March 30, 2005

Truth Hurts

"... With that said, I do think you could've made your point without feeling like we were being told 'this is all the ways in which you're falling short.' We can always improve and it's always good to look at areas we need to address, but as the verse says 'rebuke in love'."

I have always had the hardest time with this. I have these two things inside of me that are a bit lethal together: on the one hand, I like to talk. My friend was always telling me to "shut up and sing" when I was the worship leader for our campus fellowship, because inevitably, I'd try to preach about something - it's a cruel irony to put a guy who likes to talk up in front of people with a microphone and then tell him not to (worship leaders are not supposed to talk, they are supposed to lead singing). On the other hand, I like to be right - as in correct. I especially like to be proven right. Together, they tend to get me in trouble.

What usually gets me in trouble is when I want to talk about why I'm right. And God gave me a bit of a brain, so I can usually make it at least sound like I'm right about whatever it is we're talking about (fortunately, God gave me a wife who sees right through it, every time). Sometimes I might even be right. But it seems like it usually ends up hurting somebody. The number of times that somebody has told me "ya could've been a little nicer about it" is a bit too high for me to feel comfortable about it anymore.

The funny thing is, I hate confrontation, which is like pouring lemon juice on somebody's freshly skinned body - it burns like nothing else. Not only do I tell them I'm right, but I duck and cover before they can tell me that I've hurt them. And so I add insult to injury.

The worst part is, the people who tell me that I should've been nicer are the people who always say it in a way that I was so glad that I was mean to them and want to be mean again, just in hopes that they'll tell me as nicely again. It's a problem. This is not to say to those people to stop being nice, by the way - the gift of mercy on someone as clueless as me is a true gift from God.

I'm not sure what to do anymore. I wish that I could learn to shut up and listen more often, and to ask the right questions and have the patience to guide people to a viewpoint that I know has been placed in my mind by God. As the song goes, "are you adding to the noise? Turn off this song!" Telling the hard stuff and being nice about it is a gift I want to learn; God's put enough people in my life who know how to do it well. Hopefully it'll sink in soon.

March 29, 2005

Split-Brain

Your Brain is 53.33% Female, 46.67% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

What Gender Is Your Brain?

March 28, 2005

Hope Springs Eternal

Ok. So Terri Schiavo's case is pretty controversial. I'm not really sure why I'm writing something on the subject on my blog, because anyone who knows me will know that the whole situation disgusts me in general. Why we would be contemplating letting someone die without a fight to the end is beyond me, much less by starvation.

That her husband is already in a common-law marriage is suspicious at best. That he is advocating that Terri be left to die, especially of starvation, is a horror above all horrors. I'm married, and I love my wife very much. Were she to ever become, shall we say, less than a joy to have around (say, having to eat via feeding tube), I love her enough to be sitting by her bedside at every chance I got to read to her, smile at her, touch her, and give her hope in any way I could. But he's not - she became a burden and he "moved on", as it were, as soon as he got the chance. Well, at least, just after he got $1.7 million to "take care of her" and then didn't.

I was a bit annoyed, at first, that the government stepped in to the case, because I'm sure that the government has ignored the rights of lots of people in similar situations simply by virtue of the fact that they didn't know those people were IN those situations. But then I read this
article and was convinced that what they did was the right thing. For one, they can't hunt down every hopeless human being, they have a lot of things to take care of that involve the greater good. But when something comes to their attention and someone - Terri's parents - beg for their help, this government had the integrity to step in and try. Even if they did fail, it's a sign of their moral integrity that the Bush brothers did what they could to help someone as broken and unable to defend herself as Terri Schiavo.

I worry about this nation. I worry that we've become like Rome - self-serving, egotistical, pluralistic fools who gave up their freedom to follow the desires of their bodies because they didn't care for self-control, virtue, or their fellow human beings enough to bother with responsibility. Yes, that wonderful quote from Spiderman comes to mind - "with great power comes great responsibility." It's the quote that was thrown so often by liberals at the current government in the time of the Iraq crisis, but somehow has gotten lost in the Schiavo case.

We have a responsibility to the lost, the downtrodden, the sick, the elderly, the beaten, the forlorn, the weak, the poor, and the oppressed. That responsibility goes beyond telling them that there is hope - we are to go and do everything we can for them that they might have hope. That they might see how much we care for them so they can see how valuable their lives are, that we might learn from them what it is to be servants. There is a hope worth talking about, but I say we show it to the world - and they will see, and believe.

