Tuesday, February 27, 2007
This year, I've chosen to give up the same thing for Lent as I do every year. In fact, it's become a tradition for me. I am so disciplined in giving up this thing that it has become second nature to me, even to the point that I'm not even conscious about giving it up!
This year, as every year, I'm giving up the observance of Lent.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
One reason I enjoy the blogging world so much is that it brings the idea of community to individuals that would have no other outlet. With respect to the philosophical idea of the One and the Many, I'm a believer that (and this is my view of the Holy Trinity) neither the One or the Many are more important than the other. Community isn't more important than the individuals that make up a community, and vice versa. Both are equally necessary. Communism is an example of a political system that emphasises the One to an unhealthy extreme, and reduces the individual to insignificant. Radical Anarchy emphasizes the individual to the exclusion of the community, so it's every man for himself, and chaos is a result. This goes for One and Many, community and individual, parts to the whole, etc.
In my church circles, I feel like I have no room for theological growth. Most people seem to be content with the limited theological lunch in a box we've been fed for that mid-day hour. Our doctrine is limited to a second-hand pseudo-Reformed type of theology. Our main sources aren't the Reformers themselves, nor necessarily the Puritans themselves, but popular distillers of this theology. We're heavily influenced by John MacArthur, RC Sproul, John Piper and the like. Slightly deeper theology comes from maybe DA Carson, JI Packer, or traditional sources like JC Ryle, Arthur Pink and a tad from some Puritans, and Martin Luther and John Calvin are sometimes quoted.
Most of our church growth (I joined 11 years ago with 60 people, now we're at almost 500) has come not from conversions due to our ministry, but from sheep transfer from other churches. We get soooo many people come in through our doors that say things like, "we've been to a different church every Sunday for years and you're the first church that uses the bible." Or, bad teaching or the adoption of heresy or some other ill have been introduced into their church and they can't take it any longer. One church up the road shut its doors in '99 because the pastor took his family, armed and with canned food, to live in a bunker in Montana awaiting the collapse of our government due to Y2K. We gained a couple of families there. As a result (and our pastor admits this) it's like having to train people in some of the most basic beliefs of Christianity all the time. So much time is spent bottle feeding and changing theological diapers in our growing sheep nursery, that it's hard for adults to grow. Many people don't want to talk about things beyond the basics, so I feel the need to turn elsewhere.
That's why I love the internet community so much. Theology has for so long been in the hands of the elite (the church), that the common man (the individuals) have had no say in developing the Christian belief system. But individuals are just as important as the community, so I've learned and been stretched so much by what I've read from other individuals - including many non-Christians - things that I never could have considered if I were content to live in the box that the theological ruling class has created for us to live in. The elites have been in control for so long, they've effectively eliminated the possibility for individuals with the hunger to grow to do so. But I feel the internet, as digital technology, has changed this. I'm thankful to God for this.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
James Leroy Wilson adds his ideas (here) of why he thinks authoritarian elites still believe in big government, despite the obvious. It's a matter of having the "right people" in control, even if it means risking losing control to your opponents, because they know they'll regain control at some point in the future.
Now the ruling elites believe they are above everybody else because of their ideas. They are arrogant. But humble people who might serve in some type of government have other people believe in them because of the observable deeds and character they have shown over a long period of time. These two types of leaders are quite opposites of each other.
It is interesting that Christian leadership in the bible is defined in terms of qualitative character traits of any prospective leader. Morally corrupt and even morally ordinary people are disqualified. How their lives have been viewed by others, and how they match up against God's standards, are the criteria for leadership. Gene Redlin at Northern Gleaner recently did a series of in-depth posts (here, here, here and here) on leadership qualifications and how to avoid the wrong people. The Biblical form of leadership is very non-authoritarian, as Jesus makes plain in Matthew 20:25-28. But, as Wilson points out, this doesn't stop Christian conservatives from wanting to control others through the civil government.
