Thinking Out Loud

December 2, 2016

Objections to the Christian Faith

I spent most of the morning working on this afternoon’s article for the other blog and the rest of the day is committed. So instead I bring you this article from 2012 which looks at ten common objections raised in opposition to embracing Christianity. 

Bob Ayton is a teacher and Science Department Chairman in Marion County, Florida who has been named as one of the top three science teachers in the state of Florida for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching – one of the most prestigious awards a science teacher can receive.  Before teaching, he had over 7 years of experience as both an Analytical Chemist and Laboratory Manager in the Pharmaceutical Industry for an industry leading pharmaceutical contract company.

You are encouraged to click the link in the title below to read this at source and then look around his blog, Engage.
 

The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity

1) The Bible has mistakes

The Bible is in fact the most reliable and accurate book of antiquity.  It is textually accurate due to the number of manuscripts and the dating of those manuscripts.  There are over 5,000 complete Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, 10,000 Latin, and 9,300 other with some of the earliest copies dating to 120 AD.  Complete New Testaments could be compiled with even the direct quoting of early church fathers.  The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming in that 29 ancient kings from the Old Testament have been found in chronological order with the exact same depiction of names on monuments excavated and written in their own time.  The internal evidence of consistency of 66 books from 40 authors written in 3 different languages in different genres over a span of 1500 years and there is one consistent message throughout the entire book.  Lastly, the prophetic evidence is profound in that the Messianic prophecies alone that came true in Jesus were about 300 in number.  To just fulfill 8 of these would be along the order of 1 in 10 to the 17th power or equal to filling the state of Texas 2 feet deep in coins, marking one black, stirring it up, and letting one blindfolded guy pick out the exact one.  Objection over-ruled.

2) What about all those different translations

Translations do not in fact make the Bible or Christianity inaccurate.  We have some of the most literal translations of the Bible in the English language that are consistent and accurate with regard to the original language through the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and the English Standard Version (ESV).  You would be correct in saying paraphrases like the Message and other liberal translations have swayed drastically from the original words of God, but literal translations are different ways to say the exact same thing.  Objection over-ruled.

3) Hell is just not reasonable

This objection has its roots in the over-estimation of man and the under-estimation of God.  It takes a philosophical worldview starting point that man is essentially good and God forgives everyone in not really upholding any justice at all.  The Bible states that man is not good, that man can do no good that would merit favor with God, and he is ultimately accountable for his thoughts, words, and deeds.  I am just about as excited about Hell and the next guy, but it is a reality according to the wretched sinner that I am.  It fits with justice that breaking the highest laws in the land deserves the highest judgement for which we are accountable.  The amazing thing is that God Himself, Jesus, lived a perfect life, took on God’s wrath for which we deserved, and offers us the free gift of salvation through repentance and faith in Him alone out of His mercy, love, and kindness.  Through faith in Him we get His life of righteousness and He takes on the payment for our sin so that grace is bestowed and justice is satisfied.  With the correct starting point and a proper view of man and God, Hell is definitely reasonable.  Objection over-ruled.

4) What about all those hypocrites in the church

This objection is actually true.  I totally agree with the unbeliever here that there are hypocrites in every church.  It is true that the church is full of hypocrites because we are sinners that are saved by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone for His glory alone.  We get no credit, we get no glory, we get no accolades.  Now there are true and false believers in every church and the true believer is growing in holiness and is a new creation with a new heart and new desires.  However, truth should never be ultimately determined by the actions of the presumed followers but the standard of truth itself – which is Jesus.  Jesus was the only non-hypocrite and He is the truth.  Therefore, test Him as the benchmark for sincerity.  Objection over-ruled.

5) Science and evolution has disproved God

I could go on forever on this one.  Evidential science proves there is a God.  It does not prove who God is but it does prove in the complexity and amazing nature of our Creator.  Macro-evolution is a falsehood which has not one shred of evidential scientific proof and is ultimately a religion in and of itself.  Just click on the categories of Evolution and Atheism and I make my case throughout this blog.  Objection emphatically over-ruled.

