Monday, March 28, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Independent Country

James Leroy Wilson blogs at Independent Country.  His was one of the first blogs I read regularly, and for good reason.  He was what was known as a "libertarian."  His writings were key in helping me change my views that were based on the false dilemma that one had to be either a "conservative" or a "liberal."  I was beginning to discover that there were other ways of looking at things.  Although James has written mostly about political issues, I could see strong parallels in religious thinking.  James has written a great deal about using civil law to exercise power over people.  If there's a law, there's an armed police force willing to enforce that law (up to and including the use of lethal force), and a judge with a jail cell key to do as much.  There's something inherently wrong with using coercion in forcing one's beliefs upon another.  He has written much about the force used by the state for its own goals and about how our personal desires fit in to that system.  I have changed my political and religious views in some areas because of some of what he has written.

I recently discovered something I wrote about James years ago and I thought I'd repost it here:

James is... I'm not even sure what James does, but he brings a libertarian angle to things that has been for me a constant check to my previously held conservative ideas. James is refreshing because he hasn't become a libertarian broken record, and isn't afraid at all to call other libertarians to the mat on certain issues. He doesn't have a one track mind when it comes to politics, and his wide variety of topics and several other websites makes him constantly interesting. The next time I'm knowingly within a hundred miles of him, I'll try to buy him lunch.

Wilson has changed his writing quite a bit over the last couple of years.  He has other political writing projects, and has switched to writing much via Facebook.  So his Independent Country blog is mostly about linking to his other writing projects.  I think the "older posts" link at the bottom of his page might even be broken, but there are still some links to old stuff in the posts I wrote that fall under my James Leroy Wilson label.  [Update: I missed Wilson's blog archives being a single line drop-down bar in the right-hand margin]

James Leroy Wilson is always an interesting read, even if you disagree with him.  He is a good writer and has a talent for being able to explain his views.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Does "all" Really Mean ALL? (1)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  1 Corinthians 15:22

Here's one of those controversial "does all really mean all?" verses.  Just looking at it, it's easy to come to a conclusion.  If all who ever lived die in Adam - and this is true - then all who ever lived will be made alive in Christ.  Right?  Not so fast.  What do you mean, Steve?  Aren't you changing the scope of the word "all" right in the middle of a sentence?  Well, this is obviously a proof-text for universalism, and Arminians will claim that of course only those "all" who choose Christ will be made alive, and Calvinists will claim that of course only those "all" for whom Christ died from the foundations of the world will be made alive.

But the key to all of the "all" verses (and yes, I do mean ALL!), and the other similar verses like the "any" verse, is not to ask the question "does all really mean all?"  The key is to ask, "all of WHAT?"  Because the word "all" - just like any other word - has a context.  And the context doesn't always mean that "all" should mean "all" of everything.  Sometimes it means merely "all" of something.  Let me give an example.  Let's say there was a party and everybody was (or all were) there.  Was everybody there?  Was the Queen of England there?  Was every last plumber from Fiji there?  No, because the context is a sales associates party in Walla Walla, Washington, we would come to see that everybody who is somebody in sales in Walla Walla was the group of people who were there.  And this is why we could say, "everybody was there!"  Everybody of the Walla Walla sales area, that is.  The context is understood.  Contexts create limitations on their contents.  So it is with bible language, and why anybody could expect otherwise is a really good question.

So back to the 1 Corinthians verse.  The verse above is in a context.  The context is mainly the chapter, 1 Corinthians 15.  The word "all" has a context.  We need to ask, "all of what?"  Starting in verse 1, we immediately see to whom Paul is speaking: believers.  Now I make known to you, brethren [believers], the gospel which I preached to you [believers], which also you [believers] received, in which also you [believers] stand...  Then we can go through the rest of the passage and see that all the references Paul makes in his arguments are to believers in Christ:

After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren [believers] at one time, most of whom [believers] remain until now, but some [believers] have fallen asleep;  v 6