This brings me to two types of government. One type of government is the type that most of human history is familiar with. This is the type that Jesus rebukes in the above passage, the government of overlording of other people. The other type, which I have written about extensively on this blog, is one which is limited in its scope to the punishment of evildoers for only a limited number of crimes, and in terms of punishments that God has already laid down. The Gentile form of government, which we have adopted in this country, is one where the elites dictate what can go in our toothpaste, whether one can smoke on another's property even with his permission, how parents can discipline their children, and every other aspect of life imaginable. One is a government of freedom, the other of slavery. In communist countries, the only way out from the poverty caused by government overlording is to become a member of the party, and to lord it over others. It is similar in our country.
I think the reason is that the basic premise of my blog is that I'm questioning the status quo of religion - and the circles of which I'm most familiar are my own. For some reason there's a fear I have of making waves, but also there's an excitement about it. I've struggled with letting my pastor know, for example, because quite frankly much of what I write might be at odds with my own church's beliefs. My theology has developed in part apart from my church's formal means. But then my pastor knows I'm not a yes man because I've had many, many discussions with him about doctrines and church policies that I've either questioned or rejected. He has yet to start formal discipline against me because he is generally a graceful man who sees my wranglings with things that aren't really essentials to the faith. My wife and my two friends are people who have no problem with me questioning long-held beliefs; they are that way too.
I know there are the doctrinal purists and authoritarians and behavioral overlords who would have a coronary at knowing somebody like me was blogging about the things that I do. I would be interpreted as a heretic and as somebody who was divisive and schismatic. So much for them. I'm torn between letting somebody know in a casual conversation about my blog, or keeping it my business only. Should I be afraid, or no?
Thursday, February 22, 2007
I read Will’s “Statecraft as Soulcraft”, and I resent that I will never get back the hours I spent doing so. The basic premise is that most folks are evil and stupid and must be ruled over strictly by the small minority of worthy elites. These elites should, as part of statecraft, cultivate in their subjects desirable ways of thinking and moral values, the “soulcraft” part. This requires a pretty substantial apparatus for propagandizing and surveillance of the riff raff.
First, I agree with the authoritarians that people are evil and stupid; this is self-evident. My life is a testimony, as is the life of everybody around me. If people weren't evil and stupid, they wouldn't need anybody to govern them. Anybody, then, who would think that people are evil and stupid, and in need of governing by others who are not evil and stupid, are evil and stupid for thinking of such a thing, if in fact people aren't evil and stupid. Their evil stupidity proves that people are evil and stupid.
But, like my previous quote of VF, any human governors of evil and stupid people will be evil and stupid themselves. To think themselves as better than evil and stupid people, that is, without being evil and stupid, will only lend themselves to doing things that are far more evil and stupid than the evil and stupid people that they govern, because they would refuse to believe their own actions as evil and stupid. If evil and stupid people are left to govern themselves, they can mostly only affect themselves and those around them. If I back over my neighbor's garbage can on my way to work, then cuss him out because I am wrong and don't want to admit it, nobody in Jackass, South Dakota will be affected. But when people in government are evil and stupid, their actions affect everybody. They are far more damaging to society than common evil and stupid people. If a president signs into law something that allows the government to search everybody at an airport, millions of people's lives are screwed, businesses are destroyed, well, you get the idea.
But allowing evil and stupid people to govern themselves isn't a bed of roses either. Six billion people are bound to have conflicts. Every day. So, if you're honest, you'll admit that they really do need to be governed by somebody else. These governors, then, would have to be in control of everybody else without anybody slipping through the cracks. This government would have to be totalist. And these governors would have to act in tandem so as to not set up different rules in different places, and to make sure rules wouldn't conflict with each other. This government would also have to be centralized for this to occur. But how can the complexity of interaction of all our lives be governed by mere men? These governors would need to know each one of us to know how we best and least interact with others. They would need to know how any law they pass would affect everybody both now and in the entirety of the future before they even passed those laws, and they would have to know how all their laws would interact with each other all through time. They would also have to know everything about every problem before it occurs in order to know how and when to pass all these laws.
In short, governors would have to be all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere at the same time to make sure laws would work, and also to make sure that their laws would be followed. But, you know something? Only God fits this description. He knew all about the entire future of the world when He wrote His laws, and only He can carry all this out.