6) Only one way to God, what about all those other religions

The exclusivity of Christ is a tough thing to swallow for unbelievers in our “tolerance-driven” culture. That is, tolerate every view except the one view that says there is only One Way.  The logical conundrum that Biblical Christianity presents is that Jesus says, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  This is an exclusive statement that is either right or wrong.  However it cannot coexist with other religions.

If you really look at all the other religions in the world, they are man trying to work to become righteous enough to satisfy God.  Biblical Christianity is the only religion that says that you are not good and no good work can satisfy God.  All God should do is justly punish the sinner who is a lawbreaker.  But God, out of His loving-kindness and mercy, sacrificed His only Son to take the penalty that the sinner deserves.  He died in our place, He took on our iniquities, He bore our sin.  Buddha never died for anybody, Mohammed never died for anybody, only Christ died for us.

How then can we stand before God on the Day of Judgment and say, “God, You have not done enough.  One way of salvation is not enough.”  Objection over-ruled.

7) What about all those wars started by Christians

The key to this questions is again…do not base Christianity on the basis of the actions of some of the presumed followers of the faith that are acting contradictory to what the Bible states.  The Bible clearly states to love your enemy and this has been demonstrated in countless examples of martyrs through the ages.  I urge the person that promotes this complaint to buy and read Foxes Book of Martyrs.

The unbeliever has to look to causes of extreme horrors perpetrated by atheism that is completely justified and aligned with the worldview that there is no God that we are accountable to.  Stalin was responsible for 40-100 million people slaughtered, Hitler killed 20 million people for his evolutionary genocide, Mao Tse-Tung murdered between 40 and 80 million people, and Pol Pot killed 2 million of his own people.  Objection over-ruled.

8) Christianity was spread by the power-hungry people

Yes, the apostles who were all poor, made no money, had absolutely no power, were oppressed by Rome in the world and the religious elite in Israel, and all died martyrs deaths were all power-hungry people who spread Christianity throughout the known land.  Do you see the illogical nature of this objection?

Christianity was spread by God’s ordaining power throughout history by those who were weak, unpopular, uneducated, unimpressive people (see 1 Corinthians 1).  Christianity, time and time again, has been attempted to be eradicated by those in power, only to be unsuccessful.  Objection over-ruled.

9)  If God was really all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there pain and sickness and death?

This again shows a misunderstanding of God and an over-estimation of man.  It is our fault that there is pain and sickness and death.  It is our sin that has brought about these consequences, not God.  The consequence of our sin is death and God should justly bring about that death the instant we first sin.  He is right and just to do this in the same way we want a murderer or rapist to be guilty and have a consequence for their despicable crime.  Our sin are crimes against the highest law, which is God Himself.

However God is patient and merciful and kind and offers forgiveness through His Son.  Therefore, objection over-ruled and that leads us to the final objection.

10)  All objections in every form and facet

All objections are rooted in a person wanting to divert the issue away from the true source, which is themselves.  They are all smoke to cover up the sin and pride that the sinner loves.  The Bible says that a person must repent and put their trust in Jesus to be saved.  If you are that person who has brought about these objections before, focus on your own sin and understand that God offers to pay for that sin through His Son.  He offers to pay the price for your crimes and dismiss your case on the basis of all of the evidence being placed on His Son.  Then and only then can all objections to your condemnation be emphatically over-ruled.

December 1, 2016

Devotional Details and The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

Christianity 201 - newAt least once a month, I try to let readers here know what’s going on at this blog’s sister site, Christianity 201. This time around I thought I’d get into more details.

C201’s tag line is “Digging a Little Deeper.” What I mean by this is something deeper than those little devotional booklets that offer a key verse, a paragraph with a cute story, three more paragraphs, a poem and a prayer. I know many people who use these, and I support the ministries which print them, but often they’re over and done with in 60 seconds. Even with the devotional website I read each morning, it’s easy to be in a hurry and read the key verse, skim the rest, and then move on to other computer activity.

I started C201 at a time when Thinking Out Loud was mired deep in some investigative stuff about the latest Evangelical scandals. I needed balance personally. I started with some short quotations and brief Bible expositions that had a huge faith-focus and then C201 found its identity with pieces which went a bit longer. There are no points for length, but I felt there was too much online that was just too short. Eventually I got into the rhythm of scanning the internet for people who were writing deeper devotional and Bible study content. Some days go deeper than others.