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your [believers'] faith is worthless; you [believers] are still in your sins.  Then those [believers] also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If we [believers] have hoped in Christ in this life only, we [believers] are of all men most to be pitied. vv 16-19

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those [believers] who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  vv 20-21

And now here's where I think special attention should be given.  Although it is true that "all" men who ever lived die in Adam, it is also true that all believers who ever lived die in Adam.  I think all of the believers is what Paul means in both halves of this verse.  Let's look at the verse in question with regard to believers:

For as in Adam all [believers] die, so also in Christ all [believers] will be made alive.  v 22

And finally:

But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those [believers] who are Christ's at His coming  v 23

In this context, I think it is clear that the words "all" in verse 22 mean "all" of the believers and not "all" who ever lived, believers and non-believers alike.  It would be strange for Paul to change the scope of "all" in the first part of just one verse and make it stand apart from the rest of the passage in making his point.  In conclusion I think it is safe to say that 1 Cor. 15:22 cannot be used as a proof text for universalism, Arminianism or Calvinism.  It doesn't deny them specifically, but it just doesn't prove them.  Figuring out the context of the passage and keeping it as constant as the author does is quite helpful in interpreting the passage.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

A week of bland food:

  • Having the flu means not eating for a few days.  Pizza with lots of ground red peppers isn't good to eat when you have the flu.  And that's why I didn' do that.  Normally I would.
  • We've had so much rain recently, all of our son's pee-wee practices and games have been cancelled for the last two weeks.
  • The filter went out on the frog tank, and the green stuff grew in on the side real quick like.  Our son etched the word "clean" in the algae.
  • A "sure fire" cure for sinus blockage is taking hot sauce straight out of the bottle.  For those of you who can handle the hot stuff, I highly recommend this treatment.  It's quick acting, too.
  • I love a good Indian curried lentil dish.  We've got some of those packaged meals, and though they're not quite four-star restaurant quality, they're pretty good.
  • I'd really love to dive into a household improvement project, but that's on hold for an indefinite period of time.  I miss taking my boys to the hardware store and looking for daddy stuff.
  • Check out how "Young" he looks.  LOL  He might even be as old as 16 here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Lie Down

I think it's time to lie down.  Get some rest.  It was a long week of school, finals, trying to apply for jobs, and being sick with the flu.  Oh, and not blogging.  My next big blogging adventure, or attempt at it, will be the regular Friday Night Potpourri feature.  I'll let you know if I get around to posting that.  On second thought, maybe I won't.  You'll know one way or another.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - Alan Knox

Alan Knox blogs at a spot on the web known as The Assembling of the Church.  As you might be able to guess from the blog's title, Alan spends much of writing time devoted not to just the church, but the assembling of it.  Ecclesiology is Alan's main topic.  I discovered Alan's site just over two years ago, while in the process of writing an ongoing blog series about re-thinking the Sunday worship service.  Alan had some striking parallels to mine in discovering from examples in the bible (namely 1 Corinthians) that church meetings were not sermon-centered, but were structured so that all who assembled were able to participate in the edification of others.  As such, Alan's blog falls into my category of major blog influences.

Alan is a pastor (one of several) at a church in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.  The church he assembles with practices the mutual edification type of meeting that he writes about.  While I developed my ecclesiology from reading about the church in the New Testament and comparing it to what I had experienced over 15 years, Alan develops his ecclesiology "hands on" in addition.  On his blog, Alan routinely gives examples of how his own church lives out their lives in Christ.  He has quite a few other blogs he links to that represent his understanding of ecclesiology, so getting a wide angle on the participatory style of meeting is always possible.

Alan is also a PhD student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is working on his thesis with the subject of mutual edification as the purpose for church assembling.  I find Alan to be engaging, thoughtful, and he is one who regularly interacts with those who comment on his blog.  He started blogging (actually today is coincidentally his five year blogiversary) as an outlet for the things he was studying in his PhD program.  For anybody who has questions about the nature, function and structure of the church, I would heartily recommend Alan's The Assembling of the Church blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Does "all" Really Mean ALL?

