Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pants and Homosexuality in the Sidelinks

The article by Chuck Burke on why it's Biblically incorrect to prohibit pants on women "Let My Women Go" has been there a while, this part of the post is to hopefully grab some Google indexage since Google doesn't index Dropbox...

Likewise, a new article has been added "Is Homosexuality a Sin?" by David Emerson Root, Jr., formerly on layhands.com, revived from the dead with the help of the Wayback Machine.

Both of these articles are excellent, yet dead on the web and nowhere to be found... except for here! ...and the Wayback Machine, if you know the original URL!

Related terms: culotte, culottes, katastole, arsenokoites, arsenokoitai

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tax Changes

As I mentioned before, I am eligible for EIC. Which essentially means, I don't pay federal income tax, when all is said and done. But with the phase out of Advance EIC in the paycheck, how can I make sure no federal income tax gets withheld?
The new tax bill just passed and early release percentage tables are available on the IRS website.

So how to figure this up? Two first questions:
What is your pay period,
What is your taxable pay,
and What is your filing status?

I get paid bi-weekly, and my taxable pay is typically 925. However, I purchased cheaper health insurance, and sometimes I get a little overtime, so I am going to bump this figure to 1075. I will be filing married.

Look at the percentage table, for a married filer being paid bi-weekly, withholding doesn't kick in until my post-allowance taxable wages reach $304. The trick is to get your post-allowance taxable wages under the threshold that applies to you.

As a married filer, I also notice that each withholding allowance is worth $142.31. Now let do the math:

$1075 taxable pay - $304 withholding threshold = $771 dollars that I need to reduce by claiming withholding allowances. More math:

$771 / $142.31 = 5.41. So I need to claim 6 allowances to avoid withholding up to at least $1075.

DISCLAIMER & WARNING: I am not a tax lawyer or professional. This advice is intended to help those of you whose tax situation results in -zero- tax liability at the end of the year. Please review your past returns and current pay stubs and consider other sources of income when making a final decision on allowances you claim. If you underpay your taxes you could be hit with significant fines and penalties.

Tech Support Gripe

We are not responsible for incidental or consequential inconveniences or damages arising from issues with our software and hardware.
This includes the guy I spoke to who purchased our software on the very same day he needed to get a project done with it, or else he was going to lose thousands of dollars. I'm sorry sir, but you should've given yourself more than 24 hours if that much money is on the line.
This includes the other guy who brought his computer in to be worked on, the one he used to do payroll for his employees. It was payday, and he had no backup computer system. When he learned that his computer would not be ready that day, he got upset and wanted me to come outside and tell one of his employees that they weren't going to get paid because of it. Sorry dude, you should have a second backup computer for your business, and a paper-based, manual way to cut checks for payroll. I mean, what if your electricity went out?
I hate it when customers back themselves into a tight corner and then lash out at me when they can't make some deadline. If I was their consultant, being paid $100 or more per hour, it might be different. When I am getting paid less than $15 per hour by my employer and you are one of many, many, customers, I just am not in a position to work miracles.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Personal Asceticism

"True humility is an excellent grace; it is the clothing and ornament of a Christian; nor is there anything that makes a man more like Christ, than this grace; but in these men here respected, it was only the appearance of humility, it was not real; it was in things they devised and willed, not in things which God commanded, Christ required, or the Scriptures pointed at; they would have been thought to have been very lowly and humble, and to have a great consciousness of their own vileness and unworthiness to draw nigh to Christ the Mediator immediately, and by him to God..."
-John Gill commentary on Colossians 2:18

" I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, 'Nothing beyond what is written,' so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another."
- I Corinthians 4:6 NRSV

When one thinks of "asceticism" one thinks perhaps of severe physical treatment in pursuit of closeness to God. It is this physical aspect that springs to mind for many people. However, I want to point out what I will call "soul asceticism." This is quite simply where you put yourself down, or intentionally foster a low-self image, as a means of spiritual advancement. The core theological error in this is quite simply that as a redeemed child of God, we have been renewed in Christ. We are called to live joyfully and creatively for His glory.
"Soul asceticism" is quite another level from what Paul describes in Galatians 2:20 when he says "not I, but Christ"(KJV):
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
- Galatians 2:20 NRSV

Instead of "daily crucifixion" as advocated by some, Paul represents a once for life crucifixion and then our life is hid with Christ in God. Paul speaks directly to this topic in Colossians 3:
"So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory." (1-4)

Who we are as Christians is tied up with who Christ is because we have been raised with Christ. This is the reality of the kingdom today, here and now. We are to seek first the kingdom of God (things that are above) and not earthly achievements. When He comes back in glory, we will also be glorified with Him.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator." (5-10)

Worldliness stands as the direct opposite to seeking the kingdom. This passage is probably one of the clearest in Scripture on what worldliness is. As an ex-fundamentalist, it seems a bit too simple! :) But here we have it, what Paul considers antithetical to the kingdom of God. What is interesting for our discussion here is how Paul starts off: "Put to death," which is very much crucifixion language. We know from Gal 2:20 that we were crucified once, then raised to live in newness of life. Paul's use of "put to death" doesn't represent a theology of daily crucifixion, but a theology of the resurrection life. "As we have been" put to death in Christ once, so these worldly things ought be dead with our old selves. Paul is making much the same point as he made in Romans 6: "How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (2b-4) These passages are a reminder of Whose we are and Whom we serve. So ought we to remind ourselves of this daily. The same understanding can be applied to Romans 8:13, where we are told to put to death the deeds of the flesh.

"Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account." - Hebrew 4:12-13

The Christians actions in this life, whether worldly or Godly, are no longer effect His relationship with us, but we will be held accountable before the Lord at the judgement. We either walk with the Lord or we don't. We seek His kingdom or we don't. We walk away or we remain close. Sin doesn't break the fellowship of a Christian with His Savior for the same reason salvation can't be lost. (We either believe the gospel or not.) What APPEARS to be a break in fellowship is really our wandering off in the woods of worldliness away from where God is. We ALWAYS have the wonderful privilege of being able to come and ask boldly at the throne of grace.

The idea that "sin breaks fellowship," is extremely destructive to the Gospel of Christ. No matter how bad you are, or how far you stray, think of God as your owner with you tethered to His almighty hand by one of those retractable doggie leashes. You may fall down the sewer drain. You may get so far you can't see Him. But He's got you, He loves you, and He's in control. One day you'll come back for dinner when your soul is so withered you can't stand it anymore. Or you'll get harshly yanked back!

The idea that "sin breaks fellowship" puts the pressure on YOU to make sure you are acceptable in His sight. Rather we ought to rest in the truth that we are adopted and grace flows from the Father to us on the mere account of our being in Christ:
"He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." - Ephesians 1:5-6

So it is with the concept of "daily crucifixion." You've been crucified once in Christ. The task that remains to you each day is to seek the kingdom of God in the power of the Spirit. Calling this type of drawing near to God's heart another crucifixion is irresponsible since His grace is upon us as sons continually. It is not in vain that we are told:

"His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness,
and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3-8

Our escape from the corruption in this world is made possible by his promises of divine power--power that's available to the Christian 24/7 as we claim his promises by living out our lives in faith in His commands. We see here in this list many opposites of the worldly attributes we found in Colossians 3. These are all characteristics of those advancing His kingdom.

Instead of "daily crucifixion," Paul calls us to keep ourselves under subjection to Christ:

"Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified." - I Corinthians 9:25-27

We are to make a conscious decision to place our beings at Christ's service:

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:1-2

Scripture tells us to do everything for "the glory of God." (I Cor 10:31)

This co-opting of our beings for Christ service, the subjection of ourselves to Christ, indicates not crucifixion but renewal. Our old man is DEAD once for all. The question is whether we will ACT like the old man or live up to our calling in Christ.

(Paul's "I die daily" in I Cor 15:31 is in reference to the peril he encountered in his work for Christ, not a renewed death to sin.)