A Poem

what have i to give this dying world?
what have i done to help the lost
quench the thirsty
heal the sick?

what have i to give this dying world?
Lord, i have nothing worth giving
i feel nothing worth giving
i am nothing

what have i to give this dying world but myself?
ah, but comfort
comfort makes me hesitate
fool that i am

what have i to give this dying world but love?
i love my comfort
i love my safety
i love my life

what have i to give this dying world but my life?
with eyes of mercy i must see
with hands of compassion i must touch
with feet of grace i must walk

what have i to give this dying world but my service?

Art

I couldn't help but notice a lot of really great blogs about the meaning of Easter this year. Funny though, my favorite had only a few words in it, and they were the title of the blog. No, it wasn't blank. It was artwork. I love art, in its many forms. I love pictures and paintings, I love photography, I love dance (mostly watching others dance, I can't dance very well). I love baking - and yes, food is most definitely art. Most of all I love music. Art is, in my book, the second best thing that makes the world worth living in. Even sports are a kind of art, I'd say, but I still can't play raquetball to save my life.

I think people are artwork too. With the whole "postmodern" thing I've been writing so much about lately, it's tough to keep my nose out of a book or my laptop, or to keep from working on it in my head 24/7. But I've noticed that with postmodernism, there's this odd contradiction - value people as artwork, but without their creator. I don't see how art could exist without an artist.

It's like saying that the Sistene Chapel was a random accident, that Michaelangelo wasn't inside laboring for days, weeks, however long, painting away, that it just "happened" and we're supposed to find that beautiful. Or like saying Josquin didn't write the L'homme Arme masses (sorry, I got hooked when I took a medieval music course), or closer to home, like saying John Mayer doesn't create works of art each time he sings a piece of music (regardless of who wrote it - but someone had to write it, right?).

No, art cannot exist without an artist. And I think God is an artist - through and through. The very universe we live in is more than a scientific marvel - it's a work of art. Think of it - indescribable complexity working to make the sun come up each morning, beauty in the intricate molecular interactions of a waterfall, fascination in the way light travels billions of light-years to bring us the night sky we look at, the complex neurobiology involved in the operation of a single human eye.



And without an artist?

I've been asked before why I believe that there's a God. How could I possibly think that there is a God when there's so much science to prove there isn't - that it's all an intricate web of interactions. My answer - you're right, it IS an intricate web of interactions, one that couldn't possibly have happened by chance. Beauty is its own evidence, the universe a testimony to its creator.

March 24, 2005

Few Are Chosen

I have an addendum to my last blog.

I was suddenly struck (while reading it over to make sure that I didn't say anything too stupid) that the parable never mentions who the bride is. I realize that it's not terribly important to the story, but isn't it interesting that the church is called the "bride of Christ"? So if the church is the bride, then the people that came to the wedding would probably be the church - the chosen people - except that the first ones who had originally been chosen were stupid and refused to come. So the king gets others - everyone else - and in this mindframe, he gets them to be the bride.

I love scripture: so many levels to talk about, it's insane. I love that you can talk about a passage for days and never repeat yourself. I love the message it gives us, I love that it's available to everyone to read and partake. Call me a big nerd, but it's just cool.

Many are Invited

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.


"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
[Matthew 22]

It's an interesting parable. I'm interested in the king, though. He throws this wedding banquet for his son, inviting all these guests, and when they're called to come to the prepared banquet, they all refuse to come. The people who the king invited refused to come to his son's wedding.


This bothers me. Why would they refuse? That makes no kind of sense to me at all - if the king, who seems to be a pretty nice guy, invited me to his son's wedding, I'd be there in a heartbeat (this from a guy who is totally into free food). But no, the invited guests get snobby and refuse to go because they're "busy", and then kill all the people he'd sent to invite them. And so the king gets pissed. He sends his army out and destroys the people who refused - not because they refused, but because they killed the messengers.

And so what does the king do next? This just blows my mind - instead of just leaving it be and letting the son get married alone, he throws open his doors and invites everyone he can find. Everyone. Not just the ones who he liked best, absolutely everyone.

And that should be the end of the story. But it's not ... during the wedding (and a hoppin' party it is), the king finds someone who came in without proper wedding clothes. This just isn't the king's day - dissed by people twice in a row! And he gets mad, and asks why the guy hasn't dressed in the clothes he was supposed to - the guy is speachless - and the king has him thrown out.

Interesting. I've read that kings would provide clothes for the guests if they didn't have proper ones (though I don't know why the king would've invited people without them, but this seems to be an exceptional king). But let's look at the whole thing now - top to bottom, metaphor removed.

