Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Christian Halloween

Okay, so the author is Catholic, but his list Top Ten Things to do for a Catholic Halloween is as Christian, Protestant and non-Fundamentalist as it is Catholic. (Hat tip to Chad Toney) Why (some) Protestants are horrified of Halloween is weird. Because of the cross, none of the forces of darkness have any power over them. Yet their fear gives them all the power they need.

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Parts 1-10)

. . . . . . . . (Click here for Newer Entries, Parts 11-20)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 10)

Read entire series in one article here, or as a collection of all posts here.

Continuing on in my examination of the articles at Pulpit Magazine, here's a quote from Part 2 of their series. It is in regard to Christians committing themselves to other believers in a local assembly.

The Exhortation to Mutual Edification [biblical "one anothers"] :...Exhortations to this kind of ministry presuppose that believers have committed themselves to other believers in a specific local assembly. Church membership is simply the formal way to make that commitment.
This is interesting. Church membership (as the elders at Grace Church define it!) is the formal way to make a commitment to other believers? I have a different understanding of commitment to other believers. A commitment to other believers is included in the New Covenant of Christ's blood. One does not commit to other believers by jumping through the hoops of a man-made church membership, one commits to other believers by obeying Christ with respect to loving others. The formal way to commit one's self to others is by actually committing one's self to others. It's that simple!

Part 9 . . . . . . . . Part 11

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 9)

Read entire series in one article here, or as a collection of all posts here.

Last month, Reformed Catholicism [Update: link no longer in use] posted (long post) with the following question: Did the Apostle Paul regard all the baptized as members of Christ? (and related questions for Calvinists). [Update: link no longer in use] While, in general, the question was framed within the context of all believers regardless of denomination or tradition, I related it to "formal" church membership in the comments section. The quotes offered in the article pointed to the apostles' treatment of all baptized believers as members of the body. My application to limited "formal membership" was taken by two of the RefCath regulars as a good point of how fleshing out systematic theology can butcher biblical theology.

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

From The Front Porch

One of my other blogs is titled From The Front Porch. I thought I'd include a picture from there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halloween and Christian Conscience

The annual debate in Christianity over Halloween is here again. There are scores of articles on the internet claiming that Halloween is a holiday with pagan roots, devil worship and the like, and should be avoided by Christians at all costs. All kinds of historical data is presented. There are also articles claiming that Halloween has always been a distinctly Christian holiday in which Christians should participate. All kinds of historical data is presented. Regardless, the whole debate is complex.

But this probably goes to show that there is no clear cut answer to whether a Christian should participate. Is a child putting on a mask and asking for candy a distinct act of devil worship? One article I read a few years ago traced the wearing of costumes back to the biblical idea that the devil and his angels were defeated at the cross. A little kid with a sheet over his head and saying, "boo", isn't going to scare anybody. Which is exactly the point. The principalities and powers were disarmed. They no longer have any power, and masquerading as a defeated demon can show Christ's triumph.

I now tend to look at Halloween from this last view. I was taught, from the first Christian circles I was in, that all of Halloween was necessarily evil. I was frightened by the idea of little children ringing my doorbell. So I hid in darkness and acted like nobody was home. My next Christian group was also frightened by Halloween, and they created an alternate activity safely within the four walls of the church. But I now see each of these as the opposite of freedom.

If somebody wants to refrain from Halloween as a matter of conscience, they can do so. But to place the limits of their own consciences on others and make a claim of sin is an attempt to stifle the very liberty of others for whom Christ died.

Resurrection Kids

Last night I overheard our six year old describe the resurrection to our three month old. "Everybody's going to die some day. I'm going to die, you're going to die, our brother's going to die, mommy's going to die, daddy's going to die. But it's okay because God will resurrect us and give us new bodies so we can live forever."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Link - Anti-Positivist

I'm adding a new link to my sidebar, Jim Fedako's Anti-Positivist. Jim writes on the topic of free market economics and some Christian issues. He also writes extensively on absurdities within his local Olentangy School District in Ohio. He's linked me, and I'm returning the favor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Growing In Faith - Figurative and Literal

Read this very good short piece from Society VS. Rarely have I seen our faith explained in such a realistic way. Our faith is a very concrete thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hermeneutics and Theology as Community Tasks

Here's an interesting post I came across at Heralds and Peregrines. One of the authors, who it appears was raised by Anglican missionaries in Chile, gives testimony to the blessings that occur when hermeneutics and theology are undertaken as community tasks. This is in contrast to the American tradition of letting the pastor figure everything out (or his seminary) while the dumb sheep sit on their hands and watch. We seem to let others (i.e. experts) build the box we live in, and are blind to the fact that God the Holy Spirit actually makes all of us the experts through the gifts He gives us. I don't think I'm moving to Chile anytime soon, but we here could use a dose of community as I think God intended.

Friday, October 12, 2007

RIAA's Lazy Man Payoff

Today in America it seems that the lazier the slob, the greater the payoff in so many ways. The RIAA case against music downloader/sharer Jammie Thomas is one such example. Thomas was sued for $222,000 for sharing 24 songs in "violation" of copyright laws protecting music as intellectual property. The basic premise is that this is theft.

Let me use an analogy to show how absurd this is. Suppose I have a new car, with a car alarm, and I park it in my garage at night, with a house alarm. Somebody breaks in to my house, disarms both the house alarm and the car alarm, and makes off with my car silently while I sleep. Would this be a crime of theft? Of course. Would you feel sorry for me? Of course, because I took every reasonable precaution to make sure my car wouldn't be stolen. Now suppose I left the new car in a dark alley in the worst neighborhood in town with the windows rolled down and the keys in the ignition, and somebody took it. Would it be theft? Still, yes. Would you feel sorry for me? Of course not, because my lack of responsibility for my own property invited the theft. You would tell me that it was the most stupid thing I've ever done. Now let's say that in the first case I demand a replacement car from the thief, plus a bit extra for the problems it caused, as a matter of justice. This is reasonable. Then in the second case I demanded several million dollars. This is absurd.