And finally, we have the parable of the talents. God has gifted each Christian with certain drives and abilities that may or may not be used in an overtly spiritual way, but which can help advance the kingdom.

Now we are ready to address the topic of "soul asceticism." Most fundamentalists would be against monasticism and especially against physical self-punishment as a way to draw close to God. However, in these churches it seems you get a steady diet of things you need to "die" to:

-Yourself
-Your dreams
-Your desires
-Your ambitions
-Your plans
-Things you enjoy (music, food, movies, etc.)
-Whatever else YOU are "holding on" to

You can't be you because if it's you then it's not God. If you want it, especially if you want it badly, you'd better die to it--unless it is ministry related. Your desires will only get you into trouble. Any personal initiative rooted in what you think is best for your life is suspect, unless you can say "God told me," and even that can be suspect if it matches too closely with what you say YOU want. I perhaps exaggerate a little, but not much. It all goes back to the concept of "daily crucifixion."

The Biblical method is not to rip your soul--your humanity--out and leave it in a box, but to subject it to Christ. In everything you do, remember that you will give account one day. Invest your talents!

"Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment." - Ecclesiastes 11:9

Do what you will but live with the judgement in mind.

The fundy will say, but, the heart is desperately wicked! I stand in awe of their distrust of the Spirit's renewing and sanctifying work.
The solution is not to lock your humanity in a cage, but to continually submit to the Lord in subjecting your mind, body and soul to Him, by giving Him the final say in whatever you do.
If you try to deny yourself without truly submitting to the Lord, you don't get anywhere anyway.
You are what God made you to be. Be what God made you to be, only in Him. This is the meaning of taking up the cross. To put ourselves at the service of a crucified and risen Christ whom the world hates. Not denying the abilities and drives that God has allowed you to have, that make you who you are.

Finally, in Colossians 2 we see how such false humility is useless and prideful:

"Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.
"If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.
"These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence." (18-23)

This is precisely what fundamentalists do. They "disqualify you" because you don't play along with their insistence on "self-abasement" (soul asceticism) and following "regulations." They themselves "appear wise" in their PIETISTIC ways, but it is worthless in keeping ourselves in check.

In contrast, Paul tells us that true holiness is an outgrowth of Christ in us, and not something that we can arrange.

But, the fundy says, there has got to be a standard, some way to measure people! No there doesn't:

"Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." - Romans 14:1-4, 10-13

All of the above errors put a barrier between us and God because they invite us to throw up a facade instead of coming to Christ as we are. We become the problem, requiring the make-up of works and the mask of false humility to be acceptable. And so we never change into what we ought to be.
To be real before God is to invite God to change you as you really are. To come to God in make-up and a mask is asking God to expose you. To be real before God is for God to mold the dreams and affections of our hearts into that which is pleasing to Him. Those who come to God hiding something will find a God intensely interested in what you are hiding, like a young child with a stolen cookie behind his back.

I'll end with some of John Gill's commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:16,
Ecclesiastes 7:16
"Be not righteous over much
This is not meant of true and real righteousness, even moral righteousness, a man cannot be too holy or too righteous; but of a show and ostentation of righteousness, and of such who would be thought to be more righteous and holy than others, and therefore despise those who, as they imagine, do not come up to them; and are very rigid and censorious in their judgment of others, and very severe in their reproofs of them; and, that they may appear very righteous persons, will do more than what the law requires of them to do, even works of supererogation [going beyond the call of duty] (...) and many there be, who, by an imprudent zeal for what they judge right, and which sometimes are mere trifles, and by unseasonable reproofs for what is wrong, expose themselves to resentment and danger.
[...]
"neither make thyself over wise;
above what is written, or pretend to be wiser than others. So the Arabic version, "show not too much wisdom"; do not affect, as not to be more righteous than others, so not more wise, by finding fault with present times, or with the dispensations of Providence, or with the manners and conduct of men; setting up for a critic and a censurer of men and things"

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Most Hurtful Customer

As Tech Support "dude," people do some stupid, nasty, mean, idiotic, brain-dead, self-serving, circular stuff. But at the end of the day, it's just part of the working environment. Tech Support is deceptive. Inside, at a cubicle (most times your very own), fluorescent lights, office environment, semi-comfy chair. Then the s--t starts to batter you as you deal with unaccountable customers all day every day. And the phone becomes an anchor, your headset like the tentacles of the Borg assimilating you into the system... but that's Tech Support. Take it or leave it. I can and have put up with all of this. It doesn't mean I stop seeing it for the crap that it is, but I deal with it as a professional.

Until one day at Sony Tier 2 support a customer brutally ripped into my psyche like nothing I had never experienced before. Seriously. What he was upset about I could not recall. What he wanted I was forbidden to do and there was no escalation path. My management basically told me to shoot him down without being willing to take the call. At the end of the call, the customer uttered something like the following:

"I hope when you go home and lie in bed tonight, that you remember this and feel like really terrible inside about the way you treated me."

Forget that giving into his demands would have resulted in disciplinary action being taken against me. The customer condemned my conscience to the type of guilt that robs you of a good night's sleep. Perhaps it wouldn't have hit me so hard had I not already spent most of the day absorbing the customary beatings from other unhappy customers. It still hurts a little to think about it. Sorry guy. I wasn't going to lose my job for you. You are a douche-bag.

Worst Part of Tech Support

Me: "In the address box, type in w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2"

Customer: "That was tiny, r, c, l, dot, what?"

Me: "tiny, u, R, l, dot, com, slash,"

Customer: "Forward slash?"

Me: "Yes... slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2. Then press enter. You should get the XP Codec Pack page."

Customer: "I got 'Your search did not match any documents.'"

Me: "Did you put that in the address box or the search box?"

Customer: "I don't know, I put it in the box at the top."

Me: "All the way at the top, what does it say in the box all the way at the top of the screen..."

Customer: "h, t, t, p, colon, slash, slash, w, w, w, dot, google, dot, com..."

Me: "OK, click in there and delete all that."

Customer: "ok"

Me: "type w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2"

Customer: "It says welcome to qstr.us..."

Me: "okay. go up to the address bar, and take out whatever is there, and type w, w, w, dot, tinyurl, t, i , n, y, u, r, l, dot, com, slash, 2, l as in larry, s as in sam, 3, 3, 2. That should take you to a black XP Codec Pack page."

Customer: "Ok, it says XP Codec Pack. It says 'Download Codec Pack here'..."

Me: "No don't click that! Look for where on the page it says 'You may download using the following link:' and then it has a link. Click there. It should then give you an option to run or save the file."

Customer: "I can only choose Save."

Me: "You are running Firefox?"

Customer: "Yes."

Me: "Click Save and let me know when it is through downloading."

Customer: "OK it is through."

Me: "Go to the Downloads window and look for where it says XP Codec Pack."

Customer: "I don't have a Downloads window."

Me: "Click on the Tools menu, then choose Downloads."

Customer: "Tools menu..."

Me: "It is up at the top..."

Customer: "OK. and downloads..."

Me: "Do you see XP Codec Pack?"

Customer: "The window is empty."

Me: "Close the downloads window. Then choose Tools then Options."

Customer: "OK."

Me: "Under Downloads, next to Save files to, what does it say?"

Customer: "My Downloads"

Me: "OK. Close out of Firefox, then click on Start, then My Documents."

Customer: "There is no My Documents."

Me: "Check your desktop..."

Customer: "Ummm................ ok there it is."

Me: "Now double-click on My Downloads."

Customer: "OK."

Me: "Look for XP Codec Pack?"

Customer: "There it is."

Me: "Double-click on that."

Customer: "OK. Now it is asking me for an installation language..."

Me: (Thinking to myself- FINALLY!!!!!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God and Dog

Holiday Cheer

My medical premium at work is going down $100/mo, offsetting my Advance EIC loss and resulting in a net increase of $6 per paycheck,
My department got $50 gift cards to Target,
There was lots of holiday food and eggnog,
And the CEO sent out an email last week saying that they are going to be looking to partially restore our pay-cut early next year.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Spiritually Handicapped - 21 Guns

I realized the other day that the music video "21 Guns" from Green Day very much matches my life of the last few years, regarding religion/finding my wife Sarah. I wrote an entire interpretation of the lyrics but that misses the point. Just watch it.