Presently we have two regular writers; Clarke Dixon is midweek (usually Thursdays) and Russell Young is Sundays. I try to do one a week. Most of our writers are people who have appeared previously on the blog. There is a very broad range of doctrinal perspectives. We’ve only had two take-down orders in 2,435 posts and both of them were Calvinists. Just sayin’. (I am looking for one more writer if you are familiar with C201 and feel qualified to contribute.)

On a personal level, I need this. I need the personal discipline that comes from coordinating this project. I need the input of the material that is used. Because Thinking Out Loud posts in the mornings (usually) Christianity 201 posts between 5:31 and 5:34 PM EST. Again, it’s a personal discipline, and with great humility I say, even on my worst days spiritually, I am always in awe of how the daily devotional Bible studies come together.

…So a longer set-up this time around. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately, and as we say regularly at C201, click the title below to read this at source.


The Shortest Path to Reconciliation

Last Sunday, Andy Stanley spoke on the the three “lost” parables of Luke 15: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son. While this is very familiar to most of us, I am always amazed at how the various dynamics and nuances of this famous story result in the situation where good preachers always find something new in this parable.

The premise of the parable is set up very quickly:

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

The last seven words have been amplified and expanded in expository preaching for centuries, but Andy noted:

Andy Stanley 2013This son was gone relationally long before he left home. This relationship was broken.

The father wanted to reconnect with the son so bad, he chose the shortest road back. The father wants to reconnect relationally so much; he knows the relationship is broken; the conversation is the pinnacle of a bunch of other conversations that probably went on… He knows the son is distant… the son is gone, he’s just physically there. The father wants him back; not his body, the relationship. He chooses for the shortest route back. He funds his departure.

What the audience heard when Jesus said this was that the father loved his son — don’t miss this — the father loved the son more than he loved his own reputation, and for that culture, they summed the father up as a fool. This is when you need to go to Leviticus and find that hidden verse that says, ‘stone the rebellious children,’ because this kid deserves to be stoned. In the story the father says, ‘Okay. Let’s pretend that I’m dead. I’ll liquidate half the estate…’

…Here’s a dad who is willing to lose him physically, lose him spatially, lose him to (potentially) women.

He didn’t mention this, but I couldn’t help but think of Romans 1, verses 24, 26 and 28:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

Implicit in this is the idea of God “letting go” of someone, giving them over to their sin. This particular message in Romans 1 seems very final. But in I Cor. 5, a book also written by Paul and in a context also dealing with sexual sin, we see Paul using the same language but with a hope of restoration:

4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

The language in the last phrase isn’t found in Romans 1 but occurs here. Eugene Peterson’s modern translation renders it this way:

Assemble the community—I’ll be present in spirit with you and our Master Jesus will be present in power. Hold this man’s conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can’t, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.

Back to Andy’s sermon! The story in Luke 15 continues:

20b “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Andy continued:

He ran to his son and threw his arms around him…

…Why, when the son was leaving; why when the son had his back to his father, did the father not from that same distance, run throw his arms around him the son? Why does he let the go? He doesn’t chase after him throw his arms around him and say ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’? Why now? It’s the same son, it’s the same distance. It’s the same two people But now he’s running toward his son to throw his arms around him and bring him back. Why? What’s the difference.

This is Jesus’ point. This impacts all of us… The father desired a relationship. The father desired a connection the father desired a connection. — not a GPS coordinate, it was not about not knowing where the son was — it’s not spatially, it’s relationally. What the father wanted more than anything in the world was not the son living in his house, but to be connected with the son and when he saw the connection being made when he saw the disconnected son begin to reconnect he ran toward his son and he kissed him.

He concludes this part of the sermon by reminding us that Jesus is telling his hearers:

‘My primary concern is not the connected; I know where they are. And I’m grateful that we’re connected. My priority, my passion, the thing that brought me to earth to begin with was to reconnect the disconnected to their father in heaven.’ This answers the question, why would Jesus spend so much time with irreligious people? …The reason Jesus spent so much time with disconnected people is because they were disconnected. The reason Jesus was drawn to people who were far from God is because they were far from God.

