Thinking Out Loud

February 28, 2010

Arminianism and Calvinism for Beginners

Thinking Out Loud is in repeats this weekend.   This one, from March of last year really straightens out the whole doctrinal thing once and for all.  A lot of denominational conflict could be cleared up if people just came to this blog to start with.

ARMENIA

A former republic of the Soviet Union, Armenia is a unitary, multiparty, democratic nation-state with an ancient and historic cultural heritage. The Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity in the early years of the 4th century (the traditional date is 301). The modern Republic of Armenia recognizes the exclusive historical mission of the Armenian Apostolic Church as a national church, although the modern Republic of Armenia has separation of church and state as its religion

CALVIN KLEIN

Calvin Richard Klein (born November 19, 1942) is an Hungarian-American fashion designer. In 1968, he launched the company that would later become Calvin Klein Inc. In addition to clothing, Calvin Klein also gave his name to a range of perfumes, including CK One and CK Be (fragrances for both sexes), now owned by Coty Inc. Swatch Group manufactures watches and jewelry under the Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Jeans brands.

February 27, 2010

David, Goliath: Follow Them on Twitter

Filed under: Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:25 pm

We ran this a year ago, but it’s one of my favorite pieces from the blog The Christian Ranter. Don’t forget that in Twitter, as in blogging, to catch the sequence of what follows you want to start reading from the bottom up.   (RSS subscribers please visit the blog for this one.)

david-vs-goliath

February 26, 2010

Peter Rollins Makes His Point Well, Despite My Earlier Misgivings

As you might remember, back in the summer I abandoned my reading of Peter Rollins’ The Orthodox Heretic. It was just too “out there” for me.  Or so I thought.  But last night I decided to read the final six or seven short essays and while I’m not sure if it was me or Peter Rollins, something changed in those final pages to the point where, while I’m still not 100% comfortable with a full endorsement, I have to give the author some measure of credit for really thinking through some popular Bible narratives.

I thought I’d look at this one, the story we call “The Prodigal Son” only because it reminds me of the Rob Bell Peter Walking on Water Controversy which is still getting comments.   This should drive some of the same people equally nuts.  But I don’t believe for a minute that there is a singular interpretation to everything that Jesus taught, nor do I believe that there are not some additional, deeper nuggets of truth lurking under the surface, awaiting discovery.

Rollins begins by re-telling the story, albeit somewhat abridged.   The younger son has claimed his share of the estate, left home and hit bottom.

There was no life for the young man so he thought to himself, I have had a good time in the last few years, but perhaps I should now return to my Father’s home.  For there it is warm, and while he will be angry, he may take pity on me and let me work as a hired hand. And so he began his return journey.

Rollins then narrates the son’s return, the father’s joy, the reinstatement of the son, the celebration.  And then,

Later that night, after the party, while he was alone, the younger son wept with sorrow and repented for the life he had led.

As with all 33 stories in the book, he then moves into a commentary section. And then…

…The question we must ask concerns how much of what he baptize with the name forgiveness is really worthy of that name.

…In politics…forgiveness is strategic and comes with conditions…

…In the world of work…forgiveness can be a great strategy for helpign to ensure return business and a good reputation…

…When it comes to religion…as John Caputo notes in What Would Jesus Deconstruct? forgiveness all too often comes after a set of criteria have been met, namely an expression of sorrow, a turning away from the act, a promise not to return to the act, and a willingness to do penance.  Forgiveness thus follows repentance and so cannot take place until repentance has occurred.

…But what if Jesus had an infinitely more radical message than this?  What if Jesus taught an impossible forgiveness, a forgiveness without conditions, a forgiveness that would forgive before some conditions were met?

…Is it not true that the conditional gift of forgiveness, without the need of repentance, houses within it the power to evoke repentance?  …It is impossible to change until we meet someone who says to us, “You don’t have to change, I love you just the way you are.”

What if a forgiveness that has conditions, that is wrapped up in economy, is not really forgiveness at all, but rather is nothing more than a prudent bet?