If only they would listen...... :(

I'm not sure about much anymore but I am sure that I love you, sweetheart!

Hiding the new GMail ads

For some reason, Adblock for Chrome is not yet blocking the new pink GMail text ads at the bottom of the message view. Below is a manual filter that can be used to block them:

mail.google.com##div.MI

[I changed it... thanks to the commenter Roberto... my original string stopped working this morning]

You will need to edit the filter list in the Adblock options.

You may need to restart your browser for it to take effect.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Baptist Killers!!

There is a segment of Independent Baptist Fundy-land that is getting high on Baptist history. Call it a "Trail of Blood" renaissance. But before I go any further, it must be noted that they absolutely don't want to be called fundamentalist. No way, no how. Fundamentalist=ecumenical, they say. But their highest level of ire and vitriol is reserved for the reformers like Luther and Calvin. They killed Baptists!
I might respect this crowd if they weren't so schizophrenic. Actually no I wouldn't. The whole "Trail of Blood"/"Landmark" position is nuts, which is what it boils down to, no matter how tightly you wrap it in the American flag. But back to the schizophrenia. These people, who were quick to call themselves fundamentalists not so long ago, now detest the term. And yet guess what... they are still fundamentalist as ever. Once you get past the semantics of it, it's the same old fundamentalism that has been around for decades. They'll fellowship with a non-denom church that is KJVO and high on standards before they'll stand with any contemporary Baptist church. No love for the Southern Baptists here. (Cue the arcane historical reasons why Southern Baptists aren't REAL Baptists.... no seriously I don't know how they feel about the SBC but I wouldn't be surprised.)
Ultimately this whole movement, to me, is just an exercise in circling the wagons. "Baptist history" is a means, not the end. What's the end? Separation. Being KJVO and no pants on women and conservative worship style and no rock music, etc, etc, etc, "Baptist History" provides a fresh new way to separate from lesser Christianity.
The ugliest hypocrisy of it all is their insistence on King James Only-ism. I quote Bob Ross:

"...the ONLY PERSON who had 'authority' in England to burn anyone in the early 1600's was KING JAMES! The Puritans couldn't have burned anyone if they had wanted to!
[...]
"Not only did James have the only authority to burn people, he did that very thing. In 1611, the year the 'King James Version of the Bible' was published, King James burned a BAPTIST by the name of EDWARD WIGHTMAN at Litchfield. This fact of history is recorded in many Baptist histories, the first being that of THOMAS CROSBY, who authored the first history of English Baptists. Crosby was a member of John Gill's church, the church later pastored in the latter 1800's by C. H. Spurgeon.
"I herewith quote from Crosby: 'The other one [burned] was Edward Wightman, A BAPTIST, of the town of Burton upon Trent, who on the 14th day of December [1610] was convicted of diverse heresies before the bishop of Coventry and Litchfield; and being delivered up to the secular power, was BURNT at Litchfield the 11th of April following.' (Vol. 1, pages 108, 109)."

These decidedly fundamentalist Baptist neo-historians KNOW this, but ignore the implications. If you are prepared to admit that something good can come from a Baptist-burning king, then you also should be prepared to admit that good things can come from Baptist-killing reformers. Otherwise, why in the world would you use the KJV?
Such lack of integrity is not isolated. This Baptist neo-history, for example, has nothing to say about Free-Will Baptists, nor are its purveyors interested in speaking about it beyond the confines of a crowd that has traditionally been KJVO IFB. Additionally there is a complete inability to engage Baptist history on Bible versions (see my sidebar link) which would end up (if one were honest) denying KJVOism, at least as a Baptist particular.
Again, it just seems to prove that such "Baptist history" is a means rather than an end. Increased separation, and yeah I'm going to say it because I also am no longer fundamentalist :) -- increased legalism. That's the thing with legalism. It knows no excess. Sort of like hedonism. Ditch on one side, ditch on the other.

[P.S. I am no fan of Jack Hyles, but as a "man of God" who is revered by such people it seems important that he understood that one could be both fundamentalist AND Baptist with no contradiction. (The link goes to chapter 11 of his book "Enemies of Soulwinning," titled "Let's Be Baptists.") He also is much kinder to those who don't somehow properly fall in whatever Baptist line of succession is deemed true.]

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tech Support Gripe

Maybe you've called tech support in the past. About the same problem. And you've done it several times. And you've spent three or four hours on the phone with us each time. Okay we get it. Don't repeat that over and over and over as I am trying to help you. I am trying to do my best for you right now.
Along the same lines, don't keep running down my company or its products to me while we are talking. Yes, I may agree with you that our company's products are crap, but you don't have to rub it in my face. I just work here, you know?
At the end of the day, I am going to go home, eat dinner, and forget about you, your problems, and everything else.

Spiritually Handicapped


Christianity…meh.
I was raised a Christian—still am. This is not to say that I haven’t seriously considered dumping my religion. It is insanely tempting. Twenty-four years of eternal security does away with any fear of hell. What’s left just seems so…bland.
Allow me a somewhat disgusting analogy. I once went to the emergency room with serious bowel issues. Among other treatments, I was administered milk of magnesia, which is nasty stuff. Upon discharge, they encouraged me to eat more fiber. So that day I grab a salad from McDonalds and as I sat there eating it, everything tasted like milk of magnesia. I could not eat salad for a while after that.
So it is with my Christian life. I don’t need to go into all the gory episodes, but I had a number of Christians and Christian leaders act like a**holes in my twenties. They were primarily of the fighting, and fundamentalist, type. My response centered on their doctrinal aberrations; I moved to a more moderate position doctrinally and became adept at discussing fundamentalist foibles and faults, which is all well and good to a point. I still pour forth minutiae and detail on fundamental(-ism/-ists) like an expert on these matters when such topics arise, amazing and disgusting myself at the same time.
A man who has been through great war no longer wants to fight. That’s me. I have no fight left in my Christianity. No zeal. Christianity hasn’t been particularly good to me so I am not really interested in evangelism either—why would I drag others into this? I do well to keep my own self in the faith most days. I am my own greatest evangelistic effort. In earlier days my mantra would be, “These people are crap, God is not like this. I will search out the truth to find what God wants,” which is fine as far as that goes. But at the end of the day I am left with me. And I hurt. Oh damn look my legs got blown off. PTSD, what’s that?
It makes it really hard to be a Christian. I can’t function like other believers and probably even the pastor would like. This isn’t an excuse, nor am I playing the victim. I care less about me and more about what I can’t do for the church and for God. I care less about how I feel about myself and more about my lack of feeling for Christ. I’ve thrown myself at Bible reading and prayer just to slide off like so much egg thrown at a house. To become a Deist or Atheist is attractive because it puts me out of my misery.
There is no easy answer. But I know this. I may walk into church on Sunday with my two legs but spiritually, I’m rolling in on a wheelchair. This isn’t merely a statement of humility; everybody needs a little spiritual patching-up. I am beginning to latch on to the idea that my spiritual disability is permanent.
The average Christian may not like that idea. Certainly God can heal all wounds? Yes He can, just like He could heal amputees, but He doesn’t. Nor is this a thorn in the flesh—this is purely spiritual in nature.
To this point I have been ascribing my deficiencies to defects in Christianity itself, my theology, my lifestyle, etc. But these things are what they are. It’s time to wheel away from the brick wall and work within my limitations. It’s a tall order in most of today’s American churches, and I am still not certain how I fit in.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Change Windows 7 Account Picture w/o Users CPL

Here is how to change your account picture under Windows Vista/7 when you do not have access to the Users control panel:

1. Go to your profile folder (easiest way: Start>{username})
2. Go into the Contacts folder
3. Open up your contact file
4. Use the arrow button under the picture to change it

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry (Live)

Wish I could've been there...

