Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boundaries That Promote Freedom

"But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does." James 1:25

A number of years ago I read a story about a school where the administrators determined that the fence around the playground was too limiting to the children. It was a hindrance to their freedom. They were confined and closed in.  So they had the fence removed. To their surprise, the children afterward voluntarily played in a much smaller area than what had originally been allowed by the fence. They suddenly had no boundary and weren't able to figure out how to limit themselves, so they stuck together in the center of the playground for the sake of safety. Also, the new arrangement no longer prevented the outside world, with its animals and strangers, from getting in.

The lesson here is that the fence, properly placed, actually promoted freedom for the children. They could play right up to the fence without facing danger. The playground was large enough for them to play in comfortably, and the fence kept them in and strangers out. This is how God's law works. He provides the proper boundaries for us to promote our maximum freedom. Another example of this would be the barrier on the observation deck of the Empire State Building or the railing at the rim of the Grand Canyon. People can go right to the edge and even lean against the boundary because the boundary was engineered and constructed to allow leaning against it. Now imagine these railings suddenly being removed. How many people would venture to the edge of the top floor and look down? Far fewer than with a boundary.

An opposite example would be Hal, the super computer in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal arranged for Dave, the astronaut, to float out into space in order to take control of things himself. Dave was now free of any and every obligation to family, country, mother-in-law. He was even free from the law of gravity. But he was doomed to death because of his limitless freedom. God's law allows us freedom to live within his creation, but prevents us from killing ourselves.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Actually Saturday morning:

  • San Francisco Bay Area's natural air conditioning: fog.  We had a minor heat wave this week.  Temps went from 101 to 108 to 86 to 72, and this morning there's no sun due to overcast.
  • Earlier this week we found a stuffed monkey on our roof.  Uhm, yeah.
  • Back to school for the kids this last week.  We checked school schedules again because we moved this last year, and the cousins from another city have different Easter weeks off.  So much for vacation coordination.
  • When a squeegee is used to try to break a 4x4 post, the squeegee usually breaks.  Someday kids will learn.
  • A rock garden suddenly appeared in front of the garage door two days ago.  I wonder how that got there?
  • This last Monday was the day I first felt autumn in the air.  I don't know what it is, but there's a feeling of fall.  The shadows get longer, the sun is a different color.  It's some kind of sensation and I've never been able to fully understand it.
  • Like wow, man, an AM clock radio flashback.


Political tyrants command obedience by threatening to use the sword.  Religious legalists use the Lake of Fire.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Psychology of the End

A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

Here's a series I did a while back about the psychology of thinking you know when the world will end.  God doesn't tell us because it will radically affect our behavior...for the worst.

Psychology of the End (Part 1) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

In sports, each team has a game plan. In football it might be to establish the run, then develop the pass, all the while controlling the line of scrimmage, field position and the clock. Following the game plan will result in victory. In baseball it might be to have the starting pitcher go six or seven innings, then turning it over to the bullpen to finish the game. In higher education, the student can have a game plan. Before the semester, he buys all his books. Then he studies hard, does all his homework and uses all of this to become familiar enough with the material to not only pass the midterm and final exams, but to get an "A." Living in a home with a yard might consist of mowing the lawn, painting and general maintenance. A game plan for these things consists of routine, repetition and consistency. But the game plan is best when it is a comprehensive one. One where all the situations are considered and can be addressed when faced. One that will not let small things grow into big problems.

But when the end of a thing is near, game plans and strategies change, sometimes radically. A team that is losing in the last minute of a football game will ditch all of its routine strategies and engage in acts of desperation, doing things it would never do at any other time of the game. With a runner on third early in a baseball game, the defensive team may concede the run to get an out. When it's the winning run in the 9th inning, both the infield and outfield are pulled in in a desperate attempt to get the out at home plate. A basketball team will purposely foul the other team in hopes that it misses the free throws in order to get the ball back. A hockey team will abandon its goalie for an extra offensive player to try to tie the game. A student will suddenly cram for finals. If a house is to be torn down to make way for a bigger project, the lawn won't get mowed. A graphics project with a deadline will result in long hours, plenty of coffee and scraps all over the floor at the last minute. Conversely, a team that is winning at the end of a game will be lazy and slow on purpose, substituting inferior players, etc.

The same things occur in real life with regards to eschatology. If somebody believes the end is really and suddenly near, life will be lived in a completely different manner, even if in desperation or laziness. In my next post, I will deal with this reality.

