Sunday, September 25, 2005

Today's Joy

Happiness is a memory. Is it the result of reflection without the interruption of natural troubles surrounding the situation, and good old days just get better as our mind performs a natural purging of all those past troubles that never materially mattered anyway. How much better to trust God? Achievement of a continual present state of happiness is only possible through acceptance of the current situation, both in pros and cons, that produces more recent memories of happiness due to the fact that we are not allowing ourselves to over-focus on the negative aspects of our circumstance. This is also a very powerful and creative stance in that it puts us in control of our situation, rather than our fears.
I don't want to wait until 5 years out and look back on today, and the relationships of today, and suddenly discover the happiness that God meant for me to have all along. It's also not fair to those who care about me to do so. Can you see how God could be pouring the blessing yet we miss the joy because we can't trust God with our numerous small worries and fears? Why should God give us a blessing if we spoil it like that? So I will thank Him for today, and the situation He has placed me in, and the people He has given to be with me, whether that family, friends, or anyone else. More than that, I will accept what He sends my way because I know He loves me, and I will seek to enjoy life because to do anything else is to complain against Him.
I am not saying it is easy but He does deserve every last bit of our gratitude, and none of our complaints, though He more than graciously listens to those. I remember being given an alfalfa sandwich as a child once, and being very rude about it, making gagging sounds and all the rest. Yet this was provided in love to me. Even the alfalfa sandwiches of life deserve our gratitude.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A note on the "Thought of Foolishness"

I had said a few posts ago that just because something is foolish doesn't make it sin. It occured to me later, that someone might bring up Proverbs 24:9 which says that the thought of foolishness is sin.
First let me clarify what foolishness I am referring to, in regard to standards. When an IFB says some activity that his code of standards prohibits is foolish, such that a seemingly innocent activity may lead to worse things, this is an appeal to what he sees common sense versus stupidity.
In the book of Proverbs, wisdom and foolishness are compared and contrasted extensively. Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is equated with God's commands and so with the Scripture:

Pro 2:1-10 ESV My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, (2) making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; (3) yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, (4) if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, (5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (6) For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; (7) he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, (8) guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. (9) Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; (10) for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

...also see Pro 8. Foolishness in the book of Proverbs is equated with ignoring and rejecting this wisdom:

Pro 1:7 ESV The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

None of this is to say that the commandments of God don't lead to common sense actions. However, the central issue around which one is deemed wise, or a fool, in Proverbs is whether that man listens to and follows Godly instruction. The Proverbs fool is the willing sinner, the one who consciously disobeys God.
The thought of foolishness is the thought of going against God's commands, not the thought of being stupid. In any case, the difference between foolishness(stupidity) and sin should be obvious.
The above-mentioned appeal to common sense is debatable in any case and depends on the issue.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Be a KJVO? Let it not be!

Another KJVO post... wheee! Well this is good, actually. Just a few nuggets of Scripture to suggest a problem with that line of thinking.

Rom 9:14 KJV What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Oops. We have the Word of God taking our Lord's name in vain. Not just this once, but also _22_ other times:

Gen. 44:7, 17; Jos. 22:29; 24:16; 1Sa. 12:23; 14:45; 20:2; Job 27:5; Luke 20:16; Rom. 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 11:1, 11; 1Co. 6:15; Gal. 2:17; 3:21; 6:14

You may say, that since we are dealing with the Bible here, the Bible is actually saying that God is forbidding this, and that the reference is not so casual as to be in vain. The first problem with this explanation is that, in the verses I have selected, the name of God DOES NOT APPEAR in the original language manuscripts. So the Bible is not trying to say anything about God in these verses where "God forbid" is used.
The second problem with this explanation is that it just doesn't work in some contexts, even if there were a textual basis for including God's name:

1Sa 14:45 KJV And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.

Who says that God forbids that Jonathan die? Maybe He does, maybe He doesn't. Probably He used this incident to spare Jonathan but we have no reason to believe that these people received a revelation from God that He forbids Jonathan's death. The statement "God forbid" represents the sentiment of the people, not something the people knew about God's will.
Of course the entire issue is solved by realizing that "God forbid" was a dynamic translation on the part of the KJVO translators, and that "God" is not part of the original language texts in these places. In the NT, a more literal translation of the underlying Greek in these places would be, "Let it not be!" In the OT KJV occurances of "God forbid" a more literal translation would be, "Far be it!"
What about I Chr 1:19:

KJV And said, My God forbid it me, that I should do this thing: shall I drink the blood of these men that have put their lives in jeopardy? for with the jeopardy of their lives they brought it. Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mightiest.

