 - 18 should sssssssuuuuuuuppppprrrreeeessssssss those antigens, and numb their bodies to the effects of pathogens. Now you can have your flu and not feel it, too!

Monday, September 22, 2008

1 For Theists, 0 For Atheists

An interesting study shows that atheists display a greater penchant for superstitious beliefs than do theists.  Granted, the atheist considers theism an expression of superstition, but the bar for rationality seems set a little higher on the theist's side.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brave New Church

It's reasonable to define yourself and your function by accepted norms. That's why Bill Hybels has defined his pastorate as being a pastor. Dig it:

“Pastor Bill Hybels did not give his life to the development of the local church just to gather a bunch of casual Christians, he says. He gave it to see people far from God find the love of Christ and fully devote themselves to God and what He is doing.”

You see? Bill Hybels became a pastor so he could do what other pastors are doing: lead people into a devoted life under Christ. Isn't it nice that this celebrity Christian can garner so much attention in the media by being all pastory and stuff? Or is there more?

“Expressing similar sentiments, Pastor Tim Gray of Bridge Community Church, a congregation of 400 in Leadington, Montana, says, 'We're called to make disciples ... not members, not pew-sitters.'"

Very good. Membership does not equal discipleship. Has any of this struck you as newsworthy, yet?

“Many pastors would agree. But since the early Christian church, pastors have only had three ways to measure the spiritual growth of churchgoers and assess how effective churches were in developing Christ followers and not 'pew-sitters'.”

Really? Only three? Hmm...

“Those three methods were attendance, baptisms (or conversions), and resources (ie tithing), at least according to Cally Parkinson of Willow Creek Association.”

Attendence. I suppose. But if I miss a Sunday because this-that-or-the-other thing happens, I can get off lightly with a venial sin in the Catholic Church. So no harm done, really. I mean, if my heart is in the institution, and Christ is only on the periphery of my spiritual life, then I suppose skipping a Sunday really can't amount to spiritual shrinking, can it? Christ's ubiquity in the hearts of all believers... meh. A trifle, really.

And if I'm a good anabaptist, then heaven forbid I miss hearing the pastor's admonishments, and hortatory remarks. For there's nothing like a good pacifist leader to wage war on an absentee regular! But perhaps there's refuge in the mainline traditions? Not so. Instead, missing a Sunday is met with a stern glare, or a shake of the head, a crestfallen glance from the local shepherd who in his spiritual sojourn has somehow misaligned regular attendance with numinal expansion. Again, that pesky notion that the institution can see clearly into the hearts of believers and track their growth – by attendence! Bunk. Pure, unadulterated, shame-faced bunk.

Baptism is a good point. Infant baptism (paedobaptism) gets some people's stomachs roiling, but that's okay. They're allowed to be wrong, too. And beliver's baptism (credobaptism)... well, that's kind of obvious, isn't it? There has to be some growth to get to a point where such a confessional measure happens.

Resources? Is that the early church term? Whatever. I do like the id est (ie) 'tithing' thing, however. Nice touch. I wonder if Ms. Parkinson can establish the biblical warrant for tithing in the New Testament, or if she'd just spout the same old institutional bastardization of “render unto Caesar what is Caesars”? Or draw on the temple robbery happening in Malachi as the fulcrum for tithing now?

So what do we have here: individual spiritual growth is thrown into the hopper with church attendance, statistics on baptism, and how much an overall congregation contributes to its coffers. Hence we can measure an individual's spiritual growth by the fluctuating data of a congregation. Spiffy. Glad that pastor thing is working out for you, Mr. Hybles. We wouldn't want you to have to get on level with the individuals of your congregation and, oh I don't know, talk to them, and learn who they are for real. Tip 'o' the hat to your good Ms. Parkinson for homogenizing people into statistics and data, and then proof-texting her “research” with eisegetic meanderings through the patristic period. Are you really trying to stave off personal accountability via a three-tiered growth chart?

"'Those were your three ways of measuring because you really had no other way to figure out whether or not what you were doing was really helping people become increasingly intimate with Christ and increase their love for God and of others,' said Parkinson, one of the leaders of WCA's Reveal research.”

Ding, ding, ding! And the answer is: yes! You are trying to categorize people's growth by charting their participation in the three 'methods' above.

Interestingly, Ms. Parkinson is not the pastor at Willow Creek. Bill Hybels is, however. And both Bill Hybels, and Ms. Parkinson both missed the glaring point that talking to your congregants, hanging out with them, just simply being with them will give you a better indication of their spiritual wherewithal than trying to spy out their attentions to the 'three historical ways'.

But let's just follow along with the delusion and see where it leads, shall we? Where were we? Oh, yes! There were no other ways to see if people were growing spiritually.

“That is, until now.”

Duh-duh-duh-dah! Ssssssssssuper Church!

“Parkinson and a small team at WCA have recently made available to all churches what has been called a groundbreaking study that provides a “vivid picture of the 'unseen' hearts" of congregants and their spiritual growth. The Reveal Spiritual Life Survey serves as a "lens", as Parkinson explained, for pastors to be able to view where congregants are spiritually.”