Rollins then quotes verses 17-20 of Luke 15:

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father…

Rollins continues,

It would initially seem that the repentance in the story came before the forgiveness.  Yet is the younger son really repentant here?  The text says he came to his “senses,” that is, he started to make a sensible calculation.  One would expect the narrative to claim something like, “in repentance he returned to his father’s home,,” but the story describes the son’s internal monologue as a strategic decision rather than a change of heart.

But even if his repentance were genuine…the father’s response shows no economy is at work in the kingdom.   After all, we read these powerful words, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion…”

The father has no interest in whether or not his son is repentant.  All he cares about is the son’s return.

…The radical idea of forgiveness…is already embedded in the original story.   It adds a conclusion that imagines how such unconditional love may have actually provided the power needed to precipitate a change of heart in the son, rather than his experience of eating with the pigs.

There is a depth to this insight.   Perhaps I would have done better to simply leave the author unnamed, given the polarization that’s out there.   Maybe we all need to see on what personal level we need to take the story to heart.

February 25, 2010

Classic Reading: Damaged Emotions

from Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands

If you visit the far west, you will see those beautiful giant sequoia and redwood trees. In most of the parks, the naturalists can show you a cross-section of a great tree they have cut and point out that the rings of the tree reveal the development history year-by-year. Here’s a ring that represents a year when there was terrible drought. Here a couple of rings from years when there was too much rain. Here’s where the tree was struck by lightning. Here are some normal years of growth. This ring shows a forest fire that almost destroyed the tree. Here’s another of savage blight and disease. All of this lies embedded in the heart of the tree representing the autobiography of its growth.

And that’s the way it is with us. Just a few minutes beneath the protective bark, the concealing protective mask, are recorded the rings of our lives.

There are scars of ancient, painful hurts… the discoloration of a tragic stain that muddied all of life… the pressure of a painful, repressed memory. Such scars have been buried in pain for so long that they are causing hurt and rage that are inexplicable. In the rings of our thoughts and emotions the record is there; the memories are recorded and all are alive. And they directly and deeply affect our concepts, our feelings, our relationships. They affect the way we look at life, and God, at others and ourselves.

This book was published in 1991 by Chariot Victor (div. of David C. Cook) and is still recommended by counselors today. The book is now available in 15 different languages.

February 24, 2010

Link List Anniversary Edition

The celebration of our second birthday, which is actually today, got bumped to yesterday so we could observe Link Day.   Priorities.

I gotta admit, last week’s link list was amazing.   If you missed out on that one, here’s a link.   But there are some really good things here as well.  Who says blogging’s dead?