Here the name of "God" IS in the Hebrew text. However, this is while David is in the act of pouring out the water before the Lord and so he, before the Lord, makes his decision that he will not drink this water obtained at the price of blood. Obviously here this is not a casual reference, especially since David addresses God very personally- "_My_ God forbid it..."
However, the 23 places given at the beginning gives us a Bible that takes God's name in vain. How is "God forbid" any different than "God damn"? The only reason to insist on a difference is if you have to justify the KJV. Would you want your kids making "God forbid" a regular part of their vocabulary?
You certainly will not tell me that this version is the perfect preserved Word of God when it itself goes counter to the Scriptural command not to take God's name in vain.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Truth of Post-Modernism

I don't doubt but that God allows various philosophies of man to come in the vogue to challenge His people to understand spiritual truth better. Right-wing fundamentalists often make the mistake of rejecting new philosophies out of hand, without first looking at them and finding the half that is truth- which would help provide a much more salient response that a stubborn refusal to listen.
The best lies, are half-truths. Post-moderism is a half truth. It takes an obvious truthful reality and comes to an erroneous conclusion. The truthful reality is, that men see things differently, and believe differently. The erroneous conclusion is, that because men do, that makes it so. It is often said that the laws of physics are a most evident area in the post-modernist idea can be shown to fail.
I began to this of this in geometric terms. It takes two points to make a line and set a direction, does it not? The post-modernist has taken one point alone, that of the variety of human perception, and attempted to chart a direction. This is perhaps why it can be replied that the post-modernist can't even really say his core philosophy is correct, if he in fact is correct. If he is right, his ideas don't matter- they cancel themselves out; if he is wrong, they are irrelevant.
We can draw a line, however, if we add one additional truth to the truth that men percieve in a variety of ways. The second truth is this- that men are finite, imperfect and errant. Our conclusion now is this: that the variety of man's perception is really a demonstration of these characteristics; that the finite limits of man's perception cause him to see only a part of the truth, while the imperfect and errant qualities of man cause him to percieve or even create falsehood.
This cuts both ways. For the humanist, this is a denial of the preeminance of man's capabilities; for the right-wing fundamentalist, this is a denial of the ability to set truth in black and white, and to do away with gray areas- a denial of absolute certainty about all things. For Christians in general, it a call to have grace on those who we disagree with, and not be so quick to judge, realizing our own inability.
Post-modernism, when answered, is a challenge to both the world, and the church.

Bibliocentrism, Part II

I thought today about a coworker from a previous job, where I also had a friend from my church as a coworker. Now, this friend of mine is quite strict about various issues such as music and Bible versions and so forth. Of course, I am not like that. I imagined a conversation between me and the other coworker on the differences between us.
It began to get interesting in my mind, when I thought about how I would explain my position. I suppose I would start out by saying that I used to be that way, but now I am not. As to _why_ I am not, I would say that being the object of judgement from these type of people who are strict caused me to look at things differently.
Then I would go on to say that my friend is certainly not judgemental, but because of the tendancy of those types of Christians to be judgemental, I prefer to take a more liberal view.
I went on, in my mind, to tell her that such strictness is often portrayed as wisdom. Such as, you shouldn't drink because you do something stupid or become an alcoholic. Such as, you shouldn't smoke because it is detrimental to your health. Such as, you shouldn't listen to rock music because it can negatively influence the way you think.
However, these things are _not_ explicitly spelled out in Scripture, no matter how strenuously their supporters attempt to make a Biblical case against them. Now I am not saying such rules are not wise (that is open to debate, and is another discussion), what I am saying is, that just because something is wise _doesn't_ make it a mandate of God's Word. Neither because something is foolish does that make it a sin. There are many foolish activities, that are not "sin." (Again, whether these are foolish or not is another discussion)
The standards issue is similar to the KJVO issue in that the emotional underpinnings of these beliefs are the need for a high level of certainty. One of the most potent statements in James White's book refuting KJVOism is the following:

"If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderus Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.' This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text."
-James White, The King James Only Controversy, p.95

