Thinking Out Loud

July 9, 2013

Everybody’s Not Doing It

Because we’re inundated with media that tells us that everybody is doing it, the other side should probably have equal time. If you’re on the fringes of the whole God scene, or maybe not even that close, here’s what I think some people I know would tell you…

Materialism

  • many of us are not going to a vacation resort this year
  • what you think is our ‘new’ car actually came off a three-year lease
  • I really don’t want a bigger house, in fact I’d like to downsize
  • those new appliances we ‘bought’ were free with credit card points
  • we think all those electronic gadgets are a waste of money

Boasting

  • yes, we paid off the bank loan, but then we took out another
  • many of us have kids that did not get straight A’s on their report card
  • Harry’s new job was a departmental move, not a promotion
  • the ten pounds I lost wasn’t exercise, they closed the local Krispy Kreme
  • the little league team we coach made the finals only because another team had to forfeit

Ethics

  • there are many people who do not embellish their resumé
  • no, actually I don’t cheat on my income tax
  • since you asked, not everybody looks at porn online
  • sorry, you’re wrong; not everybody tells lies to get ahead
  • if you look carefully, most of us really do drive the speed limit

Sexuality

  • the kids in my core youth group at church actually aren’t sexually active
  • the truth is, I haven’t thought about having an affair with the receptionist
  • I’m not that insecure that I need to flirt to prove I’ve still “got it.”
  • a lot of us women are not interested in reading the fantasy bestseller
  • there are many people who think inward qualities matter more than outward appeal

Anything you’d like to add?

June 20, 2013

Thursday Link List

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. My wife wants to know where the pastor's parking space is.

Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe chapel in Le Puy-en-Velay, France. Not exactly visitor friendly. Where the pastor’s parking space?

My dog ate my homework.

Seriously, I couldn’t think of anything original today. I keep having this bad habit of posting great stuff in the summer on Saturday and Sunday when nobody’s online reading; and then the well runs dry during the week…

Well, we could do this all week, but…

April 15, 2013

Who Are You Sleeping With? Tim Keller at Gospel Coalition

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:16 am

On the one hand, I no longer give a lot of space here to what the New Calvinists are up to.  My feeling is that when they finally reach consensus on the question, “What is the Gospel?” they can send up smoke signals like they do in The Vatican.

But there’s no denying the wisdom and influence of Redeemer Presbyterian (New York, NY) pastor and author Timothy Keller.  So there was a lot of excitement over the weekend over a post by Derek Rishmawy who has a Patheos blog Christ and Pop Culture, and wrote ‘Who Are You Sleeping With?’ My Conversation with Timothy Keller.  

First, here’s the context:

…Drawing on his experience in urban, culture-shaping Manhattan, Keller responded that one of the biggest obstacles to repentance for revival in the Church is the basic fact that almost all singles outside the Church and a majority inside the Church are sleeping with each other. In other words, good old-fashioned fornication.

The major substance of the piece comes in the second section:

Keller illustrated the point by talking about a tactic, one that he admittedly said was almost too cruel to use, that an old college pastor associate of his used when catching up with college students who were home from school. He’d ask them to grab coffee with him to catch up on life. When he’d come to the state of their spiritual lives, they’d often hem and haw, talking about the difficulties and doubts now that they’d taken a little philosophy, or maybe a science class or two, and how it all started to shake the foundations. At that point, he’d look at them and ask one question, “So who have you been sleeping with?” Shocked, their faces would inevitably fall and say something along the lines of, “How did you know?” or a real conversation would ensue. Keller pointed out that it’s a pretty easy bet that when you have a kid coming home with questions about evolution or philosophy, or some such issue, the prior issue is a troubled conscience. Honestly, as a Millennial and college director myself, I’ve seen it with a number of my friends and students—the Bible unsurprisingly starts to become a lot more “doubtful” for some of them once they’d had sex.

And it makes sense, right? When you’re engaged in behavior you’ve been raised to believe is wrong, but is still pretty fun, more than that, powerfully enslaving, you want to find reasons to disbelieve your former moral convictions. As Keller pointed out, Aldous Huxley famously confessed in his work Ends and Means that he didn’t want there to be a God and meaning because it interfered with his sexual freedom. While most of our contemporaries haven’t worked it out quite as philosophically as Huxley has, they’re spiritually in much the same place.