Jesus is getting married and God wants to put on a wedding party for him. Great. Problem - the chosen people of God have abandoned Him, and so He destroys them and invites everyone else (the rest of humanity, it would seem, since there's no specific group of people listed) to participate in this wedding.

But it gets better. Not only does he invite the large group of people come in, they get the clothes for it too. But one guy doesn't put them on. Why not? Noone knows - scripture doesn't say because he's speechless. And so God casts out the guy who's not in the proper state of dress, even though he sees what the wedding is like.

What is the proper state of dress? Scripture is pretty clear: Jesus. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son ..." [John 3:16] "... clothe yourself with Christ ..." [Romans 13:14]

And to make my plug for our continued discussion on Calvinism ... the parable definitely says that all were invited, save those who had been called before. And it's a terrible response to Adam's last blog, but at this point, I have a thesis to get back to. I'll leave him with this - I think that humanity is corrupt too. But that doesn't mean that we have lost the ability to choose, it just makes our decision that much harder.

March 21, 2005

Japan

Stolen from my friend Andrew (who is himself Asian), this is quite possibly the funniest thing I've ever read about Japan.

Japan (n.): Quite the nicest place to live in the world, unless you're a foreigner. In which case, you will be accepted if you have money and are Chinese, or maybe American (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Mexico, France and Russia are considered synonymous with the United States). Even then, you will be constantly stared at and expected to maintain fastidious standards of cleanliness, such as slurping your noodles, picking your nose, copulating in public and bathing in the same bath that a lot of incontinent elderly people have been wallowing around in. Japan is a very safe place to live, unless you're a student and the victim of unmerciful bullying and ostracism, as well as badgering by your teachers. (see GERMANY; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA).

Paradigm Shift

God works in mysterious ways.

Check that - it implies that I could understand His ways, given enough time. Rather, God works, and I have no idea how. But He does. I had this weird experience last night. I don't know if you've ever had one of those times when you suddenly saw a huge picture of how your life had been working in tandem with several other people's without your knowledge, but if not, you should start asking God to show you. It's pretty sweet.

I know, I'm rambling, but I'm just not sure if I can put words to how entirely excited and scared and nervous and ecstatic I am right now. There are so many details to be worked out it makes me sick just thinking about it, and there are so many risks that I don't know if my tiny little brain can wrap itself around them. Maybe its best that it doesn't.

We had another phone meeting with a Pastor friend of ours in Australia last night, about our future mission trip there for a church plant. Funny thing though, I answer the phone and after a few greetings, she says "so I have some really big news, but I don't know what it means for you guys anymore - I've had a bit of a paradigm shift, and I'd like to explain it to you first before you say anything."

And then she more or less read me my thesis.

Mind you, we'd never talked about this before. All we've mentioned up until this point is the details about getting there and who we'd be working with and stuff like that, but never our ministry philosophy, because we all sort of assumed that it was the same (we all studied at the same church). And of course, you all have read about my changing ideas on ministry, of the missional church and how everyone in it is called by Jesus to be missionaries and how the church takes a holistic approach to ministry - building into each person on every level possible, incorporating service alongside worship gatherings alongside recreation. About how a worship gathering reflects the community, how art is important, how above all else, we are to be open and honest with our non-Christian neighbors, not judgemental.

None of it's very traditional, none of it really fits into the way church has been done until this point - unless you go back about 2,000 years. But the world is changing, and Ruth (the pastor) realized that too. I have little doubt in my mind that God's been preparing both of us for this mission, planing a church that looks nothing like a church, at least, in the world's eyes.

In short, we're going to Australia in the fall. I don't know how yet, but I know that it's going to be amazing. I hope we don't have to swim there, but if we do, God's going to give us the water-wings to keep us afloat. If you're the praying sort, please be praying for us - for Liz and me, for Ruth and her family, for the city of Melbourne, for WWM to see how valuable this new philosophy is for the new generations (and to give us the ok to raise funding so we don't have to swim over or live in a cardboard box), for our families to understand and be supportive, and for our hearts and minds and bodies to be ready for the hardest thing either of us has ever done.

Melbourne - your time has come to understand the Truth. We're on our way.

"Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here

I dare you to move ..."
~Switchfoot

March 17, 2005

The Process of Panicking

So I suppose I owe somebody an apology for the fact that I haven't posted in a few days. To tell you the truth, it's felt like way longer, but I guess I need to account for where I've been.