My Finances Take Yet Another Hit

Currently, my family qualifies for the Earned Income Credit(EIC), a refundable tax credit from the federal government. This also means that I can get Advance EIC, a little bit of that put in each paycheck in advance. The total amount I get this way is just a fraction of the whole, but it is $44 every two weeks, which means $88 in my monthly budgeting.
Because of new legislation, the Advance EIC program will no longer be available after this year. I don't have the $88/mo to spare. The government ultimately saves no money doing this, and I get to suffer just so they can have more money upfront throughout the year.
I was already planning to cancel my cell phone next week and use the upcoming tax return to pay off a year of cell service for the one remaining phone my wife has. Now instead of that move making our finances easier, it becomes essential to keep us afloat.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tech Support Gripe

OK people. When we tell you that you need to format your hard drive and reload Windows, don't just clean things up and call back and say you did it. We know better, and with a simple command we can get your computer to tell us when the operating system WAS installed last.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Christianity is not Compatible with Evolution

...theistic or otherwise. Several major reasons present themselves:

1. Paul's theology requires a literal Adam and Eve.
-Some will argue God could have endued mankind with souls at some point or specially created Adam and Eve, but...

2. The Scripture uses the argument from design (teleological argument) over and over and over again.
-Scripture attributes all of nature to a designing Creator.

3. Any suggestion of evolutionary origins within the early church would have been immediately condemned as Epicureanism.
-The early church was not unaware of the concept of evolution. Epicureanism, a major philosophical enemy of the early church, promoted such an idea.

In view of my last point we can safely conclude that the early church would have argued fiercely against any evolutionary theory. And in fact the early church fathers did just that, to the point of meshing Christian theology with neo-Platonism. However, the early church would've most commonly used the argument from design. The argument from design is what the Roman philosopher Cicero employed as part of his attacks on Epicureanism.
The importance of the argument from design lies in the fact that the authors of Scripture knew no better way to defend God's creation against the claims of those who would ignore God and His plans. It is an old argument that has supposedly been overthrown by scientific thought. However, the supposed weaknesses of the argument are places where we find that the authors of Scripture are not afraid to presuppose some elemental truths. Today's material empiricism laughs at any form of presuppositional apologetic. But by definition, the response of faith is at it's core, presuppositional. In any case, the argument could be made that there is no such thing as an argument without presupposition. We bring to the table our bias and perception and goals. Arguing without admitting those presuppositions in the name of empiricism is a recipe for error of the most subtle sort.
The foolishness of the cross and a world that hates the Christian message because it doesn't know Christ describes a Christianity that holds certain presuppositional truths.
What presuppositions do we need to make to confidently employ the argument from design in today's world?

A. The problem of non-sequitur logic
We need to suppose that the appearance of design is not merely the result of natural laws operating in an orderly fashion

B. The problem of purpose
We need to suppose that the designer has a purpose for His creation

C. The problem of identity
We need to posit the particular identity of the designer

D. The problem of infinite regress
We need to suppose that the designer exists on a completely different level than us

D. The problem of poor design
We need to allow that apparent defects in design are being specifically allowed by the designer

E. The problem of circularity
We need to suppose that the concept of order is understood outside of the universe in which order is being observed

Jehovah God exists as the triune God (identity) and he exists on a completely different plane of being than us (infinite regress). This God intended to create the world for His glory (non-sequitur, purpose). Mankind fell and brought God's curse upon the earth (poor design) but He has written on our consciences the ability to recognize His nature and demands (circularity).

As we look at Paul's response to the Athenian philosophers we find Paul making most of these presuppositions:

Acts 17 NLT
22b “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way,23 for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.
26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.
27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.
28 For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.
30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”

Paul makes similar presuppositions when he speaks to the pagans at Lystra:

Acts 14 NLT
15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.”

Rounding out these presuppositions takes us to several passages in Romans:

Rom 1 NLT
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Rom 2 NLT
14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.

Classical apologetics has always argued the possibility of a God. But the possibility is irrelevant when such a possibility is not necessary to account for reality. This is the pickle that evolution has put the church in. But Scripture firmly posits a creator God with a plan, and doesn't dabble in possibilities. Christians have to go back to believing, not just in God, but in a creator God. We need to take seriously the Biblical condemnation of those who would posit a Godless universe:

Rom 1:19-23 NRSV
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles."

The NT Christian apologetic was not a call to see God as _possible_ but to get a man to acknowledge the knowledge of God written upon his heart from birth and manifested in creation.

We are but beginning to explore the profundity of a God who is also a CREATOR.

Tech Support Gripe

Once in a blue moon we absolutely cannot make our software work with your computer. If this happens, please just get a refund or use a different computer. Please DON'T badger us and customer service half a dozen times saying "there has got to be something else that can be done..." or "just send me a whole new set of discs." We wouldn't have given up if we thought anything else could be done.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Three Issues Surrounding the Question of Origins

In my previous post I pointed out the striking implications on the Biblical text should the argument from design be proven invalid. The authors of Scripture use it repeatedly, and to deny the argument from design is to remove the backbone of many passages. To an evangelical or fundamentalist this becomes even more startling because it profoundly challenges the concept of the inerrancy of Scripture.
If we are to hold to any form of inerrancy we cannot at the same time dismiss the argument from design. Now, establishing the argument from design does not automatically lead us to a literal reading of Genesis 1. However, it forms a basis for understanding the beginnings of this world in a Biblical way.
Put another way, one major reason we as Christians must defend the argument from design is that the authors of Scripture found it so important. For you must either throw it out as an old, discredited argument that only seemed powerful in Biblical times, or you must acknowledge that the argument from design carries with it a profundity that has been overlooked.

The second issue that must be addressed is the problem of evil. Both creationists and evolutionists use this as a reason for their positions. For the evolutionist, the problem of evil explained by natural selection, for the creationist, the problem of evil is explained by the fall of man.

The last issue that must be explored is love. More specifically speaking, this issue is concerned with bonds between humans and, if we allow for it, a creator. This issue is not necessarily so much foundational as it is explanatory and illuminative. The Christian perspective must show how a creator God's love is diffused throughout His creation and despite the evil caused by the fall of man. The evolutionary perspective must explain the existence and purpose of love in the context of natural selection and a world whose human purpose is whatever humanity gives it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Things Pertaining to the Beginning and Things Pertaining to the End

"Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad..."

-"Tiny Dancer" by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin

As I seek what being a Christian on this earth means to me, outside of mere "soulwinning", I am drawn to study creation and eschatology. To know where you came from and where you are going is to have a sense of mission and purpose. Everything in between is just an interpretation of that path.
I am currently reading "Critique of Intelligent Design" written by John Bellamy Foster, Brent Clark, and Richard York. Rather than engage in point/counterpoint with specific intelligent design scientific arguments, this book intends to look at the philosophy behind the materialist worldview, as evolved from Epicurus through the Enlightenment and finally through men such as Darwin, Freud, and Marx. I have held before that evolution is not a new thing, and that early Christianity's battles with Epicureanism might provide some insight into how a Christian might address the more refined modern theory of evolution through natural selection.
The letdown is that the early church addressed the Epicurean idea of biological evolution purely by appeal to the argument from design. The church's response to Epicureanism at this point was simplistic and lacking in any serious complexity. Of course, the early church did not need to defend against Darwin's arguments, only against the general idea as expressed through Epicurus. Modern evolutionary theory makes quick work of the argument from design to the point where it is near useless. Whole passages of Scripture such as Romans 1:18-32 and Psalm 19 lose their vital force if the argument from design cannot be trusted.
Paul's argument to the Epicureans and Stoics in Acts 17:22-31 is almost purely a counter-assertion rather than a refutation.