I’ve heard it said that one of the reason people love to debate Noah and the Ark and Jonah and the Whale is because they are looking for an out. If they can find a problem with the Biblical text in one section, it absolves them from responsibility in others. So much of the debate clearly is about something other than what it appears.

In one of the comments, I noted:

I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons churches are finding it so hard to get male volunteers is because a lot of guys don’t feel ‘worthy’ because of their online addiction to porn. Someone has already noted in the comments here its possible application in this situation as well.

In other words, spiritual intensity wanes as spiritual truth comes into conflict with actual individual behavior. 

Keller’s thesis did not sit well with Rachel Held Evans.  In a piece titled Is Doubt an STD? — the title itself confuses the cause and effect — she challenges the sweeping generality of Keller’s response:

Keller seems to assume that thoughtful questioning among young people are typically the result of sexual activity and their desire to justify it. This was not true for me, and it is not true for many of the young adults who leave college with questions about science, philosophy, politics, and religious pluralism that challenge the fundamentalism with which they were raised…

…Furthermore, learning that a college student is sexually active does not somehow discredit his or her faith experience.

But while she accuses Keller of being dismissive of the real spiritual concerns of young people, I felt she was just a little too dismissive of Keller.  I wrote:

Keller is teaching us to look for “the question behind the question,” not unlike Jesus with the woman at the well in John chapter 4. I think he may be on to something; but Rachel, I agree that this approach could backfire if it is dismissive of genuine questions and spiritual concerns. I think you have to earn the right to ask someone who they’re sleeping with.

There was a lot of push-back on Rachel’s take on Keller, and so yesterday, she published some of the highlights of the critiques she received.  You can read those here.

If you don’t know it, read the story of the Woman at the Well in John 4 here.

March 7, 2013

The Edge, Shock Value and Shifting Standards

There are going to be people who think me a little too conservative for not posting the cover of the book referred to in today’s earlier post. Sigh.

no-godIt seems that we live in a time when standards are shifting, and even if your values are less progressive, it never hurts to go for shock value, as in Peter Enns’ article Why I Don’t Believe in God Anymore. Perhaps it’s just that people who blog on the Patheos platform are expected to be more controversial, but the word “God” with the red circle and red slash through it seems a bit over the top.

Peter Enns actually does believe in God, at least in the way most of you think. His article is saying that for him it’s really about trust.

…“Belief” in God connotes–at least as I see it–a set of ideas about God that may, if time allows, eventually make their way to other parts of my being…

…I see a huge difference between “I believe in a God who cares for me” and “I trust God at this particular moment.” The first is a bit safer, an article of faith. The latter is unnerving, risky–because I have let go…

In a way, Enns’ view is at the heart of Christian living. As people approach crossing the line of faith, our great desire is to see them reach that point of belief; but once the line has been crossed, the center of the Lordship of Christ is trusting Him with every area, every department of our lives.

I know someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, but I know the ‘gay’ question is going to come up at some point and when it does I’m going to say, “Look, I want to let you in our playbook. Right now our concern for you is about believing, but for those of us on the inside, the fundamental question is: Can God be trusted? Can we see that out of good, better and best, He does indeed have a best for each of us, an ideal which represents His highest intentions?”

Trusting God has having our ultimate highest good in mind is a better way of framing difficult questions. It’s possible to look at people in an adulterous relationship and say, “I know you expect me to say what’s wrong with what you’re doing, but I want to ask you, ‘What’s right about what you’re doing? What do you derive from this that makes it worth the various inconveniences?’” I believe you could equally ask, “What’s right about your incestuous relationship that makes it worth the effort of keeping the secret?” or “What’s right about your gay relationship that makes it worth the separation from your family?”

It’s not rhetorical.  You’re going to get some answers in most cases. What makes it good. And then it’s easy to say, “I believe God’s intention was beyond good, beyond better. I believe God had a best, but we’re afraid of fully trusting Him.”

However, it’s important not to let this much more compassionate, much more sympathetic approach not undermine the idea of trusting God for the best. It’s vital that in the process, we don’t take scissors to scripture and excise the passages we think don’t fit.

Which brings us to United Methodist pastor Dave Barnhart’s article How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality. This piece has received a lot of attention online and is emblematic of what happens when theological convictions are transferred to real people engaged in real living in a real world.