The sad fact is, I've been right here. The good news is, it wasn't really in vain. I've spent the past few days:

1) Panicking. That's right, only 55ish more days until graduation, and guess whose thesis isn't done yet. Guess who has about a bajillion words to write between his thesis and a music history paper? Guess who hasn't thought of the topic for the history paper yet? That's right - me.

2) Worrying. I'm a spiritual giant, which means that every so often, I have to take a good long look at myself just to make sure that I'm still a spiritual giant. Then I realize that wait, I'm not really a spiritual giant, and rediscover what pithy humility I've learned by God's wonderful Grace. As it turns out, when I discover who I really am (and not the image I've created of myself), I find that instead of simply repenting, I must first go through a rather long period of self-loathing and self-torture, to what end, I can't say. But it means that I spend a lot of time worrying, hoping that some almighty lightning bolt doesn't smite me out of existence and in the process, ruin my wife's quilt. She really likes that quilt.

3) Repenting. Well, sort of. I prayed about it a few times, thought that perhaps some good 'ol piety might fit in well. God said to knock it off and come back when I was sincere. So I did, and then I did what comes next ...

4) Writing. Yes, I've been writing for three days. And I must say, the amount of work I've gotten done on my thesis is rather staggering. Turns out that God is willing to give just about anybody, even me, a second chance. And so I stand before you now entirely exhausted from talking postmodernism (to myself, nobody wanted to listen) and emergent church for so long. But the paper is starting to come together, which is way cool.

So there you have it. I'm truly sorry that I've ignored the Calvinism discussion, but frankly, the thesis has a deadline and the discussion doesn't. But I have heard that
Mike and Adam have had a good time of it talking, and so at some point soon here, I'll join back in on the dialogue and actually practice what I preach.

March 13, 2005

Roadtripping

So I had the greatest week ever. I went on "vacation" with Liz to go and visit Asbury Seminary, and man, it was a great, memorable trip.

So we leave in the morning after some interesting complications with getting our stuff together, with full knowledge of the 10+ hour drive ahead of us. No problem though, and we go. Long trip, found a few good detours around major cities at rush hour, but mostly a great time of talking and whatnot - you know, husband and wife conversation-type stuff. Good deal. And I got a captive audience, which is great because I love to talk and somehow my wife doesn't mind listening. Sweet.

And so we get there and go to bed and all is well except it's a little warm. And the next day we had a fantastic tour at Asbury. I mean really, it was awesome. The people were great, the campus was great, the program is amazing, the food was even pretty good, and the professors were warm, inviting, and interesting to talk to - and way funny, good stories from them.

Anyway, so we leave for home that night. We left late, of course, because what Logan ever gets anywhere on time? Anyway, we travel for a while, stopped for dinner, kept going, and just outside of Columbus, we hit a snowstorm. And this is like, decent snow for us. In Rochester, it wouldn't be that big a deal, the roads would've already been salted and plows would've been out and running for an hour already. But no, not in Ohio. Not a plow in sight. Well, not true - we did pass one plow that was on the side of the road and not moving, no lights, no running engine, nothing. Go figure.

And so Liz (who's taken over driving at this point) battles for TWO HOURS through this crappy road conditions behind a guy with a U-haul who's going too slow and swerving around on the road and won't let us pass him, all the while so I can take a nap (man, I was tired).

Eventually I wake up, feeling slightly nauseous (bad roads) and confused as to the amount of snow from the sky. And so we start wondering how long it's going to take us. We're still barely outside of Columbus (after two hours) and it's midnight.


So we finally found a hotel (some over-priced motel 8, I think) and stayed there for a night. Slept like a pair of rocks. Woke up and drove home, to get back half an hour before I had to leave for work. So it was good timing all around.

Anyway, thought I'd take a break from Calvinism blogging to talk about real life for a change. Not too many funny stories lately - oh well. Back to classes tomorrow ...

In Response ...

So Adam is very quick - VERY quick, I couldn't believe he responded so quickly to my last blog. Very impressed.

And incidentally, that there are three blogs up in one night is to be blamed on the fact that once I got going, I couldn't seem to stop ... and so my apologies that I wrote so much on varying topics, but I had to get it out, lest I forget what I was thinking (I have the memory of a fish).

Anyway, I was interested to notice that I missed something, and he caught it - thanks. I still stand by what I said though, because though I missed that Jesus is to be the firstborn ... ok, let me back up and explain what's going on here.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)


So if you read the syntax, it makes sense that "his Son" is to be the firstborn among many brothers. I was mistaken when I said that I thought each of "those he predestined" were to be the firstborn among many. However, the point remains that there are many brothers, and Jesus is the catalyst in history for them to emerge. The translations are all accurate, I'm fairly certain - each passage you quoted from various versions said the same thing (mine was NIV, if that helps).

