"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us.

Anyone who knows me know that I admit it. But sometimes it's wise to admit it to oneself as well. Charles Spurgeon said, "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." So in one sense self-awareness is the fundamental operating condition of a humble spirit, and I am not repudiating my thoughts on this blog where I've expressed, sometimes (or often) quite strong opinions when I feel I have insight to offer.

But have you ever felt those moments when God just humbles you, when out of the blue something pops up to remind us that no matter how far we've come, we have a ways to go in the Imitation of Christ? I had one today.

I got an email from a former classmate at college. He introduced himself, said I probably don't remember him, but that we were at school freshman year together. He said that he has a picture of us and several other people together at a class outing to a historical site, and that every time he sees it he stops to pray for us all.

I was floored. When had I thought of him except in reminiscing to other friends about the somewhat odd characters who were at school the first year? Had I EVER stopped to pray for him?

Sad to say, I don't know that I have. You probably don't know how God used you, but thank you Ben.

To My Anonymous Exhorter: A Response

As my below post makes mention, I was recently reprimanded by an anonymous comment calling into question my post Re: Lahaye and Jenkins.

I feel a response is necessary. I will excuse the length of this response on the grounds that I am not only responding to the critiques of my opinions of the series, but also I expound my view of engaging the culture we live in. I do not know if my original commentator is a regular reader of my blog, or someone who stumbled across that post while looking for the Left Behind fanclub, but no matter, his/her comments merit attention.

I will reproduce the comment below in italics, and intersperse my reply point by point.

I agree with you - that the church in America is theologically atrophied. That's a good word picture.

Thank you, I'm glad my essential point got across.

But I'm afraid that the passion with which you write to communicate your very valid points are overshadowed by your use of a certain word - which in most Christian circles, evangelical or otherwise - would be considered offensive and a cursing of God's name. Sort of pours water on the fire or righteous indignation.

I dealt with my defense of my studied use of that word below, but I will give a few more comments. I remember in college, being assigned the film Cromwell in one of our classes. After viewing it, my professor felt he had to make an explanation for the more timid among the class. At one point Cromwell enters his church and sees the King has forced the trappings of the Roman church into English churches. He is then confronted with one of his friends whose ear had been cut off for some offense or other. Cromwell, righteously indignant, exclaims "God Damn this king." Dr. Stacey pointed out that Cromwell was NOT blaspheming, that this was a sincere prayer to God to punish this ungodly king. In that context, my use of the phrase should only indicate the depth of my righteous indignation, not the hypocrisy of it.

Maybe if we modeled self control more, the world would see our commitment to Christ rather than our rampant hypocrisy. (and I don't just limit it to language; Lord knows there's a plethora of "addictions" we Christians have)

Ok, so herein I'm accused of not having enough self-control in my posting. So be it. I feel there is a greater danger within the church, self or imposed control approaching legalistic Phariseeism. While we should not "sin so that grace can abound...", who is more likely to seem "real" to an unbeliever and truly evidence God's grace, one who has bought into the fundamentalist line that to be a Christian means you don't drink or swear or watch R rated movies, or someone who does not reproach the unbeliever if their language is a bit salty, who shows that the true message of the Gospel is that Christ cares who we are more than what arbitrary rules we impose on ourselves. Christ hung out with profane fishermen, prostitutes, and corrupt government officials, not the "good" people of the established church. Peter denied Christ three times with blasphemies, and yet God still used him mightily at Pentacost to found the Church. This is not meant to condone true blasphemy, only to show that is is not what God is more concerned about. Profiting off the gospel to the detriment of the work of the church is even more blasphemous of our faith and our calling. My point here is that the "world" will see who Christ is, not because we are the most self-controlled people in the world, but because God gives us grace even when we are not.

Out of curiosity, how are you personally ministering to the world? [Personal note: We may differ on this, but I don't believe that Christians must become LIKE the world in order to minister to them and show them their need for Christ.]

I hesitated to respond to this question, but I feel I must. For one, none of us truly does as much as we should, but if we are following Christ, we should at least know that there is more that we can do, rather than promoting our own works-including apocalyptic fiction-as the answer. The prophets of the old testament (not to say that I consider myself a prophet-more a critic) did not solve the world's problems themselves, rather they called the community to repent and get on track with what God wants.

That said, yes, the gauntlet has been thrown and I will try to respond charitably and without pride. I have not been called to a world stage, nor do I have the influence and public exposure which Lahaye and Jenkins continue to squander to their own profit. However, I try to live a life which exemplifies my vision of Christ's overpowering grace as explained in my second paragraph of response above. Living Christ to the world, not as "the world" writ large, but to individuals. Not classifying everyone into a worldview box, labeling them, and then saying "you're an existentialist/nihilist/pagan/pluralist/postmodern" and then beat them with the baseball bat of six or seven points of sunday school rhetoric my Biblical Reasoning prof taught me "prove" Christ to that "group." I will not deny my faith, nor live in sin in order to reach others, but I will try to discard all the non-essential legalism which all my readers who grew up in the fundamentalist church are familiar with, in order that the message of Grace, the gospel of Mere Christianity*, will shine through. We are to discard every weight so that we may run the race before us well. I cultivate relationships as I can, and in fact I am often more comfortable sitting in a coffeshop discussing God, life, and faith with all those individuals created in the image of God who make up the monolithic "the world" we so dread, than I am sitting in a holy huddle in church exhorting ourselves with how much we love us some Jesus over a shot of grape juice.

So that is my ethos of relational evangelism. I have seen God do mighty things with that approach.