Most people who have wrestled with this issue have come to recognize the personal disconnect that takes place when the convictions we would write on a list shatter in the face of people who have been damaged by dogma. No one reading scripture thoroughly can help but be caught in the middle of God’s holiness and judgment versus God’s compassion toward those who ‘miss the mark’ of His greatest standards.

The article says,

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

So again, the title is edgy, it certainly goes for shock value, but has the writer really changed his view on the standards that God holds up for us, or has he simply come to see those standards in the light of mercy, come to a desire to confront the way The Church attempts to mete out its version of upholding God’s best?

Conservatives and traditionalists may feel the spiritual sky is falling, but I prefer to think of the present spiritual climate more in terms of a shaking. Too many people wrote things in ink that they should have written in pencil, or even chalk. But a massive rethink of terminology or approach doesn’t mean that we’ve completely tossed all our formerly held convictions.

As pendula swing wildly, the place of balance, the place of rest, is ultimately somewhere in the middle.

February 7, 2013

Should the Tip for the Waitress Exceed Your Tithe Percentage?

I Give God Ten Percent - Applebee's Receipt

Q: What’s the difference between a canoe and a Christian in a restaurant?

A: A canoe tips.

The bill for the meal at Applebee’s came with a pre-calculated 18% tip, but you certainly had the option to override it with any tip you chose.

But one customer argued that God only gets 10%, so why should wait staff get 18%.

But then he [update - see comments] she left nothing.

So another server took a picture of the receipt containing the comment.

And the restaurant fired her — really a third party in all this — despite years of exemplary service and management aspirations.

Apparently the customer — who to make matters worse claimed to be a pastor — was outraged when the story went public and demanded that heads roll.  To appease the customer, Applebee’s rolled one head, and lost a perfectly good employee in the process. Not sure I want to eat there again.

And then, the story went world wide. The link I have is to The Guardian in the UK. The newspaper’s online version takes a line from the server, “…tipping is not optional. It is how we get paid;” and renders it as some kind of quaint American trivia headline, “Tips are not optional, they are how waiters get paid in America.”

Excuse me, don’t people tip in Great Britain?

But before we go to far here, are we led to believe that the person who stiffed the waitress really gives ten percent? Because statistics on both sides of the Atlantic don’t support that notion. And if the type of person who does give ten percent is also the type of person who doesn’t leave a tip, personally I would rather they tithed less.

For example: Recently we attended a youth outreach event that is being held in a large restaurant complex and entertainment center. Many of the attendees — in their late teens and twenties — go out to eat afterward and since they are identified as being from the “Christian” event, the last word to them before they are dismissed is to be kind and generous to their servers.

The last thing the world needs is another hot-headed Christian alienating others from Jesus. It might take an army of Christ-followers a lifetime to undo what this person did in just a few seconds.

What I really like about Chelsea Welch’s story is that in the end, she takes the high road, something the customer in the story didn’t do:

As this story has gotten popular, I’ve received inquiries as to where people can send money to support me. As a broke kid trying to get into college, it’s certainly appealing, but I’d really rather you make a difference to your next server. I’d rather you keep that money and that generosity for the next time you eat out.

To see the discussion on Reddit provoked by this, click this link.

Related article at Christianity Today: Why Are Christians Such Bad Tippers?

July 20, 2012

Another Day of Random Violence

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:57 am

Like so many in North America, I turned on the television this morning only to find there has been a mass shooting in Colorado.

Mass shooting in Colorado. I’m having a deja vu. Haven’t we been down this road before?

It would be very easy for me as a Canadian to get all self-righteous about how this is a consequence of the American constitution’s “right to bear arms;” were it not for a similar shooting that took place in Toronto just a week ago. But oh, how I wish the framers of that constitution had been a little more particular in their wording on this item. (And what they meant by separation of church and state.)

The alleged perpetrator has been arrested. You have to say alleged. Or suspect. Due process of law is guaranteed for all. But the facts on this one are fairly established. There is no way he knew the people he killed. Whatever his motive, there was no individual reason why those people died.

He simply had no regard for human life.

Whatever he learned in school about science, math, spelling, history, geography, music, art, literature; he did not learn the basics of moral law or moral ethics.

He had no regard for human life.

Families are now dealing shock, and loss, and planning funerals; and only beginning to contemplate life without their loved ones; while meanwhile others hold vigil outside hospital rooms hoping for a favorable outcome.