So now I'm not so sure what to say, because in light of the fact that Jesus came for us all, the "predestination" Paul talks about in Romans 8 makes no sense to me.

And so I go back to the words of Jesus:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

He definitely says "all nations" here - make disciples out of every nation. Not "some nations" or "some people from each nation", but simply "every nation". "Go tell everyone you know, everyone you can find, about me and tell them that they should obey me," He said - not "I've chosen a bunch of you to be saved, find them."

In light of this, Romans 8 is going to mean something else, and frankly, I don't know what - unless C.S. Lewis is right and predestination and free will are the same thing. Which sounds a lot like how God always works anyway, in ways that make no sense to the ordinary human being (and how in the world Lewis was able to grasp it is beyond me, but he was very smart); God's always working in paradoxes.

προέγνω

προέγνω ... it's Greek. Duh. This is the place where I come to grips with the problem of this word which means, literally translated, "foreknowledge", but in context, means "predestined."

The place? From Romans 8:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (v.29-30)

This is one of the major stumbling blocks for any non-Calvinist Christian. But it's there. God inspired it right into scripture for a reason - the problem is, what in the world is He talking about? If God already told us that He sent His son to die for the whole human race, and then throws in this bit about choosing a select group of people for salvation, calling, justifying, and glorifying. If you ask me, it's all a little confusing, and frankly, I'm thinkin' that I might not really have a good answer for this, but I'm going to try, because it's important.

However, when I get to the end of this, I'm going to have to admit that I am totally working from my limited knowledge and wisdom as a human being, just as anyone else is. And so this is my take on προέγνω.

So here we've got the issue: God seems to have this great ability to know everything - really, everything. Like, before, during, and after. He's outside of time and space, all-knowing, all-seeing, etc. It's the omni's that are way cool and yet the pieces that totally confuse us to the point of insanity.

And so Paul says that God knew about this certain group of people that He knew about before everything. And those people He knew about, He chose for greatness, and wiped away their sin and glorified them. The thought is, then, that maybe there's something to this Calvinism thing, this predestination of a certain number of people and the rest go ... elsewhere.

While I'm not opposed to the idea that some go to heaven, some go to hell (the sheep and the goats, as it were), it bugs me the way that this passage seems to say it happens - God just made up His mind way before the game of life had been played out, nobody got to choose.

I think the key comes in this little, easily glossed-over segment in verse 29:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Interesting. I think that yes, God predestined a bunch of people, but not in the way that the traditional Calvinist will talk about it. See, God didn't predestine everyone, nor did He condemn everyone - He chose a select group of people to go out and win lots more people - each of those select people were to be the "firstborn among many brothers." They were to be apostles.

I've been thinking about apostleship lately already - my wife supposedly has the gift of apostleship, according to my church's "spiritual gifts test". While I'm a bit skeptical of these tests, the point is that somehow God's gotten the idea of apostleship on my mind. Apostleship is basically missionary-ship - a person inclined to be good at spreading the gospel. And so when we look at "the firstborn among many brothers," it implies that this "firstborn" went out and helped make other people "brothers" (and sisters, I'd guess). Other translations say "firstborn within a large family." The image is clear - the FIRST, but not the ONLY.

And what other image do we need than Paul? God interrupted him on the road to Damascus and said "dude, I've got great things planned for you, think it over." And left him blind. And so what does Paul do? He thinks it over and decides "yup, God's called me, I guess I'll obey" and has the massive conversion we all read about. God knew that Paul would make that decision, but it didn't stop Him from intervening and having to give Paul the chance to follow Him. And what happened with Paul? Many believed because of his missionary work - so many that it changed the face of the western world forever. He became firstborn among many.

So that's my take on predestination - God chooses some, yes, but He also tells those few to go out and make disciples of all nations. He's chosen humanity, too.

The River

The story so far: Joshua and the Israelites have scouted out the land of Canaan and are preparing their invasion, according to God's decree. And then God says "you should definitely get yourselves prepared, because tomorrow I'm handing them over to you - don't screw it up." And this is where we join the story ...

Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites [and everyone else]. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD - the Lord of all the earth - set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap."