I realize I am a bit of an iconoclast. I see opportunities to point out problems in the church, and if I do it with any regularity, maybe it is because the American church is so atrophied we are consumed with expending enormous amounts of time and effort combating gay marriage and Roe v. Wade, so that we will miss the opportunites to preach the truth in love to the homosexual, the pregnant teen, or dare I say it the Human Rights Council staffer or abortionist. I am not saying that all these will come to Christ, but I would like to hope that God will grant me the grace to live a life where they can look at me and say they saw Christ's love despite our disagreements, rather than repudiate Christ with how unloving His church is. However, I am making efforts to be constructive as well as deconstructive, since both in unity will, I believe, bear fruit.

As far as what I am doing in the church, well, I am not a leader, but I do try to follow Christ when He affirms the priesthood of all believers. I contribute in small groups in my church, and have recently led a Bible study on Grace. I am discipling several new believers as we work through the gospel of John and Mere Christianity.

*Not as Lewis wrote it, but as Christ preached it.

More to the point, one reader commented on my indictment of the Left Behind series.

So what exactly do you propose is wrong with Christians composing literature and offering it on the free market? Forget whether you or anyone else actually considers it "literature" (before the CLAers come and mug me). They had an idea and wrote a story. Do you really think these authors are offering their works as an alternative to Scipture and the only way to salvation? Or should Christian ideas never be offered on the free market at all for fear of their corruption? And what if one - even one soul - did pick up the books just because they were interested, and decided to investigate more, and that ended up being their first step toward salvation?

God uses even the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. That's not an excuse for Christians to be foolish, but neither is it prudent for so members of the body of Christ to spend time distancing themselves from brothers and sisters with whom they fundamentally agree that Christ died for that we may undercut the very tools God may be using for His own ends - whether we care to recognize them or not.

Let me explain my problems with the concept. I will not address the theology (if you can call it that) of the series, as that was not the point of my original essay. For example, how did what was going to be a trilogy end up becoming seven books, then twelve, then 15, as more and more people bought the books, as the authors were seduced by Amazon ranking and profit margins and marketing. Yes, God can use a deeply flawed work to bring people to him, ie: the NIV and the Roman church, and the Pentacostal movement. (Please, hold the emails on those topics.) Why did the head of marketing for all of Tindale House publishers suddenly become head of marketing for the Left Behind series alone? Does a genuine attempt to bring people to God need a head of marketing? Haven't the attempts to modernize and market Christianity resulted in some of the greatest abominations of our pop-culture faith?

If the series had never been written, I believe that God's sovereign grace is more than capable to bring all those people whom He has called before the beginning of time to saving faith in Him. I repudiate the idea that attacking errant preachers or novelists on a theological point like the prostitution of our faith on the altar of Mammon will reduce God's kingdom by even one soul. Maybe that's just me.

Yes, we may fundamentally agree that Christ died for us, but when the means people use become apparently destructive of those ends, then I believe there is call for pause and reflection, and if needs be, condemnation from the Church. Many will have cast out demons in Christ's name, or brought people to God, or written enormously popular works of fiction in his name, and He will say "depart from Me I never know you." Now, I am not questioning these gentleman's faith, just saying that if the former sentence can be true, then certainly there is reason to question things done in Christ's name, for not all those things, even if they bear some fruit, are of Christ. And marketing Christ into a series of 15 "fiction" books to record profits, slapping four initials on an armband, or giving your coworkers "Testamints" are most likely not of Him.

Note: To my fellow travelers, check out Nathan Wilson and Dr. Sock's great satirical reposte, Right Behind and Supergeddon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

An apology to my readers and a few miscellenia

To sum up, an omnibus post.

Ok... It went something like this. I get spam on my blogspot. I enable comment moderation. I completely forget about it in the course of my busy life. I log into the new version of Blogger today, and have 68 comments awaiting moderation...

So, in short, no I have not been censoring anyone. I approved every comment that wasn't a spam advertisement. Thank you all for your interest, I had no idea so many people read my ravings.

And one note, which is certainly not an apology, but perhaps an explanation. One sincere reader objected to my use of the word "g-ddammed" in my essay on the commercialization of Christianity vis a vis Lahaye and Jenkins. If I had been being flippant, I would certainly apologize. I was not, I was and remain in dead earnest.

To quote Lewis: "One listener complained of the word 'damned' as frivolous swearing. But I mean exactly what I say--nonsense that is damned is under God's curse, and will (apart from Christ's grace) lead those who believe it to eternal death." -- Mere Christianity Book II, Chapter i.

I stand by it, those who turn faith into profit, who enrich themselves at the expense of the Kingdom, are producing stubble that will be burned. I leave it to God to ultimately judge the intent of Lahaye et al., but we are called to judge by one's fruits, and I have yet to see evidence to believe that I was mistaken in my assessment.

On that note, I must plug Derek Webb, formerly of Caedmon's Call. He has a solo career now, and has released his newest album, Mockingbird, free. Completely, utterly, downloadably, free. This reminds me of a man, who, as it turns out, also inspired Derek, Keith Green, who would give away his music. That's a Christian artist demonstrating a servant spirit. And Webb's music isn't half bad, which is not surprising from someone who lists U2 among their inspirations. I particularly recommend A King & A Kingdom, and Rich Young Ruler, a few quotes from which I will leave you with. Check it out at FreeDerekWebb.com

so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me
*Rich Young Ruler

there are two great lies that i'’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
*A King & A Kingdom

Look soon for my after action report on the Bible Study I led this last week on the beautiful doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

Oh, and since most of my posts are me being angry at/about/near something or someone, someone challenged me to write a post entirely different. I was brash enough to tell them to suggest a topic, so look for a post someday soon on why women like receiving flowers, and why we men like giving them. Save the lynching for after you've heard my views.

May the Grace and Peace of God be with you all.

Even ex-KGB guys can be cool


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember Remember the Fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I See No Reason Why The Gunpowder Treason Should Ever Be Forgot

But in the spirit of commemoration, whereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you.