There's an ongoing debate about passages in the bible that use the word "all" - or other similar words like "any" - over the scope of the word.  Does "all" really mean all?  Does God desire all people to be saved?  Does God want any people to perish?  All die in Adam, but all are made alive in Christ.  Uhm, all?  What does "all" mean here?  Does all really mean all, or should the meaning of the word be altered or modified because of somebody's pet theology figured out elsewhere in the bible and placed over the top of the word in a particular passage?

It seems like universalists have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like all people are going to be saved.  And it seems like the Arminians have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like God made it possible for all people to be saved, but of course not all will.  And it seems like the Calvinists have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like God will save all...all of his elect people, that is.

I'd like to look at some of these passages that use these kinds of words in upcoming posts and try to figure out what these words actually mean.  I believe there is a way to figure out the meanings of all and any in those debated passages, and I'd like to offer my ideas.  Stay tuned for all future From the Pew posts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

I had tons of stuff for this week, but forgot most of it.  Let's see if I can remember:

  • Strong winds dropped tons of yellow pollen from some kind of evergreen tree onto my car.  As I drove out of the driveway, I could see the pollen blow off in patterns.  There was a whirlpool effect on the back window.  Pretty cool, except for my kid's allergies.
  • I was far too busy with stuff to write a post about St. Patrick's Day.  So, I hope you had a good one, and if you enjoyed corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and a Guinness it must have been a good day.
  • All the nuke talk makes it easy to forget there was an earthquake and tsunami.  As usual, the most graphic, and telling, videos are the home movies on the internet and not the major media clips.  Just to see a surge of water going up hill, taking cars and houses with it is unfathomable.  It defies all sense of normalcy as well as the training of the senses.  A real disaster.
  • We keep getting rain.  It keeps cancelling many of the pee-wee practices and games for our kid.  But it's come at times when he's been sick, too.  Wabbit season, flu season.  Wabbit season, flu season.
  • Garlic flavored hummus.  Mmmmm.  Why wasn't that stuff around when I was a kid?
  • Nope.  I forgot all the stuff I had lined up for this week's FNP.  Maybe some of it will come back later.  Until then...
  • Edgar Allan Poe set to music.  It was difficult to pick which piece to play.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top "From the Pew" Posts

I have added a link window to the right margin of this blog titled Top "From the Pew" Posts.  It is a mix of posts that have been widely read, widely linked to, highly commented on, and posts that I think are best or worthy of reading.  By far, my most widely read post ever is John MacArthur's Wine List, where I answer questions that pastor John MacArthur asks his listeners about in examining themselves with regard to biblical teaching on alcohol.  It was an old post that I recently re-posted.  When using a certain search engine, placing his name plus the beverage in question (or its active ingredient) in the search window lands it on the first page (it's been as high as second place, just behind the source I link to).  While other posts haven't been as widely read, I think they are representative of what I strive for in my writing.

So, meander on over to the margin and click on a few - or all - of them.  I should be adding a few more features to the layout of my blog in the coming weeks now that I have a new layout.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Blog Spotlight Monday - John Armstrong

The first several installations of Blog Spotlight Monday are going to be major blog influences of mine.  John Armstrong's blog is no exception.  I first came across John at a ministry conference of his in 1997 held at the church I attended at the time.  His ministry during that period was called Reformation and Revival.  I kept in occasional contact with him for several years, and then when I discovered him online after the internet revolution gained speed, we re-connected in a much stronger way.  John and I have had similar theological journeys, and I owe much to his writing and friendship over the last six years or so.

One thing that makes John stand out to me is his view of the church.  Both of us have had a history of a very elite, narrow minded view of the church from within the walls of conservative Calvinism.  I was taught early on that Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestant movements such as Arminianism and the Charismatic movement preached false gospels, and that to be a member of those churches (i.e. believed their doctrines) meant that you did not have salvation.  John now sees a greater vision of the church, and believes - as I have come to believe - that God places his believers, and many of them, within all the various historical Christian traditions.  John works to bridge the gaps between the various traditions as an earthly reality of Jesus' prayer in John 17 that we would all be one.

