Thursday, May 31, 2007

Justification By Faith - Alone?

T.B. Vick at Shadows of Divine Things has an interesting post about the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. Read it here.

I Always Wondered Why Gas Stations Never Had Sales or Discounts on Gas

But now I know why.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Slow Holiday Blogging

I've noticed over the last year or so that blogging, or at least with the blogs I read, takes a nap at holidays. This being Memorial Day weekend in the US. I'm not sure why. Other projects? Out of town? Excessive barbequing? Too much to eat?

Maybe some of you could comment on what you did this weekend.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Taking Things for Granted

Quite often Christians are warned against taking things for granted, as if such a thing were a sin or at least a problem. But what about taking things for granted that have been granted to us? Occasionally, I hear warnings against taking our salvation for granted. But God has granted it to me. So, if I take it for granted, is it a problem or a sin? What, is God going to take it back from me? If I take it for granted, then I know that I don't have to toil in perfectionism in order to keep it, and this is good.

So, we should only refuse to take things for granted that haven't to our knowledge been granted to us.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Dad Named Sue

The father of the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Josh Hancock, recently killed in a car crash is suing everybody in the phone book for being contributors to his son's death. Hancock was drunk, speeding, talking on his cell phone and not wearing a seat belt when he slammed into a tow truck that was helping a stalled car on the interstate. But it's everybody else's fault.

Named in the lawsuit, according to this Comcast article, are Cardinals radio announcer Mike Shannon's restaurant, Shannon's daughter and restaurant manager, the towing company, the tow truck driver and the driver of the stalled car. Apparently the stalled car and tow truck were not out of the way of oncoming traffic. The driver of the stalled car is being sued for being "negligent in allowing his vehicle to reach the point where it stalled on the highway, and for failing to move it out of the way of oncoming traffic." It's not clear whether the Cardinals or Major League Baseball will be added to the lawsuit. They probably won't, since they have enough money to squash this guy in a lawsuit of such high profile.

What's interesting about this is that using the father's own logic, a case could just as easily be made, and maybe more easy to win, that his own negligence as a father in raising somebody who would do such a thing contributed to the damage to the tow truck and to the now stained name of the driver of the stalled car. I can't wait to see if the name of the person Hancock was talking to on the cell phone is released and why that person wasn't named in the lawsuit. He or she probably could tell he was drunk and that he was driving a car. Now that would be a freaky thing, to be talking to somebody on the phone and have them die in an accident during your conversation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Glove Romney

When it comes to baseball, I have a good understanding the difference between a mitt and a glove. When it comes to politics, I have no clue.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Zoning Laws (Part 9) McMansion Suburbia

Read entire series here.

SuperSize me. American suburbia has entered a phase where house sizes are continually increasing for the same (or smaller) size families that live in them. This is often criticized as consumerism run rampant, is looked upon as an increase in selfishness and materialism, and is preached against by both environmentalists and religious leaders. But a closer look reveals something different.

Since zoning laws dictate minimum lot sizes, and thus limits the availability of lots, an artificially high price of land results. This is true of land prices, but not of construction costs. So over time there is an increase of land value versus house value. The piece of dirt is the biggest factor in the price of a home. What this does is creates a false sense of value through building a larger house. If a buyer could buy a 1000 square foot house for $1.1 million and a 3000 square foot house for $1.2 million, most are likely to opt for the latter. Those marginalized people who can afford a $1.1M house, but not a $1.2M house will simply buy the 3000 square foot house in the next community level down. Living life in one's house is more important than living on the land that house is on, even though the land costs more. For only 10% more money, one can obtain three times the house on the same piece of land. So, for the value, the largest house makes the most sense. Developers know this very well. People want a house, but the land is the biggest cost.

This has led to the latest building fad here in the San Francisco area, known as the "knockdown." People are now buying houses, let's say a ranch house built in the 60's, and they don't like the ugly architecture or small size. They bulldoze the house, because it's value is so small compared to the land on it. They then build a new, larger house in its place. It sounds ridiculous, but it makes economic sense.