In conclusion, evil and stupid people must be governed and that government must be centralized. But the only way this can happen is if God is the governor and His laws are the ones used. A government of men by men's laws is impossible. The bible lays out self-government according to God's law as the way we should live. This is why I'm a Christian Libertarian.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The authoritarian elitist position has at its core a paradox. If humans are naturally evil and stupid, then their human rulers will probably be evil and stupid as well. Accordingly, any government constructed by humans will inevitably be the fruit of evildoing and stupidity and not a check thereon.How true this is. Too bad this mindset is alive and well in the church as well.
I like George F. Will's writing... when he writes about baseball.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
In looking at these former Catholics turned Protestant, a pattern is evident. They aren't former Catholic true believers who have changed in their view of theology toward Protestantism. They are former unbelievers, who just happened to live their lives in a Catholic context. They were dead sinners with a hollow shell of religion that happened to be Catholicism. (Great numbers of Protestants fit this same description, I might add.) Their conversion wasn't to Protestantism, per se, but to life in Christ. It just so happens that those who had a great effect on their salvation were Protestants. Protestants who teach that Catholics aren't true believers. So these former Catholics now view themselves as having been unbelievers, not because they were simply unbelievers, but because they were Catholic. They explain their former sin in terms of what they now view as the false religion of Catholicism.
They are now zealous in trying to convert their family and friends to Christ, not realizing that some of them might be true believers who don't really have a reason to convert to Protestantism. Not sure if I got my point across here, but maybe I'll have a better mental day in the future.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Being good Protestants, we believed Catholics were hard-hearted toward the "true" gospel, believed in salvation by works, and were so mired in their religion of tradition and saint worship that they were as lost as lost could be. We took the closing of the door after their four word reply as yet another rejection of the gospel in their hard-heartedness. If these people could only get a glimpse of Judgment Day.
Over the years, I've greatly softened my view of the spiritual condition of those outside the Reformed, Protestant, Calvinistic tradition. I still hold to many of the distinctives - as a matter of doctrine - but no longer view salvation as being dependent on an intellectual, gnostic type of affirmation of these distinctives. I've come across many believers from other traditions who I think love the Lord just as much as I think that I do, and am now ashamed at my anathematizing of them.
Maybe those four words were just their efficient way of politely saying, "Oh, brother, here come those nutty evangelicals again."
Our five year old had a field day, quite literally, as the lady bugs were out in full force in the back yard. He filled his bug box with grass and the little orange creatures. The jungle grew about 6" this week, thanks to rain earlier in the week, after I mowed about a third of the back yard. The deepest is about 18". Last year at this time, it was about 6 feet deep because of all the rain. We've not only had a freezing winter, we've had little rain.
We did a small, belated family celebration of our youngest's second birthday. Last month's flu episodes were the party poopers. Our niece had a special thing going, so my folks got to babysit our nephew, but they were already invited over, so they brought him along. It was fun to see all the boys play outside and do what boys could do in a back yard. No girls allowed today. Except for grandma.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Much of a street gang's criminal activity would be aimed at other rival street gangs themselves and not at ordinary citizens living within their turf. Drugs would be a source of income as well. Ordinary criminals knew where gangs' turf boundaries were, and avoided them due to fear. They preferred working in normal neighborhoods merely patrolled by local police, because they knew police were a relatively ineffective bureaucracy. Gangs were far more efficient and effective at curbing ordinary crime within their own neighborhoods. And since the gangs took ownership of their own neighborhoods, they generally left the ordinary people alone to live their lives.
So the small fee took care of far more than any police presence, and they lived without burglary or auto theft. (See also this similar post at Blessed Economist)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
First of all, in my mind I'm not ridiculing something sacred - the Lord's Supper. I am taking a lighthearted look at man's feeble interpretation of it. First, the facts of life. Most churches I've attended have had crackers so small - and they're mostly dry - that mixed with my saliva they become glue balls that quite literally get stuck in my molars. I don't have a sensation of anything passing down my throat as if I'm eating something. And quite literally, the small thimble of juice won't wash it down. These are factual observances. If we are supposed to be eating and drinking in the observation of this sacrament (as ordained by Jesus Himself), then why are so many of the usual sensations of eating and drinking missing in the way we carry it out? Food has taste, texture, aftertaste, reaction with the stomach and bowels, all for a reason. God intended it that way. He created it that way to give us yet one more way we can realize Him in this life, to notice, to worship and to give thanksgiving.