Psychology of the End (Part 2) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

In my first post, I looked at how people change their behavior - sometimes even radically - when the end of a thing is approaching. Each of the examples I gave was for things where the timing of the end was generally known at the beginning. There are also things for which the end can come suddenly or unexpectedly. In life, we generally are born, go through childhood, become grownups with our own life, engage in a career, plan for retirement, retire, then eventually die. But a diagnosis of a terminal disease part way through life will change somebody's behavior radically. Some people quit their jobs to be with their families. In baseball, rain can threaten to bring the early end of a game. The team that is leading will hurry to get an official game in by completing the 5th inning, while the losing team will delay. Then, once the 5th inning is complete, the teams reverse their roles. Behavior changes with an unexpected facing of the end.

With regards to the end of the world and the return of Christ, Jesus tells us not only that we won't know the day or hour, but that we will not even know the times or seasons. I believe that God is wise enough to know human behavior, and if man knows the time of the end, he will most certainly change his behavior - radically. This is why God doesn't let us know. God has a plan of normal, routine behavior for us, and He wants us to stick to the plan that He laid out. If we know the end (really, if we think we know the end), we will change our behavior accordingly so that in anticipation of the end, we will change our focus from obeying God to obeying what we think about the end. We will have ceased to obey God. We will have changed from walking by faith to walking by sight. Next, I'll look at how this has fleshed its way out in history, including my personal history, and how different eschatological viewpoints affect our behavior.

Psychology of the End (Part 3) - A Different Kind of Look at Eschatology

Many "ends" have come in the history of man. Many groups have predicted the end of the world. Other ends have been postulated, such as Y2K. People's behavior has radically changed as a result. Although Y2K wasn't the "end of the world" per se, many people stockpiled arms in bunkers in Montana or Idaho in waiting for the collapse of the government following the global failure of computer chips. My church gained a few families from a church up the road because their pastor moved his family to a bunker in Montana in mid 1999 and closed down the church. In December, I bought several months of canned goods to protect myself "just in case." In the year 999, people feared the end of the world because it was a thousand years since Christ came to earth.

In 1994, my first church, led by Harold Camping, had quite a shaking up as a result of Camping's end of the world prediction. He first made his prediction public in 1992. Many people did strange things while facing the end. Some people quit jobs, some people cancelled bible studies, some people out of jobs delayed getting new ones, some people gave huge sums of money to Camping's ministry - even entire life savings - to "get the gospel out" at the last minute. Although I wasn't at that church until the week after the prediction date, I heard plenty of stories about odd things. Just two days earlier, their church picnic had people giving tearful goodbyes to one another. Church leaders were up late at night answering phone calls from terrified parishoners. Some people dropped out of life after the end didn't occur.

In the bible, Paul warns Timothy that men named Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the resurrection already took place and that it was upsetting the faith of some believers. The end has a powerful affect on people, so it should come as no surprise that one's view of eschatology can greatly affect how people live in the here and now.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

If it's Friday, it must be potpourri:

  • Last Friday was Friday the 13th, and I didn't realize it until seeing a Facebook post at 11:57pm.
  • Spider in my globe, just waitin' to catch a fly.  The place we live in was built in the mid 70's, so that means the light fixture in the bath is a 10" diameter white sphere.  When the light's on, you can see a few small dead bugs in there.  Well this last week, a spider got in there and couldn't crawl up the slick sides.  So it eventually curled up and "died."  But several days later it was active again, then went motionless for a few more days.  Now, it's building a web inside and seems it is actually catching some small bugs for dinner.  I'm due to paint in a few weeks, so we'll see how that goes.
  • I've been using a $10 bag of espresso for about six months now, brewed on my home espresso maker (Thanks, Mike, for the wedding present!), and it's about half gone.  The way I figure it, that's about $725 at Starbucks.
  • A manual sprinkler system doesn't get more manual than a garden hose in your right hand.
  • Ping pong balls weren't meant to be used in a foosball game set, but that's all the kids have.  Those and superballs.
  • A few weeks ago I mentioned how I liked to destroy stuff.  Well, the funnest job I ever had was working at a wrecking yard in high school.  I got to operate the car smasher.  A car engine bolted to a steel frame attached to a 20 foot gallows with a pulley, pulling a 17 ton iron lid open with 1 1/2" steel cable.  The fork lift would put a mid-60's Cadillac or Lincoln tank in there.  I'd drop that lid and, POW!, that car would be about 12" thick.  Whoa!
  • Back when music was a bit more innocent: The greatest song ever, in the greatest video ever, by the greatest band ever, in the greatest decade ever, linked to on the greatest blog ever!  Wow, what a set of greater than ever coincidences!  Or, something.