Now having said all of this (and not having yet finished the book), you have to understand the backdrop upon which I am encountering this book. I had just finished reading "Surprised by Hope" by N.T. Wright, wherein he argues that God's redemptive work is ultimately incarnational, and so we as Christians ought to be improving the world around us with a focus of mercy on the here and now, as it points to the final peace under the coming rule of Jesus Christ Himself. While Wright doesn't address specifics in detail, he seems to endorse a secular progressive agenda including combating hunger, environmental issues, injustice, and poverty.
My response to this was to point out that unbelievers already do these things. However, I felt Wright answered that issue by pointing out how that secular evolutionary optimism has no answer for evil, and that it has no lasting hope, in that it places its trust in humanity's continual improvement.

Alas, the "answer" I thought I had found was not to hold for long. I began to reflect on what I had read so far of Bellamy's book, and realized that the types of secular progressive movements being upheld as examples of incarnational ministry by the likes of Wright and McLaren find their historical genesis and impetus in the materialist philosophy of the Enlightenment. Yes, Christ was a model of helping the poor and hungry, but never with an eye towards any semi-permanent temporal resolution. In fact, Christ responded to Judas the traitor that we would always have the poor with us. It could be argued though, that this wasn't Christ's most important ministry priority.
With these thoughts on my mind my wife began to ask for an epidural. Apparently, different anesthesiologists use different drugs for the epidural, and my wife joked about using laughing gas. The anesthesiologist referred to a double-blind study that showed that laughing gas doesn't do anything for pain except possibly as a distraction. He administered the epidural and afterwards, my wife said she was thankful for modern medicine.
We have materialist science to thank for modern medicine. Materialist science discovered the drugs and procedures that work and those that don't via the empirical scientific method.
But most strikingly, a science based in Christian theology would never have come up with the epidural. Alleviating the pain of labor goes against the creation order: after the fall, God determined that the woman should deliver painfully. Paul also appeals to the creation order in 1 Tim 2:11-15 when he tells us that women will be saved through childbearing. Absent the advances of materialist modern science in medicine, Christianity itself would have never allowed itself to develop a way to get around the pain of labor--it would go against what God has ordained. It for similar reasons that many Christians refuse to accept birth control.
The same can be said for global warming. The science behind global warming is sound, all scandal aside. However, action on global warming go completely against the eschatalogical priorities of American pre-millennialist Christianity. The world is getting worse and God is going to come soon and judge it. The case is also made that earth was created for man, and again, it is a violation of creation order to talk about the rights of animals or speak of limits to man's use of earth's resources.
I think there are other cases to be made, however, that will have to be saved for another time. Suffice it to say that the impetus to improve this present world and man's present condition is not, historically, an instinct of the church. The "affinity" for earthly improvement has lain with secular materialists. Traditionally, Christians have been content to chalk up earthly distress to God's judgment or testing, earthly bounty to God's blessing, and everything else to God's providence. Why engage in science or activism to improve your condition when it is a result of God's intentional action?
In conclusion, I find that NT Wright makes his point as to incarnational ministry, but it lacks any historical grounding in what the church has actually been doing throughout history.

Welcome Silas James Thatcher

Born October 26th, 2010 at 1:40PM. 6lb 7oz and 18in long!




Monday, October 25, 2010

How I Feel

I saw this comment from "Dave" over at Stuff Fundies Like:

"What amazes me is that, in all my years in Evangelicalism, I never learned anything about the mind blowing ramifications of the Incarnation. It was all Penal Substitution, Penal Substitution, Penal Substitution. None of this second Adam, new creation, God condescending to unite himself with his creation, Christ retaining a glorified body in Heaven stuff."

That is exactly how I feel! Only I am just starting to grasp it. I don't feel like I really get it yet. A Penal Substitutionary Christ only gets you so far. It gets you through the door of salvation and leaves you in the foyer. No wonder I sometimes feel like leaving. And most of the people around me are content to cram that foyer full of people.

Intellectualizing

Our church uses the KJV as the standard translation for all public preaching and teaching. However, they are not KJVO, and other translations are brought into the mix from time to time. This takes the form of a member of the congregation being asked to read a verse, and reading it from another translation, or the pastor or teacher making reference to another translation to bring out a point.
Last night (Sunday night) the teacher read a passage from the NASB. Others in the congregation read from the NASB and ESV. It was a lot more than normal, which I don't have a problem with personally.
The problem is, my mother-in-law was with us, and she is very strongly KJVO. She, of course, was not happy with any of it. That's fine with me too. She has her convictions.
I bring all this up because she made a statement on the way home that seemed odd. She said something to the effect that it was possible to "intellectualize" yourself out of the truth. Which was all the more odd since she wondered if our church had ever looked at the evidence against modern Bible versions. But if they did, wouldn't that count as "intellectualizing" yourself INTO the truth?
"Rightly dividing the word of truth" is an intellectual exercise that begins with God's revelation and neither adds to nor takes away from it. It determines what is correct or not by identifying and analyzing Scripture. It engages in proper exegesis continually. What better use for the Christian mind than applying it to the Scripture?
Of course the Holy Spirit informs the mind and conscience of the Christian. But He will never tell you that 2+2=5, or that a square is round.
What ends up happening amongst anti-intellectual Christians is that peripheral issues such as versions, dress standards, etc. get held with the same a priori status as Scripture itself. When the rest of us use evidence and even Scripture to argue against these things, we are accused of sophistry and "intellectualizing." The a priori status of these external shibboleths by definition requires human authority to teach and enforce. It is why in these groups you find extreme emphasis on pastoral authority and position, as well as a smattering of pseudo-popes in their circles (big name preachers such as the late Jack Hyles). It is why everything is "preaching" and not "teaching." It is why "exposition" of the Bible is out and "topical" sermons are in.

Show Yourself Friendly

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." -Proverbs 18:24 KJV

Here is yet another verse out of the book of Proverbs that, because of KJV rendering, is used improperly in multiple ways.
The first improper use of this verse is simply this: If you want to have friends, you must be friendly.
Various versions appear at first glance to not agree here but the notes for the NET bible tell us clearly what is happening:

"The text simply has לְהִתְרֹעֵעַ (lÿhitro’ea’), which means 'for being crushed' or 'to be shattered' (but not 'to show oneself friendly' as in the KJV). What can be made of the sentence is that 'a man who has [many] friends [may have them] for being crushed' – the infinitive giving the result (i.e., 'with the result that he may be crushed by them')."

What the verse is trying to say is that those with too many friends will find that many of those friends are either fair-weather, or out to use them. Not that if you want friends, to be friendly. The second half of the verse tells us what we all know to be true, namely, that true friends are rare. There is "a friend" that "sticks closer than a brother." If you have many friends, most of them are likely not true friends, but everyone typically has one person who is a true friend. There is one true friend in the bunch.

The second improper use of the verse comes in this last half. When Scripture says "there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother," this is sometimes made out to be a messianic prophecy to the effect that Christ is the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. The words "a friend" are taken to refer to some specific personage not mentioned in the text. However, there is no warrant for this. The use of "a friend" is specific for sure. But it is specific in the sense of one out of many, not a specific person. Of your many friends, one is true and will stick close to you--thus, "a friend."

There is one way in which the KJV rendering of the first half of this verse might be vindicated. When it says "He that hath friends must show himself friendly," it could be taken sarcastically. This would have the effect of saying that having many friends is exhausting work. The problem is that sarcasm is an implied tool. Our guess that this is sarcasm is just that, a guess. Secondly, this understanding of the first part of the verse makes its contrast with the last half incomplete--there is no negative counterpart to the idea of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Lastly, the KJV rendering is not true to the text, but highly dynamic at best.