Now, if we're supposed to love and worship the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength - in short our whole being - does this include the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell? We modern evangelicals have no problem with worship with sight (reading the Scriptures with our eyes) or hearing (listening to the Word or to preaching or teaching), but the other three have fallen off the delivery truck. Many historical Christian traditions have made much of all five in worship. Incense was commanded of God in Israel's worship, as was roasting animal meat as a soothing aroma in God's nostrils. In churches that use real wine in communion, often the smell of wine will fill the building and can be an aid to worship. Can we eat food in worship like we can view creation in worship? If not, why not? Much of our thinking has been affected by pietism, fundamentalism and be-goodism to the extent that using incense, wine, real objects that can be touched, etc, is viewed inherently as idolatry. We deem ourselves as more righteous than God's creation, as if we are above it.
Also, there are many different interpretations of communion in history, with relation to the presence of Christ in the elements, as this post at McIntyre's Tavern quite ably shows. If Christ is indeed present in the elements, as Gene Redlin argues in his blog, then why don't/can't we hold that presence in high regard with respect to all our senses from which we worship? I've read Gene enough to know that he's often slighted by Christian traditionalists for his "way-out" Charismatic views on things, and I just can't shake off his description of communion as being a much fuller representation of Christ, His church and our partaking than most of these traditions hold in practice. Why, if we as a body partake in communion, together, as many of the more traditional segments of Christianity hold, do they insist that we do so in quiet, for such a short time span and without interaction with the other members in the body? It's almost if we're left alone to individually commune with God, with the only visible sense of community being the simultaneous act of others communing with God individually. This seems to reflect more of the radical individualism label than the view that Gene holds that is often targeted with the same label. This reductionism lends to a more symbolic view, and reality is sacrificed on the altar of "true spirituality." Should there really be more to it?
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
One reason that I like baseball (and I've only recently discovered this) is that is has a good parallel with the nature of God Himself in the Trinity. God is both One God, and three persons at the same time, with neither expression being more important than the other. Baseball, more than other team sports, is nearly as well defined in the same way. One team, and nine individual persons at the same time. Individual performance (and the statistics that explain it to us) are just as important as the team as a whole; neither is dominant. The whole is made up of its parts and the parts make up the whole.
Here's to an enjoyable season. As a Giants fan, I've got a few extra perks built in for 2007. We have the All-Star Game, and Barry Bonds is poised to break Aaron's all time home run record. Now if they can only win a World Series...
Monday, February 12, 2007
[Update 12/27/08: Bruce has changed his website and can now be found here.]
Sunday, February 11, 2007
If the Supper was a continuation of the Passover feast, and the Corinthian church used enough bread and wine for some to be filled and others to be drunk, how did we end up with such small portions? And if it is a "communion," just who are we communing with? Are we, as separate individuals, simultaneously communing with God? Or are we supposed to be communing with each other to some degree while we feast, and is this an aspect of us collectively communing with God? I've heard some people refer to our tradition sarcastically as "the Lord's snack" because of the small portions and short eating time, but I've had many snacks that were bigger and longer than that. You can't eat just one, after all, just like the commercial says. Our rite even belittles the term "snack."
Okay, my personal preference would be to have a meal with all in attendance, which includes larger portions of bread and wine, but personal preferences aside, I'm wondering if this wouldn't give us a better sense of Jesus and what He did. I'm going to lay my heart open here and be transparent. The wafer followed by the thimble leads me to ask, "this is Jesus?" Shouldn't we make better use of our senses? Shouldn't Jesus' body be something we can savor, feel, contemplate, agonize over? Shouldn't His blood have more substance? I think we can do a better job than this...for Christ's sake.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I've heard the following statements from the pulpit: "The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the central message of the New Testament", and "Calvinism is the bible." But justification by faith alone is mentioned in the bible, even if you include references, only a handful of times. And what does Calvinism say about digital recording technology, art, astronomy or farming? I'm persuaded that the Lordship of Christ is the central message of the NT. Also, in my judgment, the knowledge of this doctrine is at least as important as being justified by faith in the first place. So it is preached and taught ad infinitum.