  • Well this is no surprise:  Music legend and now part-time theologian Elton John announces that Jesus was gay.   You can pass on this one but if you insist, go here and here.  (Don’t bail yet, the links get better after this…)  Actually you might want read this response at Captain’s Blog.
  • But seriously, sexual attraction is something you need to talk about with your kids, beyond the usual ‘birds and bees’ talk.   The subject is dealt with by Jay Younts  here at Shepherd Press’ blog in one part of a six-part article on conversations parents need to have with children.
  • Here’s a link with great potential value to anyone involved with any kind of sexual addiction or blatant sexual sin.   Pete Wilson describes this as a sermon he was reluctant to do, but some amazing things took place when he confronted this topic, and I believe will continue to happen as people view it online.   If you or someone you know is dealing with this issue and is willing to invest a half hour to hear some straightforward talk on the subject, then click here.
  • This week I learned a new word while reading about reproductive technology:  snowflake children.  The term came up in a Q & A on Russell Moore’s that asked about the ethics of  embryo adoption.
  • I’ve been so busy e-mailing this link to people, I can’t remember if I’ve included it here yet.   Behold the Lamb by UK worship leader Stuart Townend is an awesome communion song.
  • Floodgate Productions is one of many companies producing video clips for church use, but this one in particular is recommended for church websites, though I think you could show it Sundays as well.   Watch the two-minute clip, Around Here.
  • Unless you’ve been living in a blog vacuum, you know the topic of the week has been Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity. Rather than specify a specific link, why not type his name into Google Blog Search.
  • This might be a repeat, but if you haven’t yet, take some time to read some backstory behind Shaun King, blogger at Shaun in the City.   The accident report is called I Experienced a Miracle and I’m Not a Loon.
  • Our new blog for the week is a sort of Best of YouTube meets Stuff Fundies Like.   Wild and wacky and all somehow Christianity-related video clips abound on Crazy Christian Clips.   (One of my favorites, still, is this one.)
  • Most of us can’t remember when the Roman Catholic mass was conducted entirely in Latin, but now Muslims are dealing with how much English to include inside mosques without violating Islamic law and betraying their culture.    Read it at USAToday Religion.  (I wonder if there’s a The Message-style version of the Qu’ran in their future?  No, not really.)
  • New Kind of Church  idea #68,251 from Christian Week:  Church in a bowling alley.
  • Prayer Request:  Church Report is reporting the arrest of the leading evangelical pastor in Iran.
  • I think Kevin Leman’s books on marriage and parenting meet a definite need.   But when he’s on Christian radio — which he does a lot of — he can be exceedingly blunt when he talks about sex.   I wouldn’t suggest playing this video clip if you’ve got kids or teens nearby.
  • Considering a blog, Twitter of Facebook sabbatical? How about, more accurately, a sabbath-ical? First check out what Scott Couchenour has to say here (it’s short) and then especially here.  (I’ve been doing this for several years.)
  • Our upper cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, by UK blogger Jon Birch.  Our lower cartoon is Preacher’s Kids by David Ayers which you can catch weekly at Baptist Press.   If this still wasn’t enough, check out the sidebar, “Oh, Oh, The Places We’ll Go” and especially the ones that begin with the word Links.

February 23, 2010

Thinking Out Loud — Two Year Anniversary

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:15 am

Wow!   It’s hard to believe it’s been two years.

I’m typing this for the second time, because WordPress, up to its old tricks, decided to stop auto-saving everything I was typing for the last 15 minutes.   At least this time it might be more concise.

Thinking Out Loud began the same week as two other blogs, 22 Words and Stuff Christians Like.   Both of them are somewhat viral by comparison with this.    It’s taught me the difference between starting out by having a platform and working hard toward gaining a platform.

It’s also interesting to note that — as far as Canada is concerned — each day, I get to speak to six times as many adults than half of all pastors here see on Sunday morning.

Still, it’s lamentable that comments are down, not just here but everywhere.   Internet literacy has been reduced to 140-character Twitter remarks and even fewer-character Facebook updates.     Building readership in the second year has been a lot tougher than the first year was,  and apparently it’s going to get harder.

It seems that Google has just announced that it will add weight to the page ratings it gives blogs that use interactive elements, such as embedded videos from YouTube, a company that it just happens to own.   This blog, in deference to the many people out there on dial-up access, doesn’t embed videos, though my book industry blog — mostly read by people at work — uses several each week.

I also want to continue to make this a blog for the ‘spiritual commoner.’   That’s the person who feels he or she has a real contribution to make to the life of their church, Christian fellowship or broader community, but isn’t as resourced as today’s modern pastor who, already equipped with both an undergrad and graduate degree, is still taking courses and jetting off to conferences.   Uh… when do they have time to do the actual pastoring?

So with a mix of opinions, devotional pieces, breaking Christian news, I will soldier on until I run out of things to say.   I want to thank all of you for your comments — both on and off the blog — and for the sense of community I get each week from you while doing this.  Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for after a time we will reap a harvest of blesssings, provided we are faithful and don’t give up.

If you’re ever about an hour east of Toronto, Canada, I’m available for coffee any weekday except Tuesday.

… To celebrate I was going to do a radical overhaul of this blog’s theme, only to discover that I’m using the widest possible space available from WordPress, and any other theme would have seriously chopped some of the photo images.  So here’s a tribute to a few of the blogs with the same name as this one who have better graphics:

Read how it all started in the one-year anniversary post.