It’s almost 12:00 noon, and I still haven’t posted this. I turn on the television again, and Drew Carey is explaining the rules of a game to a contestant on The Price is Right. The major networks have returned to regular programming; so I title this, Another Day of Random Violence. Just a typical morning in the USA. Does anyone really care today if Drew’s contestant wins the prize package?

No regard for human life.

No regard.

At all.

None.

God, when will it end?


For some reason this morning I can’t get this song off my mind. There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God is Seated at the Conference Table) is actually a song about war, but the chorus hook keeps replaying in my head in light of today’s events. There won’t be any peace, until the Prince of Peace returns.

July 10, 2012

Equal Time

Filed under: character, ethics — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:34 am

Because we’re inundated with media that tells us that everybody is doing it, the other side should probably have equal time.  Here’s what I think some people would tell you…

Materialism

  • many of us are not going to a vacation resort this year
  • what you think is our ‘new’ car actually came off a three-year lease
  • I really don’t want a bigger house, in fact I’d like to downsize
  • those new appliances we ‘bought’ were free with credit card points
  • we think all those electronic gadgets are a waste of money

Boasting

  • yes, we paid off the bank loan, but then we took out another
  • many of us have kids that did not get straight A’s on their report card
  • Harry’s new job was a departmental move, not a promotion
  • the ten pounds I lost wasn’t exercise, they closed the local Krispy Kreme
  • the little league team we coach made the finals only because another team had to forfeit

Ethics

  • there are many people who do not embellish their resumé
  • no, actually I don’t cheat on my income tax
  • since you asked, not everybody looks at porn online
  • sorry, you’re wrong; not everybody tells lies to get ahead
  • if you look carefully, most of us really do drive the speed limit

Sexuality

  • the kids in my core youth group at church actually aren’t sexually active
  • the truth is, I haven’t thought about having an affair with the receptionist
  • I’m not that insecure that I need to flirt to prove I’ve still “got it.”
  • a lot of us women are not interested in reading the fantasy bestseller
  • there are many people who think inward qualities matter more than outward appeal

Anything you’d like to add?

June 6, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Links

Welcome back to WLL. You’re not playing the game unless you click through. Place your mouse on the underlined section of each story and click.  (“Oh, you mean that’s how it works?”)  Above image: Sacred Sandwich archives.

  • Like his father before him — and at almost the same age and circumstances –  a Pentecostal minister from a snake-handling sect dies from a rattlesnake bite.
  • A former marine gets assigned to preach the section of the Sermon on the Mount dealing with non-violence. Reactions were strong, but not from military people.
  •  “For an insecure 16/17-year-old kid whose life, identity, main social activity, and faith were wrapped up in the church she’d been a part of her entire life, it was devastating.”   Check out 11 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When My Church Split.
  • Saturday, May 26, 2012 was supposed to be M.’s wedding day. But in between, after reading the book, When Sinners Say I Do by David Harvey, things changed.
  • Thanks to whoever sent me info about Cardiphonia. Original worship songs on three different themes on a pay-what-you-can basis. The newest is Hymns for the Ascension.  Or just listen.
  • Just when you thought you had solved the dilemma of whether to be buried or have your ashes scattered to the four winds, now there is the option of diamond burial.
  • On a similar theme, here’s a major discussion at Parchment and Pen on the subject some of you have considered, How Can Heaven Be Heaven When People You Love Are In Hell?
  • Got 9 minutes? On video, an orthodox priest teaches the difference between the Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation, under the title, Love Wins – An Orthodox View.
  • Got 53 minutes? That’s a greater commitment. But you’d get to hear the very first ever Phil Vischer podcast with Skye Jethani. (This is for you adults, not the kids.)
  • Got all day?  Check out the video-on-demand apologetics programs featuring Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis.
  • Joel Osteen is set to sit in the producer’s chair for a new movie about the life of Mary which he hopes will be “the biblical prequel to the story of The Passion of The Christ.”
  • Remember that story about the 43-building college campus that was going to be given away free of charge?  Well, it’s down to two finalists.
  • Here’s an article by yours truly at C201 designed for those of you who want to rethink how you draft your prayer lists. (I actually do some serious writing once in awhile.)
  • And a message to those graduating from the hallowed halls: The academy doesn’t need more academics, but the local church does.  Advice for theological seminary grads.
  • Mystery link: Does anyone know the story behind this Elevation Church music video? The YouTube location has no information and the blogger who posted this was equally silent.
  • Matt Hafer’s advice to pastors actually has application to anyone who proposes to stand before a group of people and lead them into God’s Word.
  • It’s “the only billion dollar house in the world.  Ironically, it’s found in one of the poorest countries; India.” America’s Next Top Mommy looks at over-indulgence.
  • You have to read the comments on this one: Advice for students heading off this fall to a Christian college or university.
  • Todd Rhoades thinks it’s only a matter of time before a pastor legally changes his name to something ending in dot com.
  • If the Blue Like Jazz movie missed your town, you can arrange for a showing.