Now something about value. Buying the "family size" product at the store is of value because at a larger size, the cost per unit is lower. It is more valuable for a family to buy this size than twice the amount of the regular size. But there's a side to it that we tend not to think about. For the individual, actually buying the smaller size, even though it has a higher cost per unit, can have the most value. If the bulk size item is too large for me to consume and will go bad before I can use it, or if I don't have the space to store it, then the smaller size is the best value for me because I won't be wasting money on something I can't fully use.

But for many people, zoning laws actually prohibit them from gaining the best value in land because the smaller size land item is unavailable. Imagine that. Getting a good land value is against the law! So people simply do what is the next best thing. Value is transferred from the land to the house. McMansion suburbia has more to do with reacting to zoning laws than with greed and selfishness.

Part 8 . . . . . . . . Part 10

Sunday, May 20, 2007

God and His People: Limiting the Use of Biblical Metaphors

The bible uses quite a number of metaphors to describe the relationship between God (and/or Christ) and His people. This is because the relationship is complex. Many metaphors are used, as analogies, simply because this relationship can't be described in its fullness. Every analogy fails at some point, so each metaphor has its limitations.

So when we restrict the number of metaphors used in describing this relationship, we do violence to this relationship. Off the top of my head, here are some metaphors describing our relationship to God:

God is our God, we are His people. God is a Father, we are His children. Christ is the vine, we are the branches. God/Christ is the Lord/King, we are His subjects. Jesus is the Master, we are His disciples. Jesus is Master, we are servants. Christ is the head, the church is the body, with individuals being members of the body. Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride. Christ is the heir, we are co-heirs. We are brethren, Christ is our elder brother. Christ is the temple, we are the stones. We are the temple, the apostles are the foundation, and Christ is the cornerstone. Christ is the shepherd, we are the sheep (individuality) and Christ is the shepherd, we are the flock (community).

Some, like the high-church types, limit our relationship to maybe a few of these metaphors. Others, to quote a pastor friend of mine, "like Rome, almost drop the metaphor completely and assume a genuine ontological reality - the most obvious example is what they do with the 'body of Christ.' It's a metaphor, not an ontological statement about the extension of Jesus' incarnation!" Much of what goes on in Protestant theology, as well, limits our existence to the confines of the church, and its few metaphors, when the greater applications of metaphors suggest that the kingdom, and our relationship to God in it, is far greater than the church.

How The Government Turns Potential Destruction Into Guaranteed Destruction

Have an ash tree in your yard? Even if you don't, read this over at the Anti-Positivist.

[UPDATE: Gene Redlin, who makes a living at horticulture, made a comment on the ash tree disease story I linked. Thank you, Gene, for the additional information.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

How Did The Devil Get Control Of The Earth? (Part 2)

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God and serve Him only.'" Luke 4:5-8 NASB

Read Part 1 here.

My answer to my question in Part 1 is that the devil gained control of the earth through Adam's disobedience in the garden. God gave Adam and Eve control of the earth. Authority was delegated to them. God was still ultimately in control, but authority over the land, the animals and plants were given to them. The animals also had authority over the plants as food. It could be argued that within the marriage, there was a kind of authority structure between husband and wife, too.

Satan was left out of this chain of command, left out of the picture altogether, and was envious. The chain of authority went like this: God, then man (and Adam then Eve within the marriage), then animals, then plants including the forbidden fruit. Satan wanted to be God. So to get to be God, he turned the authority tree upside down. He presented the fruit to the woman. But to keep the authority relationships in order, he had to enter the scheme as an animal; he chose the serpent. So he used the fruit, as a serpent, to deceive the woman, who deceived the man, and both of them took Satan at his word, replacing God's word. Satan tricked them into listening to him now instead of God.

Since God delegated authority to Adam and Eve, Satan by tricking them gained that authority he wanted by having them substitute him for God. An analogy would be if a father entrusted the family inheritance, a coin collection let's say, to his son to pass on to future generations. The son had legitimate control over the inheritance. But, neglecting his father's will, he sold the coin collection to the pawn shop to use the money for his own, new ideas. The pawn shop, even though it now had control over something that was never intended to be theirs, now had some form of legitimate claim over the coins. The father, seeing the stupidity of his son, went to the pawn shop to buy back the coin collection. Buying back is known as redemption. Not at a cheap price, either.

