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:

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

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

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

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

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!