I don't think any version really does well here, but the NASB and NIV do the best with this verse:

"A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (NASB)

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (NIV)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Medi-Cal

Yay! My wife got approved for Medi-Cal (CA Medicaid) for pregnancy related medical. All that red tape paid off. That saves me $1,800 that I didn't have in the first place!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Love and Postmodernism

"The biblical metanarrative offers itself as the one story which resists deconstruction, to which the criticisms of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are not relevant. It speaks from first to last of a God who did not need to create, but who did so out of overflowing and generous love. It speaks of a God who did not need to redeem and recreate, but did so as the greatest possible act of self-giving love. The problem is, of course, that the way we have reshaped this story has turned it into a power-play of our own. But the biblical metanarrative itself is not a controlling narrative: it is a self-giving narrative. It is not a power-play; it is a love-ploy. The fact that postmodernity cannot recognize love, but insists on deconstructing it, is its Achilles heel.
[...]
"The point about love is, of course, that when I love I affirm the differentness of the one I love. Not to do so is of course not love at all, but lust. But, at the same time, when I love I am not a detached observer. I am passionately and compassionately involved with the life and being of that (whether a thing, a person, or God) which I am loving. I am fully involved in the process of knowing, but this doesn't mean it's all 'subjective', that there's nothing 'out there'. Or, to put it the other way, though I am really talking about a reality outside my own mental state, this doesn't mean I am a detached, 'neutral' observer."

-N.T. Wright, The Millennium Myth, pp.86, 88-89

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tech Support Gripe

Please, please, please,

if you call Tech Support and they ask you to type something into your computer, don't write it down and then type it in. Position yourself so you can type it in as I give it to you.

The trip from my mouth to your ear to the keyboard is long enough without it turning into a trip from my mouth to your ear to a piece of paper to your eyes to the keyboard. Web addresses and commands are specific and have little room for error.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Christian Hope

I am currently reading through N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope." For many American evangelicals, things won't get better until Christ comes back, and things will get worse until He comes back, and Christians will be snatched away before things get really bad. Wright takes issue with this position. Of course, my challenge in deciphering Wright is that he is writing as an Anglican and assuming fairly liberal tendencies on the part of his audience. For a born and bred "literal fundamentalist" as myself, much of his argumentation defends what I am willing to take for granted, and much of what he takes for granted I wish he had more completely defended.
Let me put forth the question to you, dear reader. What is the purpose of being a Christian on this earth?

1. Maybe to not go to hell when you die? Insufficient--perfect love casts out fear. A Christian who is so because he fears hell isn't experiencing the perfect love of Christ.
2. Maybe to win other converts? Insufficient--this begs the question. That this is an extraordinarily circular way to live as a Christian seems to escape many evangelicals who confuse the issue with the intent to save people from hell, which gets us back to the previous point.
3. Maybe to be holy? Insufficient--this doesn't address what we ought to do, only what we ought to be.
4. Maybe to commune with God? Insufficient--that is better done in His presence.
5. Maybe to help make this world a better place? Insufficient--unbelievers do that already.

Now this is a large problem as it leaves me with no reason to be a Christian. I am reading Wright's book and he seems to be advocating number 5, and number 2 on the basis of number 5. In other words, by making the world a better place, we give the Christian a work to do, and provide a reason for evangelism outside of itself.
This stuck in my craw for quite awhile as I pondered that what Wright is suggesting for Christians is already being done well by many unbelievers. If anything, this is an indication of the pointlessness of Christianity.
Then I realized the answer. The problem of evil has become our answer. Wright actually talks about that in his book, how that secular evolutionary optimism might claim "progress" but no real permanent achievement, especially against the evil heart of man. He brings to bear all the atrocities of the 20th century to illustrate this point.
In a nutshell, secular evolutionary optimism, since it has no answer for man's wickedness other than to deny it, can never hope to transform man or this earth. It's successes are short lived. Its confidence in human goodness is its downfall.
This is precisely where the Wright's prescription differs from the old "social gospel." Christian activity in this world, while it ought to improve conditions in this world outside of the church and the gospel, also recognizes the need for personal transformation through Jesus Christ. While recognizing the need to do good and improve conditions on earth, the failure of man is a failure of the heart, and is no surprise to the Christian. Outside of individual conversion, we recognize no permanent improvement, no permanent victory, until the return of Christ. The church can't conquer the earth, that's Christ's job--but it can be salt and light.
Salt and light--I am amazed that Wright did not cover that passage, because it fits perfectly with the topic at hand. The passage is Mat 5:13-16 (NLT):

"You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

We are salt--we make this world better; we are light--we shine forth the glorious truth of the gospel of Christ. Think about salt for a minute. Does salt stand on its own? Is the purpose of salt to contrast with the flavor of the food it is used with, or to enhance it? Well obviously, the answer is that salt is intended to enhance the flavor, not contradict it. If I wanted to contradict the flavor of a steak I would sprinkle sugar on it! No, I use salt, because of what it does FOR that steak.
Going further, salt is not intended to change the nature of the food it is used on. It is intended to make that nature better. Salt is, simply speaking, an improvement scheme.
Today's hunker-down-and-wait-for-the-rapture Christians are not salt. They have no problem shining the spotlight of the gospel and Scripture on a wayward world. But when it comes to being SALT they make the Scripture of none effect by turning the command to be salt into a call to contrast with the world, a call to conspicuous holiness. Such an interpretation would make sense if Christ had used, say, ashes, or ground-up beetles--but not a seasoning such as salt.

While the good works we are to do for this world might be replicated by non-believers, we as Christians understand why our work as salt never ends. The unbeliever's work is tied to no coming reign of Christ. It will perish without ever having offered the true answer to the evil that caused the problem that non-Christian workers are trying to fix. The Christian's work will not last either; however, the true gospel light spread abroad through active, concerned believers will give that work a chance of lasting longer, it will save many who recognize its transforming power, and when all else fails it will reassure that Christ is returning to permanently end all suffering and pain.

The final lesson we learn from the passage in Mat 5 is that sharing the gospel light is to happen in the context of being salt. How different is that from the door-knocking I was instructed to do growing up! Actually, to these door knockers, they consider saltiness to be conspicuous holiness, so their evangelism is, to them, in the context of being salt, especially when they are dressed up in business casual attire or better, and toting their Bibles. But as we have seen, this is a perversion of what Jesus taught.

The challenge for us today is to stop letting the flawed "social gospel" keep us from understanding that our Christian service is to primarily include improving the world around us. With a firm grasp on the necessity of Christ's personal return for a permanent solution, we know our work is not in vain as we shine the light to those we serve in this capacity. Christ raised the dead, healed the sick, fed the hungry, castigated the Pharisees--and took the opportunity afforded by this social activity to share the gospel.

The following verses take on much greater meaning:
"He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'"
-Mat 25:33-36

These things were the basis for judgement!:
"Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life."
-Mat 25:44-46

Now I want to say a little bit about Baptist Rescue Missions. I have only been to one, in downtown LA, but I have reports that others are like what I am about to describe. I bring this up because such ministries are prime examples of how not to be salt. Homeless men are promised food and perhaps a shower and a room. But first--they are forced to sit through a toe-stomping, fiery evangelistic chapel service. If they do not stay for the whole thing they are not given any assistance. And the preaching I witnessed, primarily blamed and put down the homeless for their condition. Folks, this type of ministry is not what I am talking about when I say we need to be salt. Such a ministry is no more than a manipulative evangelistic tool. So many of the hard-right, ultra-literal fundamentalist churches I was brought up in refuse to do social work unless they can cram the gospel down the throats of the unfortunate. If you are going to be salt, be salt. Don't hide the light of the gospel, but for goodness sake this doesn't mean pinning them down and shining it directly in their eyes. People must come to Jesus of their own accord. If you mean to help, then help without strings attached.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Trip to the Welfare Office (+rant)