John believes and teaches what is known as "missional-ecumenism."  In his own words:  "Missional-ecumenism is a way of understanding two truths that clearly go together in Scripture and should in practice. The church is first, missional in that she is God's mission in the world, and the God who calls her is an eternally relational being, and second, ecumenical in that she is to be united in Christ and together in relationality as his mission."  John is also an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, the oldest continuous denomination in America.

John and I also share a strong love for the game of baseball.  He is a lifelong fan of the Braves (boo!) while I am a Giants faithful (yay!).  Please read his blog at John H Armstrong.

Children In Church?

Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church has a good post on the presence and role of children in the gathered church, titled, Children as Part of the Church Gathering.  He discusses various aspects of having children with us adults as we meet together as the church.  For many, church is an entirely adult affair, with children never gathering with the assembly until the top age of Sunday school has been reached.  In this post, Alan looks at some practical implications as well as the ideas behind having children in church.  Please give it a read.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New From the Pew Design

Well, I've updated From the Pew to a modern Blogger template.  It's more powerful, both for me and the reader, and simpler to use.  I will no longer be limited to being able to read only 20 posts for any given label as just one example.  I'll no longer have to add the link to the post title clickthrough, so scheduled posting will be much easier.  New features allow me to, well, feature more and better things.  Readers can better use the "follow" feature more easily.

I also was able to design my own banner and background.  I like the Gothic arch and cross theme, as my previous career in architecture was helpful in developing this.  I carried it over into the font on the banner.  I hope you enjoy the new layout and design.  But more importantly, I hope you enjoy reading From the Pew.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blog Construction Ahead

I may attempt to play with the template I have here on From the Pew.  This might be a construction zone for a little while.  Please be patient and stay tuned.  - Steve Scott

[Update:  The new layout, colors and all can be seen.  I'm still adding links and other things, so this is still a job in progress.  I will post when everything I want to do in this update actually occurs.]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

And then there were seven:

  • I'm 47 years old.  Just this week, for the first time in my life, I had that religious cult famous for knocking on doors knock on my door.  First time ever.  I've had dozens of close calls, near misses and narrow escapes.  I've never answered that other cult either.  I was at home once, sick in bed, when that other cult came but somebody else in my apartment answered the door.  Another time when I was 15, I saw them coming up the street.  I ran and got my boom box and cranked some Ted Nugent.  They stopped next door and turned around and went back down the street.  Is 47 years without a religious group ever knocking on my door some kind of record?
  • I got a haircut for the first time in many months.  I wonder if my new hat will be loose?
  • Daylight Saving time starts in less than two days.  Spring starts in less than two weeks.  The baseball season starts in less than three weeks.  The first two don't matter much.
  • It's still winter, but it really does seem to be warmer than it was in January.  The temperature vs. month graphs show this, but when you feel it's warm enough to sleep without any socks, it really is getting warmer.
  • Our kids' school had movie night tonight.  Toy Story 3.  They had popcorn and lemonade.  Three bucks to get in.  Our youngest didn't go because he went to a birthday party during the same time period.  Star Wars (the original).  They had pizza and beer (uhhhh, for the adults, that is).  Get in for free.  Decisions, decisions.
  • This one channel I watch shows the same ad over and over, month after month.  It really gets sickening.  If I complained about this ad... okay, I won't.  Some people live for that kind of stuff, though.  Eew.
  • When the Lord gets ready, you gotta move.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blog Spotlight Hiccup

Okay, two weeks in a row now I've failed to post a Blog Spotlight Monday post.  It's just been that kind of pairing of consecutive Mondays.  Maybe next Monday I'll have my next blog to highlight.  Or maybe I'll do it tomorrow instead this week.  No, wait.  Tomorrow is Friday, and I'll be doing Friday Night Potpourri.  Saturday or Sunday is too late, so maybe I'll really wait until Monday.  I'm simply not a fan of the calendar these days.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Five and Five Reformed