So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. (Joshua 3:9-17)


To tell you the truth, a friend referred me to this passage because he thought it was cool how the river behaves here. I find it interesting too. See, the river washes all the way back to a town called "Adam." Curious, I remember a guy named "Adam" - screwed up something big, if I recall. And the salt sea was a place of death, the end of all things, etc - and the water doesn't get to there. So we have this stretch of land covered in water (under which lots of things could drown - namely the people wading around in it), and as soon as the Ark of the Covenant enters the water (in the middle of the river) with twelve faithful guys, all that water gets pushed back to both ends - Adam to the end.

It doesn't take a genious to recognize that it's a pretty symbolic event. The Ark is a symbol of God; God chose the Ark to use as a representation of His covenant on Earth. And so God's covenant enters the river - a place of certain death for people in it - and the water gets moved away.

Ok, I'm going to stop beating around the bush - the water in the river is sin. The Ark is Jesus, and it enters the middle of the river - in the middle of history. Funny, isn't it? Jesus came in the middle of history and suddenly the waters of sin and death are moved all the way back to Adam and stopped flowing all the way to the very end of the river - to the end of time.

If that's not an illustration of God's grace towards humanity, then I'm reading the wrong book. And so I'd think this is a fairly interesting way of talking about Calvinism - again, it's not about a select few, it's about all of humanity.

March 12, 2005

The Choice

When I was 15, I bought this really great Bible for myself. It was the first Bible I had ever owned of my own, really, which made it really special to me. I still have it, and believe it or not, I read it every so often. The reason I bring it up is because it's got a TON of great references, cross-references (pardon the pun), and is just loaded with information other than just scripture. The best part is the subject index, a section larger than both the old and new testaments combined, listing every topic the editors could think of (it's NIV) and then saying "here's a place it mentions it in scripture" and then lists them all. Very handy, almost like a concordance (but I have one of those too, because you never can be too careful with this "studying" thing), but slightly different.

The relevance? So we're talking Calvinism these days, me and
Adam, and in his much more detailed explanation of the TULIP phenomenon (by the way, it was well-written, so Adam, you get a ... high-five ... if I ever see you), he made some scripture references. I thought "hey, I don't know those by heart" so I looked them up. Romans 3:11 is an interesting verse, and when taken out of context, could be used for all sorts of things. Now, don't get me wrong - Adam's a smart guy, and so I don't think he took it out of context - too far. Let's take a look.

There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (v.11)

This was one of two scripture references he used to illustrate the first point of the five; everyone with me know, let's say it: "Total Depravity." Adam went on to explain that the term is somewhat misunderstood, and a better one would be "humanity's radical corruption," citing the aforementioned (a great word) verse as evidence.

I'll just come right out and say it - I mostly (I reserve a little bit here) agree with his assessment of the situation. Mostly. Like, I think the Calvinist school of thought misses something in the translation ... but not entirely.

See, as I read the verse I wondered, what's it IN? So I read the stuff around it. And darned if I shouldn't find out that Paul is talking about Righteousness (funny, that's what Adam said it was about). It's even got its own heading. But here's the digs - at the end of the passage, Paul says,

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (v.19-20)

Suddenly Paul's talking about the law and consciousness of sin, instead of humanity's righteousness. I think the point was a little broader than what the Calvinist doctrine is saying. Yes, humanity made a few dumb mistakes ... ok, a LOT of dumb mistakes, beginning with Eve and Adam and all the way down the chain to us today. So humanity has this heritable disease called "sin". But - the passage is talking about human corruption as a backdrop for the law - the law helps us see what God sees - a sinner - and makes us aware that we are not worthy of salvation. Then we move on:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (v. 21-26)

Grace is for everyone - God didn't choose a certain bunch of people to give it to, unless you say that certain bunch is all of humanity. The conditions that ARE placed upon it are those of faith and belief. This is my problem with points 2-4: the exclusion of most of the human race from God's plan to salvation. Nowhere in scripture do I see God say "well, no, you're not included because I didn't pick you - I don't love you enough, but I love this guy enough to pick HIM." It just doesn't FIT. Clearly scripture (see above in Romans) says that not all will actually be saved, because not all will choose to believe (yeah, that word "choose" is a doozie, ain't it?), but the problem is right there - God loved us enough to give us the choice to accept His offer of salvation. He died with the intention that all might be saved, but that doesn't mean He forced it on anyone. He offers us a choice.

March 8, 2005

A Primer on Calvinism

So I've been doing some reading for this little blogger discussion with Adam. And I figured, hey, our audiences may or may not know about the basics - and so here they are:

TULIP

That's all you need to know. Well, thanks for joining us, we hope you enjoyed ... what? Oh, right. What's with the flower. Ok, so seriously, it's an acronym. T.U.L.I.P. It's the five core doctrines set forth by John Calvin in the Reformation five hundred years ago in Geneva, Switzerland.