The gravitational pull of the local church is always toward the paying customers. It’s always toward the connected. It’s always toward the people who know where to park and know how to get their kids in early and find a seat… The gravitational pull and the programming of the local church is always toward the 99 and not toward the 1. …We all, individually and collectively, run the risk of mis-prioritizing… how we see people.

There’s much more. You can watch the entire message at this link; the passage above begins at approx. the 50-minute mark in the service.

November 30, 2016

Wednesday Link List

my-brain-has-too-many-tabs-open

We’re not part of the online echo chamber. You’ll find links here you won’t find elsewhere, plus a few we stole outright. The piece of wall decor above is from P. Graham Dunn; you can order it by clicking the image.

 

i-will-cut-you

November 29, 2016

Growing Up in a Porn-Saturated World

22 Ways Your Kids’ World is Much Different Than Yours

kid-at-computerLongtime readers here know that adult content on the internet was once a more common theme here. Despite some publisher interest, when the book project didn’t move to the next steps, I moved on to other activities. What would have been very much needed at the time is now more widely covered by other writers, both in print and online. Plus, it’s a topic I no longer wish to be strongly associated with.

Nonetheless, I’ve continued to watch a certain aspect of the topic if only from a distance; that aspect being to try to gauge what is happening to kids who have simply always had access to graphic images of people clothes-less and/or involved in various types of sexual activity.

The world has changed. I believe this is one of the most important articles I’ve written, and I hope you’ll share this with others.

Here, in no particular order, are things I believe every parent needs to think about. I’ve put keywords in bold face type for those who find this longer than most posts here.

1. They have way too much unsupervised time after school. With both parents working, there is often two to three hours from the time they reach home to the time the parents arrive for dinner. Not at your house? Then perhaps at the home of the friend they head to after classes end. Unless they’re playing after-school sports, or are diligent at working at scholarship-level rates on homework, parents often are unaware where the idle time might take their children. This is an important factor in several of the items which follow.

2. They have experienced an utter and complete loss of sexual innocence and mystery which was not common to previous generations. Heck; I still feel there are dimensions to sex which I don’t fully understand, not because I lack the general knowledge or intellectual capacity, but because I grew up at a time when it was all meant to be mysterious. But they grew up with access to all the videos they needed to demystify every possible human sexual activity and all their variants. Fact is mom and dad, they could probably answer some of your questions.

3. Many of them believe that what isn’t intercourse isn’t sex. Maybe we can (indirectly) credit Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” for that attitude. So even within the church (or maybe especially within the church) we have a very high per capita rate of technical virgins who actually have an incredibly high degree of sexual experience.

4. It gets worse: For many sex is simply only sex; in other words, it’s not such a big deal. They might see your views on politics or environmentalism as a more powerful reflection on who you are as a person than your virgin/non-virgin status. The now-considered-quaint notion that teens should “want their wedding night to be special” is becoming as outdated as the notion of a wedding itself.

5. Which brings us to the point that whether consciously or sub-consciously, many assume they will have multiple partners in their lifetime; even among kids in Christian families. (I should qualify here and note that “the divorce epidemic” predates the internet, though the net has been an agent for what I term accelerated social change, something we’ll deal with again in a future article.)

6. They see themselves as sexual beings. There is a strange phenomenon right now where pre-teen and teen boys remove their shirts for their profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter. (A good place to remind everyone that younger ones are not officially allowed to have FB accounts; but we know that guideline isn’t always followed. The magic number is also 13 on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and others.)

7. They have full access to everything online with a data-plan enabled smart phone that you have on your computer. The notion that the kids need to be sitting in front of a PC or laptop in order to access the Internet’s dark side is somewhat outdated. They aren’t looking for 42-inch picture quality, instead they’re exploring and discovering a new, exciting world of possibilities.

8. They live in a world where sexuality is fluid, but fail to foresee that the present fluidity means there could be future fluidity. Kids on the fringes of traditional, mainstream sexuality see their LGBT-etc declarations to be permanent and greatly resent adults or friends suggesting that their views or attractions may change when they get older. (There may be an element where pride — in the more traditional meaning of the word — prevents them from recanting of previously categorical or dogmatic statements about the tribe with which they have the greatest affinity.)