February 22, 2010

Unresolved Past Issues from Junior High School

Filed under: pornography — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:40 pm

Two years ago, when I originally submitted the manuscript of The Pornography Effect to a psychologist for professional review, she came back with the comment that I wasn’t spending enough time on what it is that motivates men to spend hours online seeking out images.   Given that the publishers I’ve spoken with feel the current length — even though we’re deliberately aiming for a short-read, crisis-book — is too short, I’ve been looking for other dimensions of the subject that might make up additional chapters, if and only if I can figure out where to fit them in within the flow of the book.    This is one of them.

Regrets

The high school Creative Writing teacher thought it would be a good idea to bring in a guest speaker from the seniors’ home who could articulate for her students some of his memories from when he was in their place in life.   She found one who was able to both visit the school and tell his stories clearly.

Mr. Watkins spoke mostly about the upper elementary grades and first year or so of high school.   He told stories of being picked on, a fight that broke out in the hallway, a girl he liked a lot but was afraid to speak to, a camping trip with another boy’s family, a school dance, swimming and fishing at the cottage…

It went on and on, but he had been chosen because he was a competent storyteller and he made some jokes, explained some cultural things he knew they wouldn’t understand, and then he ended with, “You know, I can remember all those things so clearly, but I can’t remember things from five years ago, or one year ago, or two months ago.”

Memory experts can probably tell us reasons why this is so for seniors, but even if you’re only in your twenties or thirties, there are probably experiences and images from middle school or junior high that are simply permanently “burned in” to your brain.

There’s a saying that many people don’t regret the things they did as much as they regret the things they didn’t do. In a discussion of teenage sexuality it’s probably a good thing that there are things most of us didn’t do.   There are others who bore the consequences of a more liberated lifestyle in terms of unwanted pregnancies, disease or an inability to find lasting love. (more…)

February 21, 2010

It’s Almost Blogtime

Filed under: parenting, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:45 am

Traffic here on the blog was down considerably yesterday, in the 400 page-view range.   It always goes down on weekends.   But not for everyone.   Yesterday, about 1,200 people went to the site It’s Almost Naptime to read a story about goldfish, despite my attempts at hard-hitting journalism here at Thinking Out Loud.     Maybe I should write about the fish our son brought home several years ago.

He and his brother were attending an AWANA club, and we were waiting to pick them up when I saw the first kid emerging with a plastic bag oozing water and fish and I thought, “I hope our kid didn’t win one of those.’

He did.  So on the way home we made a quick stop at a 24-hour store that sells pet supplies, the upscale La Mart de Wal, and bought a relatively inexpensive aquarium, complete with all the fixings.

“Goldie” — who I assure you was not named after Ms. Hawn, even though I enjoyed the films she did with Chevy Chase — was predicted to last several weeks before the inevitable burial at flush sea.  Instead it lasted four years.

That’s four years of food.   Four years of whatever electricity the filter used.   Four years of arranging for the person who was coming in to feed the cats to also remember to feed the fish.    Goldie set some kind of record I’m sure among the common household varieties of its species, especially when you consider it did not get to enjoy the company of a friend (and the fact we bought the extra-small fish residence that night at La Mart de Wal).   Whatever God said about it not being good for fish to be alone was apparently somewhat lost on us.   At least we can take heart in the fact that we were obviously good overseers in terms of food and water changes, and whatever directive God gave humankind in terms of caring for animals.   We passed with flying colors.

So there’s my goldfish story.    It worked for Missy and Walker and the kids at It’s Almost Naptime, so I expect the same results here.   At least a thousand hits today.    Or maybe, at the very least, Missy will share her stat secret!

Related post on this blog — July 28/09 — Naptime and Blog Stats


For my Canadian readers, you’ll notice a new button on the sidebar regarding Larry Norman CDs.    We’ve picked up a bunch of these on a last-chance deal and are offering them first to Thinking Out Loud readers in this country at their former Canadian list price with a $5 flat rate shipping deal.   Or you can simply click here.