There are often big battles fought in Reformedville over just who is really Reformed.  Many people who are Calvinists claim to be Reformed because they equate Calvinism with being Reformed.  Then there are people who claim that to be Reformed, one must hold to all the historical Reformed beliefs.  So Reformed Baptists really aren't Reformed because they don't sprinkle infants, etc., or so the argument goes.  All the same holds true for those claiming to be Calvinists.  Just how much do you have to agree with all of Calvin's writings to be considered a Calvinist?

I've thought of a helpful label to describe and differentiate a bit.  My label is "Five and Five" Reformed.  At a bare minimum, these are people who hold to the five points of Calvinism and the five solas of the Protestant Reformation.  This speaks even of some country bumpkin sovereign grace Baptist types, who, aside from their five and five, are really garden variety Baptists.

So anybody who holds to the five points and five solas I'll call "Five and Five" Reformed.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Not In The Bible Either, Rev. Sproul

A huge hat tip to Arthur Sido at The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia for pointing out a post made by R.C. Sproul Jr. on the Ligonier Ministries website.  The title of Sproul Jr's post is "5 Things I'm Surprised I Can't Find In The Bible."  The title of Sido's post is "Make that six things" and you can use your imagination as to why.

Sproul Jr. lists five things that are relatively unclear in the bible.  They are: 1) Proper form of church government; 2) Proper form of a service of worship; 3) Proper form for preaching the word; 4) Proper way to move from single to married; and 5) More information on the incarnation and the Trinity.  But contained in Sproul's No. 1, Sido finds No. 6, with my emphasis added:

The Bible is crystal clear that women are not to rule in the church, and that we are to submit to the elders over us. See Hebrews 13 for the latter.  Thus the Reformers were correct to list discipline as a mark of the true church. If you are not under the authority of name-able specific elders, you are not part of the visible church and thus do not have a credible profession of faith. You should get under authority.
Sido has some choice things of his own to say about this, some of which I'll lift and place here:

It always bothers me and should always cause you to pay close attention when someone airily claims that a whole chapter of Scripture [Sido references Heb. 13 in his argument] supports the point they are making without attempting to engage in the text at all and you should especially be on guard when they make statements with enormous implications to your very salvation based on these sweeping generalities. The idea that if you are not a member of a “proper” local church with name-able elders who carry out church discipline that you don’t have a credible profession of faith is a dangerous and Scripturally untenable statement. It sounds sweet to the ears of those who embrace certain church traditions but to question the salvation of someone because they don’t cling to your ecclesiastical traditions is arrogant and prideful.

And he concludes with:

The lesson here is that just because someone refers to a passage of Scripture and is published by a famous ministry doesn’t mean you should just take them at their word, especially not when they are questioning the salvation of other Christians.
Now I want to bring up the point I was making in my previous post on Ezekiel 34.  God's sheep can be lost, scattered, dominated, sickly, diseased, broken, wandering and slaughtered all at the hands of shepherds who did not care properly for the sheep.  And God doesn't blame the sheep in that passage.  Many people today who aren't currently involved in a church, or maybe are but are minimally involved, or who even are completely involved but haven't "signed the dotted line" of the membership papers can all fall under the pronouncement of Sproul Jr. and others who believe similar things.  I love to hear Christians' testimonies and life stories.  It amazes me how many people - including devout pastors - have had short periods of time or even seasons of their lives without the kind of church involvement Sproul Jr. speaks about.  And for many of these people, myself included, having your spirituality, level of humility or even salvation continually questioned or doubted doesn't help the cause any.  Especially for those who are younger in the faith.  Men like Sproul Jr. need to stop the "my way or the highway" authority trip and see God's sheep for who they are.  God's.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Night Potpourri

A week in the life:

  • One morning this last week I had ice on my car windows and didn't have any water.  The kids and I breathed on the windows to melt enough ice in order to use the squeegee.  I wish I had a video.
  • I've been in school for three semesters now, and I was rejected this week for a job in that field.  As I sat at the kitchen table doing homework, my six year old said, "Dad, you didn't get the job, so why are you still doing your homework?"
  • I wore shorts and a t-shirt today.  Until just about dusk.  Then the sweatshirt went on.  I then went home and put the pants on and turned on the heater.  I usually wish it were October about this time of year, but I haven't had time to wish.
  • Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.  No, wait, that's somebody else.  My hair's too short for a comb.  But I still need a haircut anyway.
  • Woke up, got out of bed, woke the kids up, got them breakfast, took them to school, made breakfast for me and the youngest, checked email, exercised, ran errands, went to doctor, got gas, came home, cracked books, looked at homework, made lunch, picked kids up from school, saw six turtles on three rocks, gathered books, mom got home, went to school, worked on computer program, went to two classes, came home, blogged, went to bed.
  • I just realized that I don't get out much.
  • One of my few favorites from this last decade, and a good video to go with it.

My Flock, My Sheep, But Not My Shepherds

I'm giving the readers of this post a reading assignment.  Read Ezekiel 34.  If you don't have time, I'm providing the link to Ezekiel 34 here.  It's only one chapter, so even if you don't link here, read it sometime soon.  And even though I'm going to highlight an important portion of it and put it here, please read it in its entirety.

Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy and say to those shepherds, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?  You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered. My flock wandered through all the mountains and on every high hill; my flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them."'"  Ezekiel 34:1-6
I think this sounds like a pretty good picture of today's church.  Would you agree?  Shepherds have lost the art of shepherding.  This is a pretty scathing indictment from God.  I stopped at verse 6, but his judgment starts in the next verse.  That's one reason you should read the entire chapter.  Another reason to read the whole thing is to gain a flavor of what God thinks of the characters involved.

You see, as I read through the entire chapter I noticed a peculiar thing.  God uses the first person possessive in referencing the sheep.  Four times I count God using the term "My sheep."  He uses the first person possessive in referencing the flock.  Eleven times I count God using the term "My flock."  Only once does God use the term "My shepherds."  It is in verse 8, but it is not pretty, saying, "...My shepherds did not search for My flock..."  at that point he ceases using the term "My shepherds" and doesn't use it again the rest of the chapter.

I think this passage is important in the light of the now popular teaching among the celebrity rock star pastors in the "Reformed" world.  This teaching says that anybody who claims to be a Christian but is not a formal member of a church, or is not currently attending a church or is not under the direct authority of some kind of pastor is a great sinner at least, and probably not even a true believer.  Well for those who hold that kind of belief, I offer you Ezekiel 34.  How many of "My sheep" or "My flock" are spoken ill of by God in this chapter?  They are wandering, they are scattered, they are subject to wolves and other dangers.  How convenient for the shepherds of today to scatter and neglect the sheep, to dominate the sheep, to exalt themselves and then blame it on the sheep.  How convenient.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

You Know Who You Are

You know who you are.  Yes, you.  You are the one who called me a few days ago when I needed a call.  Yes, that you.  And you know who you are.  And you over there, you know who you are, too.  I hope your wife gets better.  I'll send lawyers, guns and money.  And you half way in between, yeah, the guy who kinda knows what I was talking about, about people not loving each other.  I think you know who you are, too.  And everybody who doesn't know me well enough for me to have said "you know who you are" because of something you did, well, you know who you are as much as the next guy.  Or girl.

Then there are those who don't know who you are because I'm not making it clear, or you're not a reader of this blog.  I'll have a special post or two or three for you sometime soon.  Maybe you'll hear about it somehow and you'll know who you are too.  But if you don't, I'll be able to get away with writing about it because you won't know it's you, and neither will anybody else.  Sometimes it's more fun that way.