That's how I think Satan gained control of the earth, and he offered it to Christ - if He would but worship him - as the final action of gaining authority over all, as God. More later.

Vache Folle Isn't Quite Himself - Neither Am I

Vache Folle readily admits that his name is not really Vache Folle. To quote:

Why do I go by the moniker of Vache Folle instead of using my real name? I don’t want my employer to know all my opinions on things. I have a stuffy job and some unorthodox views, and these might not mix all that well. I also want to be able to report on the attitudes and opinions of my coworkers without their knowing that I am doing so. I also want to write about religious issues without my coreligionists’ being able to identify me and brand me a heretic. That’s the extent of it. Not too creepy, is it?

When I started blogging a few years ago, I wrangled over using my real name. Each reason that VF brings up has spun around in my mind. I've even blogged about my blogging anxiety. This Sunday I was talking to my pastor after church, and I told him I was doing a lot of thinking about zoning laws and other state activities that ruin our lives on a day to day basis. He said, "I know. I found your blog." Whew! One anxiety down. Mrs. Scott and I had a good laugh over that one on the way home.

There are many things, I guess, that I'd like to write about that stem from my real experiences in life, but my name being out there prevents me from doing so in a full way. That's really not that bad for me. Maybe my name being attached might help me to gain confidence in my internal believing function (or whatever you call it.) In any case, my blog is my blog. Love it or ostracize, excommunicate or jail me.

When Friends Don't Mix

Most of my friends are friends because I have more in common with them than not. Many I would say I agree with them on maybe 90% of what they believe and on 10% I disagree. But occasionally, there is occasion for certain friends of mine to mix with other friends. When one friend's 10% that I don't agree with runs into another friend's different 10%, it can be quite a clash.

Recently, a number of blogsite friends of mine have gone to war with other blogsite friends on their sites. I can count five different incidents, some of which are ongoing, just off the top of my head. Now, where to stand if I'm put on the spot?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Killing Jerry

I'm no fan of Jerry Falwell's politics. Or his fundamentalism. Or support of the GOP, or the war, or his foreign policy, or his dispensationalism. But the absolute venomous hatred spewing out from some of his opponents is beyond tasteless. Some of these people are absolutely sick. I don't know if it's the internet that makes it seem this way, but this is as bad, if not more so, than when Richard Nixon died.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell Death A Hoax

The liberal news media have been reporting all day that the Rev. Jerry Falwell has died. Since you can't believe anything the liberal media says, the only conclusion is that his death is a hoax. Fabricated, no doubt, by liberals, gays and feminists.

But seriously, this shows us the value of Jesus' instructions in the sermon on the mount about judging others (not that we shouldn't) because the way in which we judge others will be meted out against us in return. I did a Google blog search and it's simply amazing the number of Falwell's quotes that are being used against him, rightly or wrongly. Especially those quotes that have to do with God's judgment.

Zoning Laws (Part 8) Israel as Community

Read entire series here.

The last time I read through the four gospels, I noticed something I hadn't seen before. Quite often, Jesus' dealing with the people came in settings where the social classes were integrated. In the account of the woman who wiped His feet with her tears, the Pharisee thought to himself that if Jesus knew what manner of woman she was, he wouldn't be associating with her. But the striking thing about this account is that she was in that very Pharisee's house. If he knew what manner of woman she was, why was she in his house to begin with? It seems that the poor had access to not only the neighborhoods the rich lived in, but sometimes to their property too.

Gleaning laws, and others, put the rich and poor together in the same community. Ruth, a Moabite woman, happened upon a prominent member of the community, Boaz. The rest is history as they say. When rich and poor live together in the same community, it is far easier for the rich to minister to the poor. God understands this well, but we moderns prefer zoning laws that prevent such mercy.