I sat/paced around in the San Diego County Health & Human Services office (aka welfare office) for about 2 hours today. Other than the wait, everything went pretty well; I was just there to turn in some documentation that I was unwilling to mail (such as original IDs, original birth certificate, original social security cards, etc). However, I pity the person who walks in there without being prepared both organizationally (paperwork/forms) and time-wise.
I make $14.40/hr. I get health insurance through work. What am I doing at the welfare office, you ask? Think pregnant woman plus insurance copay. My wife is pregnant with our second, and if she stays three days in the hospital like last time, that's an $1,800 copay. Seeing as how I can barely afford to pay bills and buy gas and food and diapers at the same time, $1,800 is a crushing amount.
California offers a program for seemingly middle-income families like ours called AIM (Access for Infants and Mothers). We qualified handily to have our firstborn covered; mail in the app and fee, then get your insurance card and pay the contribution amount ($400-500) over 12 months.
So I go through the AIM application process with number two. Lo and behold, since my family has grown by one and my income has decreased by 10%, I don't make ENOUGH to qualify for AIM. Our application was referred to Medi-Cal.
Medi-Cal. I knew immediately this would mean dealing with the welfare office and lots of paperwork. Worse, the AIM rejection letter said I would hear from them in 45 days. And Medi-Cal took the full 45 days. Medi-Cal finally responded with a half-page list of documentation they needed. Thus my trip to the welfare office today.
As I sat waiting for my number to be called, I began to wish I had some money on me. I honestly believe the best way to bust through the wait at the welfare office is to offer to buy someone's number for, say, $20. I mean come on, you aren't there unless you are poor. $20 would be a real score for many of these people.
Alas, I don't have $20. It hits me that although I am only here to get Medi-Cal for my wife, I am just as poor as they are in many respects. Just not enough to ask for food stamps and cash assistance. I catch myself looking at the application for these wishing my family actually qualified. Just this past weekend I returned a technical book to the bookstore so we could by diapers and gas. Groceries this week are courtesy of a friend who paid me to look at what was going wrong with his wireless router.
Although I thought I could wait it out in the air-conditioned lobby the wait proved too long. I spent some time outside and chatted on the cell with my wife. (In an attempt to cut expenses I am ditching my cell in November when my contract is up.) I walked back inside and stood in front of the windows watching people come and go as the workers handled their business--at least until the security guard told me I couldn't stand there anymore.
One thing that surprised me was the number of people waiting with friends and family who were their on business of their own. The Tea Partier among us might concede that this proves some sort of defect in those segments of society; I rather think that poor people feel the human side of life a little more acutely than those who are more comfortable. They--ironically--have a stronger sense of community.
Another surprising observation was the number of very young women there--and not all had children. Indeed, while women and minorities comprised the bulk of those waiting for assistance, it would be impossible to pigeonhole the demographics of those present. There was a middle-aged white man who hadn't had work in forever, and had been through some sort of family separation that caused his benefits to get held up for several months. I again wished I had that $20--but this time for a different reason.
Then there was the barely twenty-something girl who was 7 months pregnant. I am ashamed to say that my fundamentalist upbringing put me in judgment of her when I saw no ring on her finger and heard her speak of her boyfriend. Then I realized, how could I judge? Perhaps the pregnancy was an accident of passion. More than likely, though, she and her boyfriend see marriage as another construct of a society that has failed them.
My view expanded to the many children present with their parents. Why have children when you must live like this? You do it because it is the human thing to do. The entirety of human experience can be seen to trend towards families and tribes even when the official civil and religious constructs are thrown out. People form clans. For these people, welfare is just another resource in a world where what matters most is the people you identify with, because that's all you've got.
When I finally reached the window I was greeted by a nice older lady whom I hadn't seen before. She processed my paperwork and I was out in no time.
When all was said and done my thoughts turned to the owners of my company. I wondered if the state of California alerts employers when you apply for welfare benefits. I can't say I really mind either way. But what would they think? I have no evidence of what political persuasion they are; but they probably fit the stereotype of most small business owners--Republican, economically libertarian, anti-government intervention, low tax types. I can hear the argument now. "If government would tax us less and leave industry alone we could pay you more." To which I say, well then get the ball rolling, start paying more. So you see that it is a chicken-and-egg situation. In the final analysis I have to say, when business types stop complaining about taxes, regulations, and social programs, I'll stop complaining about them. If it is true that you can pay me more or hire more workers if the government would get out of the way, then you are admitting to having passed the burden to your employees. If the burden is mine, then why are YOU complaining?
Business complains despite having implicitly passed on the financial burden of government to its employees because they don't really care about taking care of employees. The reality of the attitude of American business is more Scrooge than Mr. Magoo. Sorry, but I have a bad habit of calling things as I see them. Business is interested in pumping profit no matter what the source. What's so bad about that you say? Business is not a charity you say? Fine, then why do you have a problem with government social programs that will take the burden off of you to ensure the total welfare of your employees?? Taxes would be too high and choke off business you say? OK then let's end social programs and give business back that money so they can ensure the welfare of their employees. Oh but that won't work, because business will turn around and say "we are a business, not a charity"!!!!!!!
So you see, business wants to have its cake and eat it too. It is the reason Reaganomics and tax cuts and trickle-down economics does not work. Give business some $$$ and they'll stick it in their back pocket.
-START RANT-
What is needed is a full-throated return to the New Deal combined with restrictions on companies trying to save money through worker visa abuse and mindless offshoring. Of course none of this will work without a comprehensive and ambitious energy policy that seeks to get us off of oil. The recession of the late 70s-early 80s was not so much a failure of the New Deal as a consequence of the energy crises of the 1970s. What Reagan SHOULD have done is fix our energy policy, not play around with taxes.
Any meaningful advance in this direction runs up against the mighty "petrodollar." Increasingly, our currency is not so much backed by the full faith of the US government as it is backed by the full might of the US military in securing economic rights and resources around the world to American corporations, primarily Big Oil. That's right America, the power of your dollar is squarely rooted in the misery we inflict across the third-world in the name of democracy but really in the service of fascism.
...and these chickens are coming home to roost. What you have sown, America, is what you will reap. The current economic hell (and yes, it is hell) is dragging at least 25% of America into third world poverty. We've been played, and the American elites are now out for YOUR blood, your livelihood, your little bit of something that you called a decent life. And through their sycophants in the GOP and through Fox News they would have you believe that the reason is because Reagan and the Bushes didn't go FAR ENOUGH in cutting them loose from any meaningful government regulation or taxation.
America is set to blindly put the Tea Party into power in 2012 at which time they will inject one last shot of de-regulatory, low-tax heroin into the greedmasters on Wall St and in business. It'll work! And then, like a drug, we will have the letdown, and an unfathomable economic catastrophe that will make 2008 look like nothing in comparison. Then this nation will finally become embroiled in war, within and without.

Friday, October 08, 2010

1 Tim 2 and Women in the Church

I recently read an article by John Jefferson Davis on 1 Tim 2:12, arguing that it is in fact appropriate for women to teach and hold leadership positions in the church. The first part of his argument basically stated that the exhortation was local and intended to correct abuses at Ephesus. The second part of his argument states that we can’t use Paul’s appeal to the creation story to establish a transcultural principle since, as he argues, Paul did not apply the story of Adam and Eve consistently throughout his epistles. So I wrote a response. Unfortunately, his contact information is not in the article, and CBE International keeps most of their content behind a pay-wall anyway, making public interaction difficult. And I really don’t think anybody cares what I have to say. But here it is.
I must also comment that I used the NRSV to defend my position. When my pastor spoke on 1 Tim 2 this year, he mentioned the NRSV as a gender-neutral translation in the service of evangelical feminism. However, this version gave me no problems defending the traditional understanding of this passage.