9. They are empowered by the choices of sexual or gender identity. They get to pick and choose who they are off the rack in the same way they choose the colors and patterns of the cases for their phones. In the wrong body? That’s easy, there are drug therapies and surgeries to fix that. (This takes place even within church communities or even Bible Colleges; many youth workers are aware of people who were or are currently in their group who are undergoing gender reassignment; most also have at least one or two youth who are pushing boundaries.)

10. In all probability they have been photographed naked even if they took the picture themselves and immediately deleted it. For some it may be a body-image obsession and for others it’s simply something silly to do with that surplus of after-school time mentioned earlier. The cell phone camera is the new mirror and the unclothed image isn’t subject to any particular fashion trend or wardrobe budget.

11. Even among Christian kids there is a compartmentalization of the sacred and the profane. For example they may not see a contradiction in an actor or actress being photographed nude while wearing a cross. Many church tweens and teens live a double life, being a different person at home and youth group than they are at school or at their part-time job. In a way, that’s nothing new, but many church tweens and teens are also living a blended life where they opt in some of the Bible’s moral teachings but not others.

12. While they know some online images aren’t safe for school or home, they fail to realize that through constant exposure to the images, their worldview is being totally reprogrammed. Their opinions on everything from premarital sex to incest is subject to whatever online websites have been allowed to influence them.

13. Their sources for advice and counsel are often online forums. Rather than seek out their parents, youth pastor or guidance counselor; they are more likely to converse about vital life issues with people on chat rooms and forums, which means in many case they are getting peer counsel only; they are essentially sheep without a shepherd.   

14. Sadly, they are not particularly impressed with information about societal norms in previous generations. When their parents speak of life in the ’80s or ’90s, you might as well be describing the 1880s or the 1790s; to them it’s all ancient history and is therefore somewhat irrelevant, unless they need to know to understand a novel which is part of the literature exam.

15. Many of the ones who are sexually active are not likely to stop. As is often heard concerning this issue, once escaped it’s almost impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. 

16. Some of those who started early being sexually active are already sexually bored and are therefore looking at alternative sexualities, fetishes, or even asexuality. (Can’t help wondering if recruiters for convents and monasteries might want to note that last one.)

17. Underlying some of the sexual acting out is the fact that many of them of hurting. Their lives are not the Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch type of lives of past generations. Many have had friends die — probably more than you did at their age — through accident, illness, criminal activity or at their own hand.  Others are broken by a home life that involves being passed around like a football due to joint custody arrangements, or suddenly sharing a bedroom (and a life) with a step-sibling as a result of a parent’s remarriage. For others, it’s the pressure of academic life which can start in the junior high or middle school years. Sexual activity provides a distraction or a release from those pressures.

18. Their sexual decisions may be taking place in atmosphere fueled by alcohol or weed. The latter, while now legalized in a small handful of U.S. states, is available everywhere even to kids at a young age if they are determined to gain access. 

19. Because of their access to all types of video files, their desire is to emulate what they see in triple-X-rated videos or what they read about celebrities doing. Whereas in past generations a kid might dream of being on stage or on television or recording an album like their entertainment industry idol, now their wish is to do all the things their idol is reported to have done (and by implication, get away with it on some level and continue to enjoy a career and a generally good reputation.) 

20. For some of them the catalog of possible sexual activity is like a bucket list and they want to experiment and see what they like; what works for them and what doesn’t. Furthermore, if you’re still harboring ancient stereotypes, this is as true for girls as it is for boys. (Increasingly, boys will talk about being raped by a girl; the language wasn’t extensively used that way in the past.) Some of this activity starts at an early age, with much taking place at weekend parties, though there are many possible venues. 

21. Many tweens and teens are at a point where they feel no need to cover-up; there is no sense of modesty. Someone once said that humans are a unique species as we are the only ones capable of blushing. That unique characteristic is slowly disappearing. 