But the second case is the way the music, movie and software industries work in the eyes of the law. Brilliant marketing has placed music and software in every place, easily accessible with common electronic devices, with easy buying access for almost anybody - third parties completely unknown to the "owner" of the product. This has led to unbelievable profits. But this has also led to copying of music at an unprecedented rate. Decades ago, it would have been cost prohibitive to copy music because it would have taken top of the line equipment. Today, such copying is as cheap as anything there is, and it is much easier to do than get in a car and turn the key.

Along with the ownership of private property comes the responsibilty to protect that property. The recording, movie and software industries have done nothing to protect their own property, yet demand the most unjust punishment. I heard a quote from Thomas' attorney on the radio saying that 24 songs at about 99c per song should demand damages at about $24. He's not far from the truth. The bible demands restitution for theft according to what is stolen. Anywhere from 20% above cost to five times cost for an ox. Even if you view her actions as theft (and there is doubt even of this within intellectual property theory debates), Thomas' damages should be about $30.

Mass electronic piracy is the heavy price being paid by the recording insustry for decades of the irresponsible marketing of their own "private property." They refuse to take responsibility, yet demand that others be responsible for their own property at exponentially higher expense. Quit whining, RIAA, and take it like a man.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going Postal

We're in the midst of an almost unbelievable mishandling of our mail by the post office. Almost unbelievable only because I've experienced it so many times before. We're getting numerous pieces of our neighbors' mail mixed in with ours. We're getting mail from other people with the same house number but on the next street over. Today we received a big pile of our next door neighbor's mail - but none of our own.

Years ago I lived in a place where botched delivery was the norm. I got mail that was not mine. Another person who lived in my apartment (there were hundreds of units) had my same initials and last name. I got her mail. Sometimes things took weeks to get to their destiny. I even got letters with a different address on a different street in a different city with a different zip code - but the same apartment number - all the time. I've always been diligent to forward others' mail to them, by hand delivery if necessary. The scary thing is that it usually never happens in return.

One time I saw a doctor for some tests. Without telling me, the doctor performed a biopsy, and although the doctor was on my plan, the lab wasn't. The bill was routed through a branch of the closest hospital, but my address (four digits, three words plus a three digit apartment number) was too many characters long for their computer to print on the letter. Their printer truncated the last character of my apartment number. Despite living there for years, the post office didn't deliver it to me. I finally found out about the biopsy when a collection agency called.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 8)

Read entire series here.

Continuing further in my examination of Part 1 of Pulpit Magazine's article on church membership, I'll now look at a statement in their next section on the basis of church membership.

Although Scripture does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, the biblical foundation for church membership permeates the New Testament.
Later on in the comments section, a comment by JackW appears:

I am committed to attending and ministering in a local church to which I am not a “member.” When I’m asked about it, I reply with the question, “How am I not a member?”
This is answered by Jesse Johnson, who appears from all I can tell to be an elder at Grace Community Church:

If you were at Grace Church, the answer to your question, “how am I not a member” is this: you are refusing to follow the leadership of the elders... If you refuse to do that, my question would be, “why not follow the leadership of the elders” (Heb 13:7, 17)?
Boiling this all down, the article states that there is no command to be a "formal" member of a church. JackW isn't a formal member, so therefore hasn't sinned in not being a formal member. But Jesse then says JackW refuses to follow leadership. This would then be a sin because it violates Hebrews 13. But formal membership, not being commanded by Scripture, is required by the elders at Grace Church. So, according to Jesse, elders have the authority to add to God's word and call a violation of their commands a sin. His answer has placed elders on the same authority level as God! Elders are co-equal with God at Grace Church, even if unwittingly.

[Update Oct. 10: In all fairness, I should have worded these last two sentences differently. They should read, "His answer indicates that the elders have added requirements that God's word doesn't require. This gives themselves authority that only God has; to define sin."]

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

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Down In Monterey

Every year, as is now our tradition, we go to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to celebrate our oldest's birth and adoption days. He's six this month. Monterey is a world famous destination on the Pacific Ocean, a little over a two hour drive from here, and has one of the most reputable aquariums. They recently added a great white shark to their tank and this was a treat for our kids. We caught hermit crabs on the beach - catch and release style. Tupperware can be a six year old's second best friend.

Here's a great pic taken by Mrs. Scott of our son playing with a decorator crab at the aquarium's touch pool.

Driving Pet Peeves

I've decided to compile a list of pet peeves of mine from the roadways. No, I don't carry a gun in my car. Good thing.

  • Merging onto the freeway at less than freeway speed. This is very dangerous and causes extreme traffic jams because slowing down to let somebody on the freeway makes everybody behind them slow down.
  • Using the freeway, instead of the offramp, to slow down. Same problem as the first point.
  • Tailgating
  • Green right turn arrows that turn yellow as if it were about to turn red, only for the main light to turn green. This causes drivers to slow down or stop for no reason.
  • DMV
  • Cops that drive like jackasses
  • When people have a fender bender and leave their cars right in the middle of the roadway or freeway until the cops show up. Get over to the shoulder so the thousands of people behind you can get to work.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Random Thoughts On Church

  • Church people know how to cook. Potluck meals have always been wonderful. Even among staunch Calvinists who call them Pot Providence meals.
  • I've never frequented a church with an organ. They've all had pianos.
  • I like church building architecture from previous eras.
  • I'd love to travel for a while and go to a different church every Sunday to see what's out there. Even if I stay home and go to different churches. It would be interesting.
  • It's late and I need to get to sleep.