One reservation not addressed is Paul’s restriction on woman teachers: “I permit no woman to teach…”(v.12 NRSV). This is especially serious since the qualifications for an elder/overseer/bishop include being “an apt teacher” (1 Tim 3:2). Indeed in 2 Tim 2:24 Paul reminds Timothy that as “the Lord’s servant,” in reference to his position and duties in the church, he ought to be “an apt teacher.” The Greek word used for “teach” in 1 Tim 2:12 is never used positively in connection with women, only negatively (here, Tit 1:11, Rev 2:20).
In the context of 1 Tim 2 it seems difficult to restrict the command to the Ephesian church situation. The chapter begins with Paul urging prayers “everyone” and for civil authorities in vs.1-2. Verses 3-4 are global, telling us that God desires “everyone” to be saved. Verses 5-6 are also global, telling us that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man and gave himself for “all.” Verses 7-8 are global as well, in that we learn Paul is an apostle and teacher to the Gentiles and the exhortation is given that “in every place the men should pray.” Verses 9 and 10 continue these general global exhortations in telling the women to dress modestly and do good works. Coming to verse 11 we don’t yet see any shift in context from global to local.
In fact, several textual clues point to the Paul’s intent that these teachings be applied globally. “Let a woman learn” likely is intended to contrast against the Jewish prohibition against women learning the Scripture. According to the NET Bible, “this was a radical and liberating departure from the Jewish view that women were not to learn the law.” If we restrict the application of this passage to Ephesus, then we would have to say that only women in Ephesus were allowed to learn.
In verse 12 Paul says “I permit no woman to…” indicating that the restriction against teaching and usurping authority is, at the very least, a personal scruple of Paul’s. Other major English versions are grammatically consistent in their English rendering: “I do not (allow/permit/let) (women/a woman)…” If we localize this passage and allow for women elders and teachers in other churches, we have to ask how Paul would handle such situations. The plain answer is that he would not let it happen, not at Ephesus, and not anywhere else. He would insist that “she is to keep silent.”
Your preferred translation of this verse essentially makes “usurping authority” an adverb of “teaching.” I don’t see how this rises above the level of conjectural emendation, as pertains to the Greek text.
Lastly, you indicate that since Paul uses the creation narrative in different ways with different churches, we cannot draw the conclusion that Paul is attempting to establish a transcultural norm in 1 Tim 2:13-14. I feel that Paul is remarkably consistent in his application of the creation narrative. In 1 Cor 11:3b we read “A man is responsible to Christ, a woman is responsible to her husband, and Christ is responsible to God” (NLT). The interdependence of all is granted in vs.11-12, but this does not take away from the differing levels of responsibility assigned to men and women, husbands and wives, Christ and the church, each of which is properly fitted as analogous to Adam and Eve (1 Tim 2, Eph 5). Paul’s use of the Adam and Eve story indicates an identical stamp in each instance. The responsibility lies with the Adam, while the Eve is subordinate, in each case.
In reference to the prayer and prophesying done by women in 1 Cor 11:5, this does not necessarily fall under the restriction of 1 Tim 2. Even in conservative churches women are allowed to sing, give prayer requests, make announcements, etc. The command to keep silent seems restricted in its context, in specifically forbidding women from teaching in church gatherings, and by extension, the office of elder/bishop/overseer. This understanding goes toward explaining the teaching of Priscilla, which was done in private, the prophesying of Philip’s sisters, which does not necessarily denote teaching, and the service of Phoebe.
You point to several female OT leaders; however, this argument is comparing apples to oranges. Deborah, Hulda, and Miriam, as well as other Jewish women before the coming of Christ such as Anna, were never allowed to teach the law. As mentioned above, they were not really allowed to even learn the law. Paul’s prohibition against women teachers and expositors reaches back across the OT through Jewish practice.
1 Cor 14 ties all of this together very well. Not only were the churches at Ephesus and Corinth to not allow women teachers, but no church was to allow this (“As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches…” vs.33b-34 NRSV). Not only that, Paul appeals to Jewish law.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Frugal Fatigue

In 2009 my company implemented a 10% pay cut for all employees. That's when it started. Immediately, I looked at my expenses and realized I wouldn't be able to make my car payment anymore. No way, no how. Fortunately, I was up against tax refund time. Unfortunately, I had to plunge my entire tax refund into my car so my family could continue to have transportation.
I hacked services off of the cell bill, cancelled netflix, downgraded my internet connection, etc., etc. When we needed a 2 bedroom apartment I found one for the same price as our 1 bedroom. It was full of roaches and managed by a woman who fixed nothing and stole our deposit and first month's rent.
We had to move, and our current apartment is wonderful--but $75/mo more expensive. We squeak by. I have instituted new money-saving strategies such as not buying any item at the grocery store more than $2.50 unless it is an ingredient in a meal to be cooked at home. I have invested in fluorescent lights and taken the further step of reducing 4-bulb fixtures to 2 bulbs. I go over the details in my bills like a hawk. My cell phone contract is up in November, and I will be cancelling my service, leaving my wife's cell phone as our only phone--we don't have a landline.
And yes, we are signed up for the low-income discount with the electric company, and I receive advance EIC credit in my paycheck.
Even with these, we barely get by. I would cancel my health insurance from my employer and just leave my wife on there if I thought she would let me get away with it. I don't know what else to cut. I am tired of racking my brain month after month for another way to free up more money. I am tired of having to keep hawk eyes on my bank account so we don't overdraw because we live paycheck to paycheck.
I don't even have any debt to pay on, I am completely debt free! All of this money is going for month-to-month bills.
I have "frugal fatigue."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The New Face of Evangelicalism

Or, how the death of Christian America is a good thing.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Days of the Week

Monday - I Wish it Were Friday
Tuesday - It's Closer to Friday
Wednesday - The Day After Tomorrow is Friday
Thursday - Thank God Tomorrow's Friday
Friday - Thank God It's Friday
Saturday - I Wish the Weekend Would Never End
Sunday - Darn it I Gotta Go Back to Work Tomorrow

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Christian Psychology

I quote the aforementioned Pastor Cole of Flagstaff regarding Christian psychology:

“As this elder and I were discussing Cloud’s approach, he told me that people like his wife who were from dysfunctional homes could not relate to my preaching because I emphasize obedience to God’s Word. Because they had strict, cold, authoritarian fathers, they don’t relate well to authority. I replied that I thought that I also put a strong emphasis on God’s grace as the motivation for obedience. But he responded that his wife couldn’t even relate to God’s grace — it went right by her. I was a bit taken aback, and so I said, ‘You mean that the many times I have spoken on God’s grace, she didn’t hear me?’ He said yes, in her 20 years on Crusade staff, never once had she felt God’s grace and love on a personal level.

“I thought about what he had said and asked some clarifying questions to make sure I understood him. Then I responded, ‘If your wife has never felt God’s love and grace, she is not converted!’ I had been reading Jonathan Edwards’ classic, A Treatise on Religious Affections, in which he makes a strong biblical case that saving faith is not mere intellectual assent to the gospel, but that it affects the heart.”

Pastor Cole reaches the conclusion that this woman is not saved. It fits in well with his Reformed theology, which holds that one must be drawn to salvation by the Father and that this grace is irresistible. However, this observation fits in well with a non-Reformed view of salvation as well, at least until you add in Christian Psychology.
Ultimately, the point is that Christian Psychology makes the claim that some people who have certain psychological issues can’t experience God fully. If they could, they wouldn’t have psychological issues. Pastor Cole is correct in labeling Christian Psychology as heresy, at least from the standpoint of traditional, Biblical, Christian doctrine.

However, Pastor Cole’s treatment of the subject misses another solution to this problem. Admittedly, it is a solution totally antithetical to Christianity, more so than the Christian Psychology he despises. It is this—what humans perceive as an experience with God is really no more than a psychological construct. The exact nature of that construct differs between religions. Christianity is an authoritarian religion, so its psychological construct requires a certain level of comfort with authority. Even grace itself is a gift bestowed on either the chosen ones (Reformed) or the properly yielded ones (non-Reformed) at God’s discretion.
In this view of the problem we find that Christian Psychology, if true in its assertions, makes our concept of God to be a human invention. Christian Psychology has ended up disproving God.

This troubles me because I can relate to the elder’s wife. My choice then, is between one of two conclusions. If I uphold the Reformed view, God has not chosen me. If I do not subscribe to Reformed theology, God does not exist.
Additionally, the concept that God is a psychological construct finds support in the numerous experiences of God we find in other religions. If Christianity is the one true way, they are not, but then what differentiates their communion with the divine from ours? The alternative is the idea that there are many ways to God.

I have always taken some solace in the concept that we must rely on the Word of God and not feelings. However, if Jonathan Edwards (and Pastor Cole) is correct, I'm in a pickle.