Your Church Is Too Small - and - Mere Churchianity

I've written about how I wanted to review John Armstrong's Your Church Is Too Small and the posthumous publishing of Michael (the Internet Monk) Spencer's Mere Churchianity when I completed them.  Well, I completed them a few weeks ago, and I think that I will do more of a commentary of them than a review, if that makes sense.  I'm sure reviews are available elsewhere, and I definitely wanted to add my own comments.  I'm not sure I'll start these commentaries within the next few weeks, but they should be coming at some point.  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baptism: Another View (Part 3)

Read Part 2.

Now for my explanation and personal history of my views of baptism. I've held to both the paedo-baptist and believer-baptist views, and have attended at least one church that held to each, and have been part of more than one theological circle that held to each. I have switched from each view to the other, and held to each view at least once. I admit much confusion over the issue throughout my first 10 plus years as a Christian. I've listened to fierce debaters on the subject from each side, always seemingly one-upping the other in terms of clever arguing, and have read numerous articles, as well as book chapters and systematic theologies on the topic. About five years ago I realized why the subject was so difficult for me, and once I realized why, I gained peace before God for the first time ever. I had a reason for "another view."

The reason is that for all the views I have ever heard or believed, doctrines of baptism have relied so heavily upon systematic views of the new covenant. These views vary wildly, and as a result, so do views on baptism. Baptismal distinctives that I've been exposed to, I believe, are based more on man's theology than on Scripture, with Scripture used to proof-text the view. But one thing is clear to me, believers in Jesus Christ should (at some time and in some way) be baptized in water.

Some views of baptism nullify or partially nullify other views. For example, many believer-baptist churches will require re-baptism of newly professing believers that were baptized as children and raised in Presbyterian or other Reformed churches, but who believe themselves as never having previously come to faith. Some paedo-baptist churches require the same thing. Some Baptists will accept the infant baptisms in paedo-baptist Protestant churches, but at the same time reject infant baptisms in Roman Catholic churches, as will some paedo-baptist Protestants. This last group of modern paedo-baptists, who decry "the error of the anabaptists" of centuries ago, do the same thing they reject.  Early reformers generally viewed baptism within the Roman church as valid.  Some protestant churches I've been familiar with have lists of churches, cults and movements whose baptisms won't be recognized when considering a believer new to their church. Some views not only hold other views in contempt, but reserve the harshest charges of sin in the practice of those views. I'll discuss this in future posts.

In trying to be consistent with my statement of "another view", I've decided that if a Christian (whether Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Pentecostal, etc) is individually satisfied with his own [reasonable] circumstances under which he was baptized, I will allow him that liberty and view his baptism as valid. I will have more to say about this in upcoming posts.

Read Part 4.
Read entire series in a single post.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

Weak kneed, or week knead?

  • What are Raffia Cream, Gobi Desert and Western Acoustic?  They're paint colors, of course.  The kids get a tiny bathroom makeover this week.
  • The best croutons I've ever had were made by Mrs. Scott this week at work.
  • We drove into San Francisco across the Bay Bridge this week.  Many changes have occurred as a new bridge is being built.  I realized I hadn't done it in several years, as all my trips into the City have been on the train.  Six bucks for toll?  I used to pay 75c when I first started driving.
  • Our eight year old went to camp this week, and had some field trips.  Yesterday he brought home a Venus fly trap.  I can't wait to see if it gets rid of some pests.
  • Absolutely free?  If I have to remember to call you at the end of the free trial period to cancel and avoid being automatically charged full price, it's not absolutely free.
  • A little known fact about me:  I was born with a tooth, and the young family dentist came down to the hospital and pulled my first tooth when I was one day old.  It was really loose and came out with his fingers.  I had the same dentist for the next forty years until he retired.
  • In the game of baseball, some teams' closers have a special song played when they enter the game in the 9th inning.  Trevor Hoffman had "Hells Bells," Robb Nen had "Enter Sandman," and if I had to choose one for me, it might be the first minute or so from this.  Turn it up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Will Jesus Dominate World History?

Let's take a look at world history.  The youngest of the young earth creation scenarios, if we take Bishop Ussher's calculations into account, places the creation of man at 4004 BC.  Christ came four thousand years later.  We live two thousand years after that.  Christ as messiah, with death, burial and resurrection is quite often placed as the focus of history.  Why was the time prior to his coming twice as long as the time after his coming, assuming he returns very soon?  If we take older earth creation time lines, Christ's place in history becomes an even smaller percentage of time.