Weekend readers:
Come back on Wednesdays and check out the link lists.   Connect to a variety of websites and blogs of Christian interest.   And feel free to suggest any recent links we might not know about.

February 20, 2010

My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. ~ from the text of Tiger Woods comments at 11 AM EST, 19/02/10

At this point we don’t know any of the particulars surrounding the announcement on Thursday that Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn was filing for divorce.    So please don’t think I am inferring any — absolutely any — parallels between Tiger Woods and Benny.

However, I did not check the “religious news wire” before heading out of town on Friday, so it was against the backdrop of the Tiger Woods press conference that I read the news about Benny and Suzanne Hinn around suppertime.

Benny Hinn and I are not friends or even true acquaintances, but our paths did cross many years ago.   The original crusades he conducted in Toronto, Canada were held in the church that was the base for the mail order business I operated.   The Joyful Noise Record Club had customers across Canada, and later became Searchlight Music, a company I still own in another form.

The head of another ministry based in the building was about to be married, and people from various ministries operating in the Toronto church were invited to the wedding.   Some of us apparently were invited at the last minute.   I had no date for the wedding, and as I remember it, neither did Benny Hinn.   We talked briefly waiting for the door for the reception to open, but I was terrified he would suddenly lay hands on me, cause me to fall over, or announce to everyone some great secret sin — probably lust — that I was harboring at the time.

Fortunately, we were seated at different tables.

Benny’s ministry in Toronto was somewhat high profile — at least among Charismatics — but nothing compared to the size and scope of it when he moved to Orlando and married the daughter of Charismatic pastor Roy Harthern.   The website Precious Daily Devotions tells the story:

In the summer of 1978, on a flight returning from a conference in Singapore, Benny Hinn met Roy Harthern, an Englishman who was pastoring the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. They got to know one another on the long flight. Roy showed Benny pictures of his family. When he came to the photo of Roy’s daughter, Suzanne, Benny heard a voice inside him saying, “She’s going to be your wife.”

Roy Harthern invited Pastor Benny Hinn to come to his home for Christmas, he accepted. When he met Suzanne, Benny remembers jokingly, “I looked into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and my knees became weak”. When his friend Maxine LaDuke met Suzanne, she took Benny aside and confirmed that this was his wife.

Benny knew she was the one. He took Pauline Harthern aside to “ask her something.” Pauline thought he wanted to ask her permission to date Suzanne, but instead, he said “I want to marry Suzanne; I am in love with her.” “Well, well,” Pauline replied, “you really need to speak to her father.” When Roy gave his approval, Benny Hinn immediately went to find Suzanne. Suzanne accepted and Pastor Benny Hinn and Suzanne tied the knot on August 4, 1979.

The rest, as they say, is history.   Hinn catapulted to fame and infamy, as Wikipedia reminds us:

By far the most controversial aspect of Hinn’s ministry is his claim to have the “anointing”, the special power given to him by God to heal the sick. At Hinn’s Miracle Crusades, he has allegedly healed attendees of blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and severe physical injuries. Since 1993, however, investigative news reports by programs such as Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, the Australian edition of 60 Minutes, and several network affiliates in the United States have called these claims into question.

Hinn made a number of unfulfilled (religious) prophecies for the 90s, such as God destroying America’s homosexual community in 1995, the death of Fidel Castro, the election of the first female president of the USA, the East Coast of the United States being devastated by earthquakes, etc., all before the third millennium. Hinn also appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in October 1999 to claim that God had given him a vision that thousands of dead people would be resurrected after watching the network—laying out a scenario of people placing their dead loved ones’ hands on TV screens tuned into the station—and that TBN would be “an extension of Heaven to Earth.”