Part 7 . . . . . . . . Part 9

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Sermon Prep

A couple of posts ago I wrote concerning Gene Redlin's question about prepping for a sermon. In reviewing my own post, I seemed to continue a bit on my comments over there, and left with a possible misunderstanding of my view of preaching. I'm not suggesting that the pulpit is wrong, just that it is a tradition, mostly used for good, but sometimes abused. If it is placed above other essentials, to their neglect, then it can be idolatrous. I have a friend that told me he did 60 hours of prep to substitute for one Sunday school class. Things can be overdone.

Occasionally, I hear sermons with little prep, such as when the regular preacher has something come up at the last minute and can't do it. Prep can be helpful, but I think that a life in the Word, with preaching on something many times before, can help with a spontaneous sermon.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Masters of Imputation

We Protestants love our doctrine of imputation. Our sins are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. But doctrine without "practice" - or practical application to the real world - is meaningless. So we become masters at imputation.

What I mean by this is that we take the formal, official doctrines of a given church - no matter how minute or how old or outdated - and impute them, all of them, to every one who attends that church. We don't like what the medieval Roman church had to say about justification by faith, or what they said about those who hold to the Protestant view (Trent)? Well, then, every Roman Catholic living in 2007 implicitly believes the same thing, and none of them can be saved as a result. Read some comments here about Francis Beckwith's "conversion" to Catholicism. We drive by a playground full of Catholic schoolgirls in their plaid skirts playing teatherball and say, "Yup. There's the Council of Trent in action right there, you betcha."

If we applied some of these ways of thinking consistently, then we should conclude that Martin Luther, who didn't want to leave Rome, but simply reform some things, didn't become saved until he was excommunicated. We should also impute the hellish religious doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus and His band of followers. Some of his closest followers (the bible calls them apostles) continued to attend synagogue on Saturdays, even with the same rulers in charge, well after Jesus was crucified.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Preparation for a Sermon?

Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner questions the necessity of preparation for a sermon. I'm convinced that the Protestant doctrine of the pulpit is simply a tradition within Protestantism, and not mandated by the bible. Preaching is biblical and quite necessary, but how the pulpit is worked out isn't. Often, the pulpit takes precedence over other biblical necessities when we assemble, seen most when the preacher goes over his normal time and other things are squeezed out. Many pastors study all week as a "full time job" simply in preparation for their sermon, when the bible calls them to shepherding of the flock. Shepherding requires spending time with the sheep; time that sermon prep often cuts out.

Also, a high view of the pulpit can lead to other manufactured practices or twisted beliefs. Don't you dare get up to go to the potty during the sermon in some churches. Even if God gave you a small bladder. Sermons are often tailored to the length of a cassette tape, yet can go just far enough beyond the end of the tape as to render the tape less than ideal.

Saturday Night Potpourri

  • I saw a fire engine a few hundred yards ahead of me on the freeway with its lights flashing. I saw another one passing on the other side of the freeway. If each had gone to each other's emergencies, wouldn't they have gotten there faster?
  • I've seen thousands of women apply their makeup in the car mirror on their way to work in the morning. But I recently saw one at night. She was using the lighted compact mirror in the sun visor.
  • I had an off-brand alarm clock that was driving me nuts. The snooze would occasionally work only once and I would wake up late. The buttons also made a very loud clicking noise that would wake up my wife if already asleep. Get what you pay for.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Zoning Laws (Part 7) Scarcity of Lots, Not Land

Read entire series here.

Because zoning laws have set minimum lot sizes within a jurisdiction, not only is a minimum wealth threshold set for living there, the number of lots available in that community is fixed. Land owners do not have the freedom to subdivide into lots small enough to accommodate market needs. Instead, the number of lots available is limited by law. An artificially low supply of lots is maintained, and with no decrease in demand, land costs are artificially higher than they would be with a free market. This further hinders the poor (or middle class) from being able to live in a desirable community.

Part 6 . . . . . . . . Part 8

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Zoning Laws (Part 6) Separation of the Poor

Read entire series here.

Since zoning laws essentially set the threshold wealth level of each community, the poor have little choice but to live only in the communities that they can afford. This means that the poor are usually lumped all together in a given community. The rich can afford to live elsewhere, so they usually do.