It just seems a bit strange to me that if the application of Christ's atonement for sinners and the establishment of his kingdom are so important theologically, these things would apply to the minority of history (after the fact, of course).  Why wouldn't God make it the dominant theme of a vast majority of history?

Contemplating this, I wouldn't be surprised if Christ didn't return for thousands of years yet.  Or even tens of thousands of years.  Hundreds?  Every generation since the early church - and even the people at the time of Christ - has believed they lived in the last generation.  But if it hasn't happened in 2,000 years, why not the next 10,000 either?  Next week would be okay, too.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Either Doctrine OR Community?

In a recent post, I mentioned two problems we often face.  We're given a choice between two things, and we're given the idea that one of the choices must be right.  Also, in other cases, since we have two choices, we're given the idea that one must be wrong.

An example of the latter, and the point of this post, could be the false dichotomy that has been created in ecclesiology that tells us that church either has doctrine or community.  It's as if both can't be realities.  There has been much tension over the last few decades over the idea of community within a church body.  Many who have left the traditional/institutional church complain about a lack of community.  People go to church every Sunday, sit there, listen to a sermon preached by one person, and go home.  There is relatively little interaction between people concerning the New Testament one-anothers.  As a counter complaint, many within the institutional church claim these newer community groups meet to emote and have social interaction, but forsake doctrine and solid leadership.  Much may be true of each complaint, but why can't both be part of church?

Why can't there be solid doctrine and good teaching while at the same time strong community bonds between the members of the body?  I'm sure there can be.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Friday Night Potpourri

I wondered what happened this week:

  • I like to destroy things.  It's fun, but only when things need to be destroyed, like Solomon says "a time to tear down" in Ecclesiastes.  Well, we had some stuff to donate to charities, and a separate dump trip.  Except the charities don't take much anymore, our truck full included.  We couldn't then fit both into the truck to take to the dump.  So I took my frustration out on the rejected furniture, "making it smaller" so as to fit into the truck.   Bwahahahah!
  • One of my idiot lights on my car dash came on this week.  Much of the time, idiot lights mean that it's the idiot light that is malfunctioning.  The last couple of weeks my parking brake indicator light has come on while driving, and I know that wasn't true.
  • Today Mrs. Scott found all of our younger kids' "back to school" clothes in the garage while cleaning.  They were packed away after our oldest outgrew them several years ago.  They were there for just such an occasion.  We forgot about them until now.
  • When your doorbell rings twenty times in a row, it's likely the four year old next door.
  • Some people prefer mustard on their corn dogs.  Some, like our five year old, prefer ketchup.  I like both at the same time.  So there! :-P
  • Just before the neighbors moved, our kids were invited to pick some tomatoes from the back yard.  They picked some, but from the wrong plant.  They were hot peppers instead.  Yea for daddy!
  • The first week of August is right in the middle of it.  My absolute favorite by her.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

On Making Either/Or from Both or Neither

I've written a bit before on the deceitfulness of sin.  One of the ways I've noted how sin works is that it often sets itself up against itself and begs us to choose between them.  We are given two wrong choices and told to make a choice.  Not like being given a choice between the lesser of two evils as we often have to do in an election.  We know both are evil and our vote becomes damage control at best.  But it's when we're persuaded that because there are two choices, one of them needs to be right.  It's as if what's right is never mentioned, let alone as a choice.

A related dilemma that I haven't mentioned before is when two right things are put at odds with each other and we're told to make a choice.  It's when we're persuaded that because there are two choices, one of them needs to be wrong.  It's when we're told we can't have both.  In an upcoming post, I'll give a good example.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Rotated Subtitle

My latest:

From the Pew:
A layman and his keyboard...it's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Adding Commandments

With a slight twist of meaning I'm not really adding commandments, but to the contrary I'm adding Commandments of Men, the blog by Lewis Wells, to my blogroll.  In a completely unrelated event, I'm also adding 1974 Topps Set, my baseball card blog about my childhood collecting of the1974 Topps card set.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Worst of Tyrannies?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under live robber barons than under omnipotent moral busibodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” - CS Lewis

I've come across this quote by CS Lewis before several times.  This time, Lewis Wells uses it on his new site Commandments of Men.  I think this question should be applied well to every area of life, whether family, religion or politics.