22. Finally — and I know some of you have been reading through the whole list wondering where this one was — they may have been abused. There may have been one incident or many which means there are no sexual frontiers to protect and everything is fair game, especially if they are now in control. Conversely, their abuse may have very much diminished their self-worth propelling them into a pattern of increased sexual activity.

…I know there are some people who will read this and feel things are being overstated, said too generally, or that the whole point of this is to paint a ‘the sky is falling’ type of panic. That’s not the intention. I’m open to have people quote studies proving that things are no worse now than they’ve been in the past. I doubt that’s the case however, and I’ll come back to the topic of accelerated social change here in the future.  

What I do hope is that for parents, grandparents, neighbors, teachers, concerned friends I’ve raised some topics here that present a clearer picture of what’s being evidenced online in various formats and platforms. 

So what do we do? Many times people who try to put the brakes on a trend that seems spiraling out of control are simply laughed at, even within the church. ‘You can’t stop that; it’s inevitable;’ is the response heard so often, an echo of a previous generation’s, ‘Kids will be kids.’ 

Whatever my response or your response, it has to begin with awareness.

If you’re a parent whose children are not going down this road right now, be very thankful; but also be aware that some kids simply repress sexual thoughts and actions and then everything explodes when they enter college or university. I would say that you need to have some conversations, but not have others. The advice of Song 8:4, “Do not awaken desire before its time;” is useful here, but there is also a place for warning — Book of Proverbs style — your kids what is going to happen down the road of life. That seems like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared on this blog many times:

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

November 28, 2016

Music Musings (2) The Worship Agenda

Filed under: Christianity, Church, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:28 am

Recently I read somewhere that the present worship agenda for many of our churches is being set by three large churches which have produced three worship music families: Bethel Worship, Jesus Culture and Hillsong. While the word agenda may imply something rather sinister, the point is that compositions from these groups currently dominate the music used in churches which have adopted a modern worship format.

hymnboardI was thinking about that this weekend as I processed a service we were attending and also seeing it comparison to a more liturgical Reformed service we had attended the week before and the thought occurred to me that these newer songs are just plain long. They were birthed in environments were the term soaking music is broadly understood and in environments where songwriters simply adopt the dominant style they are experiencing.

I’m not going to place emphasis on the length of the songs in and of itself but I want to simply point out that in the half hour we set aside for that worship time, we might have sung about ten hymns, or even about ten worship songs of an older vintage.

However, if we went with the hymns, and each one had only three verses, that might we would have sung about thirty verses and what a different thirty verses they would have been; each rich in deep theology and scripture, and each both proclaiming/declaring truth and also teaching and reminding ourselves of these truths.

I like modern worship. But I crave something deeper, more profound.


For yesterday’s Music Musing, click here.

Want an outside-the-box fresh alternative for your church? I’m not a part of the doctrinal tribe from which it originates, but consider the material Sovereign Grace Music is producing.

November 27, 2016

Music Musings (1) Calling in the Pros

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:37 pm

I grew up in a large church that would regularly pay professional musicians to augment the choir and orchestra’s Christmas productions. In hush whispers, some conversations among the regulars consisted of speculating on the spiritual standing of these people, though some were definitely Christians.

Last night at the choral concert we attended, I started thinking about this subject as I heard the featured soloist sing a very scriptural lyric. There is definitely a difference between being a hired instrumentalist and being a vocalist who is actually proclaiming the truth of God with us at this time of year. While I know absolutely nothing about the singer, I wondered how one might navigate such lyrics if they were not part of one’s personal experience. Perhaps it’s just a matter of narrating the story as one might a work of fiction, but of course we believe the story to be true.

I’ve heard it suggested that the audience can tell; that there is a qualitative difference that audiences can detect when the person singing is one who knows and lives the truths of what we call The Gospel. Perhaps some have the radar to see that authenticity more plainly than others.

Professional gigging musicians refer to the body of works they perform regularly as the literature, and perhaps the Christmas or Easter body of works is simply another sub-section of that. I suppose I can still appreciate the power of the compositions themselves without having to demand the conduit by which those songs is brought to me profess orthodoxy before I will listen.

So today’s question is: If the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing Handel’s Messiah in the forest and nobody is around to hear them, is there sound?

…Or some question like that.