Again, I have no reason to link the divorce announcement to anything to do with Tiger Woods except to say that it was against that context that I heard the news.   But maybe that’s not it at all, maybe I’m also reading into this story against the backdrop of the post I wrote last week about Todd Bentley.  (But again, there’s been no inference of infidelity, the grounds for divorce filed are irreconcilable differences.)   Another celebrity.  Another Charismatic evangelist.   Another divorce.

There are two sides to every story, and Hinn’s people have allegedly already started going into damage control mode, and not everyone is buying it.

It’s all so very sad.

To those of you who are just starting out in your journey of faith, or building a ministry, remember:  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.   Don’t aim for crowds, respect, praise or what some would consider success.     Because success and praise always come at a cost; the adulation of the crowds always comes at a price; and then, if you fail, you take down all the people who worshiped you.

Additional sources USAToday; Bene Diction Blogs On. Picture:  The Daily Show. Update: Confirmation at Benny Hinn Ministries website.

February 19, 2010

Seven Currents Affecting The Global Church

"The Meeting of the Waters" in Manaus, Brazil: Two visually distinct rivers converge to form the Amazon River

This is part two of a review begun on Sunday of a new book by Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters:  7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, publishing March 2010).   The book is based on what the author calls “The Global Church Listening Tour;” one-hour interviews with 151 church leaders in nineteen countries.

As Canadians, we often find ourselves despairing over the USA-centric approach of many popular Christian books.   So one expects a book with a ‘global’ perspective to transcend any particular nation.   However, in some chapters more than others, Kling would relate his findings to the church in America.   In this case that’s a good thing.   If the book were just theoretical it would not accomplish much.   Some of the real value here — although it’s never truly spelled out in ‘macro versus micro’ terms — is the application of what’s happening globally to the local church; the church you and I attend on weekends.  But then again, this is a very, very ‘macro’ kind of book.

So what are the seven currents?   There’s a great economy of language in Fritz Kling’s writing style, so I can’t do this adequately, but here’s a few things that stood out:

  1. Mercy — Kling uses an anecdotal approach in this social justice section: a young woman who gives up a promising law career to work with oppressed people in India; a young man who is a native of India who operates a technology firm guided by Sermon-on-the-Mount principles.
  2. Mutuality — It’s hard to function in the global church if you think you or the country you come from has all the answers; and that bias leads to further believing that you (or we) should be the ones in charge.  He also suggests that people in other parts of the world don’t understand our various debates about practices or behaviors or doctrines, since they simply take the Bible at literal face value.
  3. Migration — There are three issues here:   Worldwide migration patterns in general; the migration taking place from rural areas to cities at a time when churches are fleeing the urban core for the suburbs; and the ministry opportunities that exist when you have displaced, and therefore lonely people all around.
  4. Monoculture — This chapter looks at the dominance of the English language as a symptom of the much larger, accelerating spread of Western culture, and in particular, Western youth culture.
  5. Machines — Kling begins with a look at technology as a tool in disaster relief.  (He mentions the cyclone in May, 2008 that hit Burma.   One wonders if delaying the book to include mention of Haiti might have made it more pertinent.)   He moves on to discuss the role of technology in evangelism, and backtracks to show how that motive led to some other technological applications now enjoyed worldwide.
  6. Mediation — Kling delineates several areas where there is a need for reconciliation and mediation.   He notes this will be a challenge for Westerners to function in a world that has become, in particular, very anti-American.   He speaks in detail of the conflicts that exist, “not between Muslims and Christians, but between Muslims and other [more militant] Muslims.”   Kling believes Christians should be leading the way toward reconciliation on all fronts.
  7. Memory — Knowing the past can be a blessing and a curse, but in many places, Kling sees more downside than upside, with entire cultures having a depreciated view of themselves.   Still, Christians need to fully enter into, understand and even embrace the history of the place where they serve, and from there aim to bring hope and wholeness.

As I stated in part one, I truly hope this book finds the wider audience it is deserving of.   This is a book for pastors and missiologists for sure, but I think it’s also a title that business leaders, church board members and people who simply care about the future of the church should want to study.

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