Let me first off say that John Calvin seems to have been a pretty smart guy. Originally, he was a lawyer, which seems to have been the result of his father's influence, but Calvin's original passion was theology. He spent a lot of time studying theology, studying at several noted universities (Orleans, Paris, etc.), before moving to Geneva just after he'd been converted to Protestantism (remember, everyone around this time is supposed to be Catholic). And so he writes this book called the "Institutes of the Christian Religion" and the Swiss (really, French-Swiss) liked it. They were Protestant already, due to many missionary efforts from the rest of Switzerland and Germany, and so Calvin had an easier task persuading them to his views.

TULIP is a summation of Calvin's theology. Each letter stands for a core value:

T = Total Depravity
U = Unconditional Election
L = Limited Attonement
I = Irresistable Grace
P = Perseverence of the Saints

So that's pretty cute - I know that most religions wish they had some cute acronym for everything they stand for, and I'm pretty sure that some do, but most don't cover so much ground. Let's look at each one.

Total Depravity: Some Calvinists say "man is incapable of good" and some say "man is not born good, but is occasionally capable of good works." While they're not totally that different, the underlying sentiment seems to be that nobody is without sin. See Romans 3:23.

Unconditional Election: This is one half of the predestination thing that's the main controversey between most Christians-at-large (meaning Christians who are something other than Calvinists) and most Christians who are Calvinists - Calvin believed, according to my research, that man cannot do ANYTHING at all to achieve salvation. So God must be the one to intervene for any human He chooses to save - the person He chooses cannot help, therefore, God must "do all the work," as it were.

Limited Attonement (Particular Redemption): God has chosen to redeem a certain "elect" from humanity. This is the second half to the predestination issue - because of Unconditional Election, God has predestined (set aside) a certain number of specific people (Bob, Jane, etc.) to join Him in heaven after the judgement; no more, no less - the list is already made and set in stone, so to speak.

Perseverence of the Saints: This means that once saved, a person can never fall away from God's Grace. In other words, once saved, always saved. A person chosen by God cannot forfeit his or her salvation, even if he or she wants to. However, it would seem that a fair sign that a person is not of the elect is that they do not want God to be a part of their life.

So that's Calvinism. Once John Calvin put this into a working governmental system in Geneva, the city seems to have become a virtual paradise (from some views) and a place of limited freedom (from other views). Some say that Geneva was wonderful, a place of spiritual vitality and growth, a place where God alone was worshipped, a place of order and virtually free of sin. Others say that Geneva was a city hiding its dark side, a city where conformity was forced, a rigid system in which the people were either guilted or forced or blackmailed into following Calvin's teachings.

Next time, I'll start actually telling you where I stand on the five points.

March 6, 2005

March 3, 2005

God and the Internet

So I think that if I had to give an analogy of God today, I'd probably use the internet. God is like the internet - both everywhere and in the smallest places simultaneously, allows communication without talking, and is fairly easy to find, assuming you look the right places. Both are objects of worship, in some form. And people try to blame them both for their problems a lot and try to turn them into some kinda scapegoat.

I think that's about where the analogy would stop, however. I mean, Al Gore did not invent God.

So anyway, all this to say that the internet is actually a very small place. When you really think about it, you can talk to anybody anywhere about anything. Which is way cool, I like that about the internet.

And so a funny thing happened the other day. I started talking with somebody from Texas. It's not that funny if you just think about that part, because I know few people from Texas, and they're pretty nice. But I've talked to them face-to-face. This guy is actually IN Texas right now. Which is also pretty cool, I bet you it's way warmer there.

I want it to be warm here.

It all began when I commented on his
blog. See, I can never keep my mouth shut when somebody says anything, whether or not I disagree. So I commented. And a funny thing happened - he read it. And he commented back. And then he emailed me, because he'd read my blog and so now we're going to have an online discussion over our respective blogs. And that's my introduction, because we're going to talk about Calvinism, something I have little to no first-hand experience with (but some theoretical experience) and he has lots of actual and theoretical experience with. And so have fun reading them. I'll start posting soon, and then he'll write something on his blog, and we'll talk back and forth. This is one of those "for fun" nerd kind of deals (I think we're both nerds, why else would we be writing theological treatises in cyberspace?), but you might like it. So you know, we're not pissed off at each other, we're just doing this for its intellectual and spiritual value: discussion is something that doesn't happen as much as it should these days, so we're going to try it.