Historically, it is merely the central argument between the Protestant reformers and the Roman Catholic church with regard to the doctrine of salvation. Since our culture today isn't ruled by the medieval Catholic church, I'm convinced that our message falls on deaf ears because our culture doesn't know what we're talking about. Then we view this as our culture rejecting the gospel. Other Christians from traditions other than Reformed Calvinistic ones, who may be completely justified in God's sight, but who don't understand their own justification the same way we do, are then held with suspicion.
Because the knowledge of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is given so much importance, I think it has taken on a gnostic form. We have faith, not so much in Christ, but in our knowledge of this doctrine. But since faith without works is dead, we have worked it out so that our works consist of being able to parrot this doctrine to others. Showing off our knowledge is works enough for the kingdom, and we go on our merry, blissful way.
Friday, February 09, 2007
So, now I'm on the new Blogger against my will. But I'm not complaining too loudly here. I just was too lazy to spend two seconds longer than usual to do the task. It screws up the works of some third party software I use through my site, but I know the remedy, and it'll probably take as long to fix that as it is in writing this post.
Now I can add labels to my posts. I wonder if that can be done retroactively, so I can catalogue all of my posts under labels to make it easier for my fans to love me and my similar posts. Let's just see how the new Blogger works. It might be easier, as they claim, but it always takes up-front labor on my part. Now to dive in...
Monday, February 05, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
A popular cartoon character has caused mass hysteria in the city of Boston. Public officials are angered to the point of insanity. Or maybe past that point. Two regular dudes, named Bill and Ted (or are they Gomer and Goober?) are accused of being mass terrorists. The public officials are screaming for "restitution" for all the money it is going to cost to cover their own decision to be major spazzes. They are indignant that some people just don't have the obvious sensitivity to life here in the "post-911 world." Members of the public are outraged, too.
Is anybody getting the obvious here, or is everybody a victim of mass brainwashing? Okay, the advertising campaign was on the "extreme" side, and maybe they violated some trespassing laws. But does anybody really believe that the advertisers came anything close to a campaign of terrorism? How could anybody be so fanatically hyper-freakoutish to paralyze a city due to their own fear of, well, nothing? Yes, we live in a post-911 world, but what these public officials don't quite get is that they're the ones who have created it. Fearmongering, panic stricken Chicken Little's are what they are. They've created the panic by scaring the living hell out of America for every little thing out of the ordinary. They're the ones yelling "FIRE!" in the crowded theater because somebody is holding a candle.
"The wicked flee when no one is pursuing," Proverbs 28:1
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Mark Rushdoony, in "Faith for All of Life" magazine (no link), writes in an article entitled "Don't Pray for the Peace of Babylon" the following:
Christians do this when they lobby government to control others or when they vote for politicians who promise the same. Taxes, minimum wage laws, anti-smoking laws, and all other regulations of any kind are affronts to private property and property owners. Man, even sinful Christian man, is not content to let God rule this earth, but asserts his own godhood in ruling over others. May God grant us all repentance.
Man's quest of autonomy, or self-rule by his own truth and word rather than that of God, tends to result in one of two manifestations. The individual may become anarchistic, seeking his "own rules" and his "own thing." The individual autonomous man, however, is either irrelevant or a nuisance to collective man, and so humanism's autonomy has always tended toward statism. The real autonomy is thus of the state, not individuals, which illustrates the Biblical teaching that man's rebellion against God represents an enslavement to sin. The moral reality of slavery to sin is manifested in the institutional enslavement of men to the highest collective voice of mankind, the state.
As a moral rebel, man perverts the things of God. Since man is not god, but only a creature, all he can do as a rebel is counterfeit the Creator's reality. Man was made to have dominion over creation (Gen. 1:28), for instance, but his moral rebellion in Genesis 3 means that all his attempts at dominion without God end in manifestations of his sin. The sinful lust for power rather than godly dominion stems from the original sin of desiring to be as gods. Man's constant grasp for power is manifested in aggression and exploitation. Power-hungry men create a power-hungry state as the utilitarian means of controlling others.