Right. Because previously, it was too difficult to just ask. Now, with the advent of Parkinson technology, we can combine a global advertizing strategy with several questions that'll let you know how far under the yoke of the law you should be! Wanna work for your spiritual supper? Here's how you can do it, folks. Just sign up now, and take the Reveal Spiritual Life Survey to find out if you're passing or failing in God's eyes. Then, once you know, you can turn up the heat, or kick up your feet. It all depends on how well Reveal says you've grown. Isn't it nice to know someone out there can see you better through a 'lens' of paper than your own local pastor can by taking a moment to meet with you?

But wait! It gets better. Once all the data is in on your congregation, you can tell if your church is close to God, or far from Him. Because, hey! when it all comes together, and you've answered a series of static questions designed to tally up the dynamic person you, and others around you are, you'll have a clearer picture of you and your congregation's proximity to God. Hell, throw in a psychometrist or two, and have them apply the Flynn Effect over a generation or two and we'll be able to see what side of the bell-curve people are falling on over time. It's not an IQ test. It's not even an EQ test. It's a spiffy, hopped up, revolutionary SQ test – the Spiritual Quotient test!

“So far, more than 500 churches and half a million congregants have taken the survey and many have found the results surprising.”

I'm surprised they've been able to sucker this many congregations and people into this neo-gnostic crapolla.

“Willow Creek Community Church was the first to take the survey in 2004. At that time, the influential megachurch in South Barrington, Illinois, was at a crossroads, according to Parkinson, as they were in the midst of building a new 7,200-seat auditorium but was also at the end of their strategic planning cycle.”

So, naturally, being at the end of their strategic planning cycle...

"'It was like where is the church going next?' Parkinson said.”

It was 'like' that was it? I fail to see the simile.

I do see the similarity, however, between building a new 7,200 seat auditorium, coming to the end of a strategic planning cycle and wondering how the %$#% you're going to foot the bill for such a colossal building. Sly. Very sly.

The Catholics did this sort of thing, too, when they were building St. Peter's Cathedral off the backs of the peasantry.  Luther was pissed, made it known, and the church hasn't been the same since.  So let's forget about history, hey?  Let's just repeat our mistakes and chalk it up to innovation.   Awesome.

“Then out of what Parkinson described as a divine, extraordinary coming together of circumstances, the Reveal study was born and soon survey findings at Willow Creek and six other churches across the country rocked the megachurch.”

It's always nice when some crafty little plan to garner money from unwitting believers can be tagged with God's divine approval. Must boost one's sense of overall importance. It's like popular escatology that way, I suppose.

“Among the findings, what 'really caught us off guard' was the discovery that involvement in church activities does not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth, Reveal's leadership stated in Reveal: Where Are You?".

You don't say. No, you did say. And you wasted everyone's time with the obvious on that one, too. Who woulda thunk that the whole argument for measuring spiritual growth by overall attendence in church would turn out to be bunk? Pure, unadulterated, shame-faced bunk.

Anyway, the article goes on at torturous lengths citing quote after quote of rabid stupidity from these hyped-up uber-leaders. Their pride over their spiritual life inventory has all the plush and glow of one of Huxley's evenings at the feelies, and all the invasive qualities of a finger in the eye. This kind of spiritual gobbledygook really grates on my nerves.

With all their crackpot notions of 'It', and their misinformed slants on leadership, I'm sure they'll attenuate their spiritual eugenics program and divide the Alpha Plus Spirituals from the Epsilons any day now.

Brave new church, indeed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh, Come On!

We couldn't possibly this unaware as Christians, could we? Are we that cloistered away in our nebulous little world that we don't know about such prominent evils as 'human trafficking'?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sillifying the Pope

So France is re-thinking its staunch secularism. Okay, that's all good and stuff, but something strikes me as a little odd about this article, and others of its sort. In short, why, when the pope is involved in something, do reporters almost invariably quote ambiguous, seemingly out-of-context, and two-dimensional remarks from the Catholic Church's top-dog?

For example, France has had a long train of secular leaders and made a tradition out of keeping church and politics separate. The pope comes along and says that the church won't claim the state's place -- damn! there go the aspirations to resurrect the Carolingian and Avignon jurisdictions -- which is a significant admission, overall. However, reporting on the historic event of the pope's soirée in France, Ms. Gold was only able to cut-and-paste the following wisps of the pope's speech during an open-air mass for her conclusion:

"The Pope urged the pilgrims not to lose hope in the face of challenges.

'The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us,' he said, later adding, 'Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by difficulties.'”

Umm... what difficulties are those, Ms. Gold? Would you mind furnishing us with some of the rest of the pope's speech? 'Cause right now, I'm a-thinkin' that il papa is pulling rabbits out of his pointy hat. Is it just that making the transition from a secular to a secular-sacred state would ruffle some feathers? And is that really what M. Sarkozy's meeting with the pope was really about? You know, converting France's political structure to accept the immanence of religious perspectives in the design, implementation, and administration of legislations? Or was it just that Sarkozy, being a lapsed Catholic himself, felt the need to be a little more cordial than previous presidents?

In any case, Benedict XVI was kind enough to give us all a throw back to the 80's with his Huey Lewis quote, "the power of love". The Cardinal-cum-Papa has a little hipster in him afterall, hey? Good on him!