And so that is what I've been up to. Enjoy.

Unintelligible

So I've had this problem reading scripture lately. Like, I'm not doing it. It's bad - I know I'm supposed to, I have this sort of odd desire to, and yet I don't. As Paul says "I don't do the things I know I should do, and I do the things I know I shouldn't" (or something like that).

So I decided today to start working through a book. I thought about it, said "how about a gospel," and naturally picked John first, since it's kind of my favorite picture of Jesus.

And then I started reading. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning." It's beautiful, it's word-painting, it's totally unintelligible. I have no idea what this means.

And this is why I have such a hard time getting into scripture - I feel like I should understand it as soon as I read it. I mean, I have vague inklings as to what this means, but it has this sort of ethereal quality to it that leaves my mind spinning around itself and getting dizzy. Then I kept reading. I'm thinking that I'm gonna have to read a long section, and then take it one segment at a time to have any hope of understanding any of it at all.

I guess God's got a lot of work to do in me yet ...

A Prayer Request

For any of you who are the praying sort, please pray for my dad. He just had surgury on his knee on tuesday, and he's feeling pretty crummy. See, he had a skiing accident and busted up his knee pretty bad (shredded his ACL, LCL, and PCL, among other things). After a five hour surgery, he's doing way better, but mobility and sleep are going to be issues for a little while. So prayer would be awesome, I know God's already working to heal him, but faster is always better ...

March 2, 2005

Thesis Excerpt

An excerpt from my thesis blog: http://emergentthoughts.blogspot.com ... any and all input would be valuable :)

Holism is the assumption/theory/precept that a whole is more than the sum of its parts. In other words, a group of individual components (car parts, stories, or people; the possibilities are virtually endless) is, under some form of structure or organization (and in some form of interaction), in some way more than without that organization or interaction. When the individual components interact and become organized in some fashion (by nature of the interactions), the group of components becomes an organism.

Postmoderns are fascinated by the idea of the organism. This is evident in nearly every facet of the culture, from media to literature, from pop culture to the natural and social sciences. For instance, Prey, one of the newer books by the popular author Michael Crichton, posits a plot centered around nanotechnology. In the book, scientists have created a swarm of tiny robots, or “nanobots” designed to act in tandem to perform tasks, mostly camera work. Here we see holism displayed in its practical application: the idea is that each nanobot by itself is virtually nothing, but in the form of a swarm, is capable of the same advanced thinking as a human being or group of human beings. The swarm of nanobots (whose programming models their behavior after a combination of a swarm of bees and the predator/prey relationship) act as a single organism without a clear leader and accomplish the same or more as a human being.

We see this concept played out in other arenas as well. In the field of motivational psychology, Deci and Ryan (two researchers at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY) have developed a theory of psychology called Self Determination Theory. Holism is the norm; one must consider everything about a person to understand their psychological makeup, their whole past history and their present circumstances. Their history, in essence, is an organism unto itself, creating one of many components of an individual’s psychological motives.

Also a part of this theory is a concept called “organismic integration,” in which the human mind develops first by deconstructing the world around them and reconstituting it in a way meaningful to the person, in a hierarchy of elements that relate to one another. One may examine the internal and external worlds, and then compare and contrast the existing worlds to their previous assessment of them, altering their perception to fit the new information. In a sense, this is simply a long way of saying that the person’s thought process evolves. A mind is not simply static, but a dynamic, fluid one constantly analyzing the relationships between itself and the world (and between the world and itself) and adapting to the new information it acquires.

In this vein, Organismic and Holistic thinking are symptoms of a larger train of thought: relationships. In effect, the postmodern desires to see the connections between the many advancements of the modernist era, between the facts of two seemingly unrelated fields. It is for this reason that we see an increasing number of cross-disciplinary studies conducted, especially in science, but also across fields (between, say, music and religion and psychology, to give an example that hits close to home). These scholars are effectively trying to view the larger picture they intuitively feel is lurking just beyond the many facets of life, from quantum mechanics to family life, from population genetics to English literature and grammar.

This fascination with relationships is a kind of thinking that is quite prevalent in the Bible, and though it lay unnoticed by many modernist scholars, the emergence of holism has catalyzed a renewal of this kind of thinking in, most especially, the American Christian church. In many ways, Jesus was a very relational person; he spent much of his time focused on people – on relating to them, interacting with them, and dialoguing with them. This has been modeled by the Emergent church to reach a generation of relational thinkers.