I have realized this desire for a high level of certainty extends beyond the KJVO issue, with far right-wing fundamentalists. Yes, the type that gets upset over new versions and pants on women. It would be just as easy to say that these right-wing fundamentalists are, "in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest" the fundamentalist leaders of 30-35 years ago with "ultimate authority'"- when it comes to "standards".
One explanation for this need of high-level certainty is the fact that a lot of these types of Christians harbor emotional insecurity. You find many with harsh upbringings, wounds from the past, plenty of first generation Christians who are so scared of what they used to be as an unsaved person that they _must_ have it all spelled out. Of course the solution for this is to find freedom from such fears in Christ. (Easier said than done)
Yet another explanation is needed for the rest of them, especially second generation right-wing fundamentalists who remain in the system. This explanation is more theological and based upon what they've been taught about the written Word of God.
I'll start by posing this question- is the Bible all-inclusive of spiritual truth? Or does the Bible contain a subset of the entire spiritual truth? I am not asking, is the Bible authoritative. I believe the Bible is, in fact, authoritative, and true in what it says. It would be sin to go against the clear teaching of the Bible. What I am asking is, is the Bible all there is to truth?
For many right-wing fundamentalists the final authority has become only authority. This is error, as proven by the Bible itself. Christ sent the Spirit to guide us into all truth. Also it should be obvious, that God guides us in many specific ways that are not spelled out in Scripture. Look at I Jhn 5:8- we do not see the Bible as one of God's three witnesses on earth, which seems very peculiar if we accept the far right-wing concept of Scripture as not only the only authority but also perfectly preserved in one text.
By limiting our understanding of God's truth to the written Word of God, we are missing out on special things God wants to do and show us. This is what I refer to as "Bibliocentrism."
This idea, this doctrine, sustains this type of thinking when emotional causes are absent.
Now some may say that I am going Charismatic. Glad you said that! If there is one thing more vile than a Catholic, for a far right-wing fundamentalist, it's a Charismatic. Even the infamous Jack Hyles said, that he would rather be a Catholic than a Charismatic. Of course this statement fits with the profile I've drawn; to be a Catholic is to have a tremendous amount of certainty about many things, whereas the current state of the Charismatic movement leaves a lot of subjectivity to the believer.
To the extent that the Charismatics need to pay more attention to the objective written Word of God, the right-wing fundamentalist needs to pay more attention to the Spirit.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Second-hand" girls?

Here's a portion of J. Vernon McGee's commentary on Rev 19:7-8:
"Young lady and young man, that is the reason in this day of 'new' morality that you should bring purity to your marriage. God have mercy on some of you fellows who are married to second-hand girls. Don't get them at the second-hand store; get them brand new. It is much better that way."

As I was helping my mom respond to someone on Baptist Brider error, I ran across this commentary and thought, what?? There is no grace in this at all. I will agree that it is best to keep pure until marriage. Even Paul says repeat marriages run risks with regard to the physical relationship. But- where is the grace for a girl who is now trying to do right? Should she be shunned now? No, not at all. I think Christ has plenty beyond what we dream of for those who have heart's desire to do right and "sin no more". If a man is pure and following Christ he will view a girl like this from Christ's point of view, and Christ may call Him to marry that girl and show her His love. That is how I feel, and if I thought this was what Christ wanted, I wouldn't have any problem with it, rather I would want to find out and help meet any special need she has.
Of course Mr. McGee doesn't turn it around and complain about "second-hand" guys. When it comes to sexual sin why do we put all the blame and responsibility on the woman? I mean, if she doesn't dress just right than that will make me go on a lustful mental rampage. Come on! As a man, I have to accept responsibility for my choices, such as whether I lust or not.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Thankfully, four days after the event, our federal government is finally getting troops and supplies into New Orleans and evacuating survivors.
Almost no one believes any level of government handled this well. Katrina has provided a clear demonstration that can't be ignored, of the failure of our federal administration to handle domestic emergencies, and of the fact that our administration's priorities are seriously out of whack.
It is true that the mayor ordered a mandatory evacuation. However, many poor families, mostly minorities and the elderly, had nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere.
It is true that the immediate responsibility fell on state and local authorities. However, within the first 24 hours it was clear they were failing, and they were asking the federal government for help. While our national government took its time, crime increased and people died.
It is true that the much of the destruction was caused by a break in the levee and not the hurricane directly. However, all sides _knew_ the levees around NO couldn't handle a hurricane greater than category 3. Despite this, the federal government slashed funding in recent years for reinforcing these levees to handle a category 5 hurricane. Before 9/11 FEMA listed a hurricane of Katrina's strength hitting New Orleans has one of the top three dangers to the US. Yet our federal government not only did not prepare beforehand, but after seeing the breakdown of local government in LA after the hurricane sat on its hands for days.
What is not true is that nobody really knew what would happen. The path of the hurricane was originally charted direct for NO. The hurricane that was expected to hit NO was of a strength known to damage the levees. None of the destruction that has happened in the last week should have taken anyone by suprise.
I brought up the topic at a fellowship at church tonight. Apologies for the Bush administration ensued. First out of the chute was that federal government intervention should be a last resort. I addressed this by saying, that early on, within the first day or so, it was evident the local and state governments had failed. Next up was the brazen reply that, well, these people chose to live in a city under sea level so they have to deal with the danger. If you can't see the problem with this statement, especially coming from a Christian, then you are in a hopeless condition.
From another table I heard complaints about the way someone brought up the racial issue in all of this, on a national fundraiser. Well, yeah, there is a racial component to this.
Finally, I pointed out how this shows our government couldn't properly respond to a WMD attack- which comment was passed by.
Not even the likes of a right-wing personage such as Bill O'Reilly went to the level my fellow church members went to in defense of the undefensible. I am sure not everybody there feels that way, but what I heard angered me. It was an uninformed, callous, and futile defense of a truly pathetic response by our federal government. I guess they think Bush can be excused for letting the people of NO decline into destitution, death, and pure misery so long as he comes out against the "perverts" and the "baby killers."