Classic auto emblem from The Holy Observer

January 28, 2012

Are These Realistic Expectations?

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:44 am

Later today, the Drew Marshall Show is introducing another God-blogger,  Rachel Snyder at The Lazy Christian.  I’m not sure with a blog name like that if Drew is providing role models or anti-role models — a few months ago it was Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary.

Anyway, you can catch the show live starting at 1:00 PM EST (until 5:00) or wait a week and catch the segments from the week before which are always posted on Fridays.    Meanwhile, he’s a sneak peek at something from the Rachel’s blog:

A Short Play by Rachel: Great Expectations

Scene opens on RACHEL and FRIEND riding in RACHEL’S car. They are discussing raising RACHEL’S future daughter.


RACHEL:    I think that while they’re growing up, I’ll have my son open my daughter’s car door for her when we get in the car. 

FRIEND:     Why?

RACHEL:     Well, I want my son to know how to treat a woman, and I want my daughter to know how a gentleman should treat her.

FRIEND:     Don’t you think that’s setting up unrealistic expectations for her?

RACHEL:     In what way?

FRIEND:     Well, not all men open car doors for women. That’s not something she should expect.

RACHEL:     And why not? My husband opens the car door for me. If we teach our son to do it, there are probably other moms out there teaching their sons to do it. It’s those little niceties that make all the difference sometimes.

FRIEND:     But maybe she won’t meet one of those guys. Or date one. You’re setting her up with unrealistic expectations.

RACHEL:     I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s a high expectation. 

FRIEND:     Well, maybe it’s too high.

RACHEL:     And why wouldn’t I want my daughter to have high expectations? I want her to end up with a man who treats her the way my husband treats me—the way a man should treat a woman. I don’t want her to settle for some schmuck who doesn’t know how to treat her well. I wouldn’t raise her to think she should only marry a rich man or someone who falls at her feet. But opening a car door for her? That’s something small that says, “I care about you,” every time she gets in the car. 

FRIEND:     Well. My husband doesn’t do it for me.

RACHEL:     So you think I’m giving my daughter unrealistic expectations just because your husband doesn’t open the car door for you?

FRIEND:     I—I guess.

RACHEL:     Well, he should open the door for you. It’s not that hard. You tell him I said that.

END SCENE.

December 28, 2011

How to Show Respect

Filed under: character — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:58 am

Japanese Etiquitte involves different levels of bowing reflecting degrees of respect

In traditional Japanese society it is customary to bow.  While a bow can indicate remorse, it usually indicates humility or even deference to the other person.

In traditional Chinese culture, in addition to bowing, there is a language nuance that has no equivalent in Western society, wherein the first person will speak in humble, even (what we would call) self-depreciating language and then say something that shows esteem for the other person.  The closest we get in English is the phrase, “Welcome to my humble abode,” which, if used when you live in a twenty-room mansion, emphasizes that you feel honored (perhaps even unworthy) to have said guest in your home.  In Chinese society, the remark would then be reciprocated, not unlike the situation where two people defer to each other in trying to go through a narrow door:  “You go first.” “No, you go first.” “Please, I insist, you go first.”   Etcetera.

So what is the correct thing to do in social situations that we in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe find ourselves?  That’s easy, showing respect today involves turning off your cell (mobile) phones and other similar devices.  Let me ask you this:  How many of you had to sit through a Christmas family gathering where people were texting, updating status, checking messages and responding to emails?  All day long?  In the middle of dinner?

Or better yet, how many of you were guilty of said social faux pas?  Nothing says, ‘You’re not important and the thing you’re doing or speaking about is not important,’ like ignoring the present reality in which you find yourself and instead wanting to connect with the outside world.  The people who aren’t there.  The part of your world which you find more interesting than the present company.

Instead we should bow.  And as we bow, we should reach into the pocket of the other person and switch their devices off.  While they do the same to us.

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