Here’s one song that the choir performed last night; a unique version of Fairest Lord Jesus arranged by a Norse composer. (Or simply click below.)

If you’d prefer this in a more contemporary sounding arrangement, click this link.

November 26, 2016

Always Something There to Remind Me

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:48 am

reminderEvery Thursday afternoon I get an email from my church reminding me what’s happening at weekend services. It’s somewhat the same every week — I’ve told them a weekly verse of scripture and a graphic people can use on their Instagram and Facebook accounts would help — but it’s definitely appreciated. (Someone even takes the time to make sure things happening between its arrival and Sunday morning are covered for one last time.)

We live in a world where we need to be reminded of things. We’re too busy. We’re too forgetful.

For years in my early 20s I attended a weekly Bible study that was held in a private home and wasn’t associated with a particular church. Each week the leader would phone, remind me, and then ask for a direct commitment; “Will you be there this week?” He was a very busy guy in the commercial banking industry and besides leading the study, he took time to phone the entire list every week. By doing so he had extra contact with us. (I look back now and see it as the equivalent of the traditional ‘pastor at the door’ thing on Sunday mornings.)

This morning I attended a men’s Bible study at another church. I mentioned that it’s too bad they don’t have a phone list, or better yet, an email list. This particular church has leveraged social media well; they have a good person at the helm of this who knows the internet, but her particular strategy has been more Facebook-oriented whereas I still see that as skewing slightly more to a female demographic. I believe traditional email might work well to remind the guys to come for the breakfast.

This church also doesn’t have a church directory which includes email addresses. The church I mentioned first does do this and it allows people to continue the conversations started on Sundays throughout the week; to initiate contact; or to follow up with friends they haven’t seen in awhile.

But back to reminders: I think we need them. We also need the encouragement to join in on various church activities in a general social climate where many find themselves isolated.


Related: Here are three devotionals which deal with our tendency to forget.

Tangentially: Email bulletins reduce the number which need to be printed each week, thereby saving the environment. Phone calls to ministry group members also reduce the need for printed bulletin inserts.

 

November 25, 2016

Faith and Friends

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:21 am

So the other day I was at a restaurant for lunch with two Jewish friends.

After some good conversation the server brought our meals and a couple of fork-fulls in, my one friend suddenly gasped and looking at my other friend shouted: “Stop! We’re Jews! I didn’t realize you ordered that. Did you not notice the menu description? That contains pork!”

To which my other friend said, “I guess I’m not that observant.”

 

November 24, 2016

Giftware Can Inspire but Uses Scarce Resources to Manufacture

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:38 am

christian-kitschA few days ago Zach Hunt posted a picture to Twitter which reminded me of one of my constant rants, namely the amount of scarce and costly resources that are used to manufacture items in the broadly defined category of giftware.

While some items are truly inspirational, and there is a scriptural precedent for adorning your house with such things (see Deut 6:9, Duet 11:3,) many items are simply wasteful, especially when you zoom out from Bible-themed gifts to the broad gift industry. (We regularly visit a liquidation warehouse for such things and always see a skid piled high with resin tabletop items made to look as though shaped with human excrement. Guess that one didn’t sell.)

barcodeSo here’s the rant: I would argue that in order to obtain a bar-code (a UPC) you would have to appear before a tribunal and argue why the manufacture of your product is necessary. In other words, before you start fabricating anything (other than a sample) you would need to prove to a governing body (operating in regional centers) why scarce resources should be sacrificed for the making of that item.

Since it’s basically impossible to get anything into the distribution and retail system unless it bears a bar-code, you would be told whether or not what you’ve come up with contributes to society.

I recognize that from an American perspective this is very anti-business or anti-capitalist; but I would think from a European perspective you might see acceptance of this type of screening filter.

 

 

November 23, 2016

Wednesday Link List

starry-night-holy-night

The above seasonally-appropriate treatment of a VanGogh classic is by Dan Reynolds who works in a variety of media. You can learn more about owning the original or a $25 print by clicking the image or this link

A shorter list this week as my 74% American readership is preoccupied with travel, turkey, football and what one advertiser called “Thanksgathering.”

hipster-nativity-set

 

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