When the poor are lumped into one community, and the rich and their businesses can afford to thrive in other communities, the poor have diminished access to good jobs, thus reinforcing their poverty.

Part 5 . . . . . . . . Part 7

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Twice the Son of Hell - Legalism and Tyranny of the Conscience

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:15

It's been my experience that when legalism exists within the leadership of a church or Christian circle, even if to a small degree, that those legalisms are magnified greatly among the followers. Jesus sums this up in another place by saying that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. The first two churches I attended were what I would call greatly legalistic. Not as bad as some, but pretty bad.

In the first church, the prominent teacher also had a nationally broadcast nightly call-in radio program. Listening every night was common among his followers. I listened to him for years. Among his simplest legalisms were the beliefs that partaking of alcohol, tobacco, dancing and going to the movies were sins in and of themselves. All kinds of Scripture-twisting gymnastics were involved in backing up these beliefs. But this had a monstrous affect on the consciences of his listeners (and church attenders), most of whom only knew him from his radio show. I heard untold hundreds of callers ask the question, "Is it a sin to [fill in the blank]." Some would call-in and ask, "I'm a clerk at a grocery store, and I know it's a sin to use alcohol and tobacco. But my job requires me to ring up items and place them in shopping bags, and this sometimes includes alcohol and tobacco. I can't help but feel that I'm contributing to the sins of others. Is it a sin to be a grocery store clerk?"

Guilt by association is one of the errors of legalism. It also causes people to question God's creation and dealing with other people in good faith. Legalism also causes people to seek black and white answers to all of life's minutae, instead of the building up of personal convictions within the gray areas as a result of life's experiences. Legalism is the lazy man's shortcut to the leading of the Spirit.

But far worse than my example above where somebody asks the question is the one where the answer is already decided as, "Yes it is a sin" and then goes through life condemning all others who dare be attached, even if remotely, to the sins of others. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, and those affected are twice the sons of hell. Woe to you, Pharisees.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Too Late, Too Tired

This week I've been up/out too late with having to get up too early to have much time to blog. And any time I've had to blog has been met with blogger's cramp, brain clog or whatever you want to call it. Time to go to sleep

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Role Reversal and Losing the War in Iraq

James Leroy Wilson has about the best take on the war in Iraq as I've seen. Read his short blog post here. American conservatives, religious ones included, are the biggest supporters of this war. And who are these conservatives?

Well, ideologically they are the ones who believe in small, de-centralized government, low taxes, individual freedom and the personal responsibility that goes along with it. They warn us of the world threatening dangers of Islamofascism, and urge an all-out fight against Islamofascists in the Middle East. And who are these Islamofascists?

Well, ideologically they are the ones who believe in centralized government, controlled by their religion, who decry individual freedom as the Western evil.

Yet, the conservatives want the war to be fought by the military of the centralized, US government, with the cost paid by the American taxpayers. Individual freedom to oppose this war is an act of treason and an aid to the enemy, while personal responsibility is viewed by them as a duty to support such war, and is the definition of patriotism. Not only this but the tool of war, the US military, is one of the most centralized, top-down entities there is. There is no personal freedom for its soldiers, as they are taught to obey their superiors at all costs. All for a salary of about $20k per year.

The biggest irony of all is that the war strategies of each side are a reversal of roles from the ideologies of their respective societies. The US is using a top-down, centralized, micro-managed standing army, while the insurgents are de-centralized, hide-behind-the-bushes, know-your-own-neighborhood bands of renegades. A complete reversal of the role we had in our own Revolutionary War. We took Iraq's standing army no sweat, because our standing army was superior. Bush declared victory. But then, as if it were some kind of surprise, the real war started. Is it any wonder our butts are getting handed to us? Those who refuse to listen to history are bound to repeat it.

To the supporters of this war I say: If this war is so important to the future of both Christianity and Western Civilization, why aren't you acting on your individual freedom and taking personal responsibility to make sure victory is secured? Go fight yourself, or pay for somebody else to do so. Or are you like the social liberals that you hate so much who think they've done their fair share by simply going to the polls and pulling their party's lever?