Thinking Out Loud

October 31, 2009

Thoughts on That Most UnChristian of all Days

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:17 pm

I’m almost afraid to mention Halloween here.

First, I’m fearful of what all the extra publicity is going to do to the pastor at Amazing Grace Baptist Church when he lights the first match, no doubt surrounded by the tabloid media.   Of course,  this letter writer to their local newspaper notes some interesting complexities.


Yes, it's a pumpkin!

This will mark 20 years that we’ve lived in our present house.   The first year, Mrs. W. decorated in style.   Yes, we celebrated the pagan holiday.   I think we gave out fortune cookies; not the ones with Bible verses which we can’t afford.

But the second year, we gave out Christian cassette tapes.   I contacted one of the distributors and asked if they had something for pre-teens, and something for little kids that they wanted to unload.   I bought about 90 tapes for 50 cents each.

A couple of years ago, a girl came up to me in the bookstore and said, “I once lived in your neighborhood and got one of the tapes you gave out for Halloween.   I really enjoyed it.”

So hey, you never know.

But I realize as I write this that this subject is very much unwelcome among many Evangelicals.   As I wrote last year,

…Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one unique area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do…

So I guess we’re going to turn off the lights — hard to do when Halloween falls within Daylight Savings Time* — and hope the kids don’t throw eggs over the freshly painted aluminum siding.

If you missed last year’s more informative post about tomorrow’s special day, All Saints Day, you can read it here.   This year All Saints Sunday coincides with the day itself.

time change*Daylight Saving Time 2009 actually ends tonight, or more correctly, tomorrow morning, November 1st at 2 AM.   Maybe one of my UK readers can tell me when “Summer Time” ends over the pond.  If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, it may be earlier than you think, so you can still make it to church!


October 30, 2009

Cartoon Friday

After Eden October 2 2009

After Eden from Answers in Genesis



asbo carousel

The ever-cynical, always thought provoking ASBO Jesus



close to home - home college

Popular syndicated Close to Home by John McPherson

October 29, 2009

Link Here to Another World

Link Day2It’s the internet; a place where you just have to think of it and it exists.  Here — in no particular order —  are some places I’ve been since our last linkfest ten days ago:

  • Jonathan at ReThink Mission gets his friend Aaron — a non believer — talking about how Christians could better share their faith.   Insight number one:  “Don’t come with an agenda.”   Hear more here.
  • At the blog, Solar Crash, Lon points out that, “Sponsoring a Child is Not Loving a Child.”  Good thoughts.   But then — and whatever you do, don’t miss this — he includes a video of a sponsored child who is now an adult who is speaking to the Catalyst conference on behalf of Compassion.  Then, something amazing happens!
  • Fasten your seat belts for this one.   What if the message of creation was packaged in scientific-sounding language and the message of evolution was phrased in religious-sounding words?   How might this change your appreciation of both messages?   Especially when both of them are talking at once?  Check out the 3 1/2 minute animation Duelity on Vimeo.
  • The evening news bring images of suffering and disaster into vivid focus, but increasingly, people spend more time at the small (computer) screen than the large (broadcast) screen, thereby avoiding media discomfort.  So here, courtesy of The Big Picture, are some rather striking images of Typhoon Ketsana which struck The Phillipines during the last week of September.
  • As a one-time philosophy major at university — the same year Time magazine said, “Philosophy is the prerequisite to unemployment” — I’ve been very much drawn to the rather engaging Justice series airing on the PBS Think Bright digital network.   At least 24 Harvard University lectures by Michael Sandel have been condensed into twelve 55-minute portions; the first time Harvard has posted courses online.    Grab your notebook and join the class here.
  • The blog Higher Ground reposts a series of statements by Charles Finney under the title, “How To Preach Without Converting Anyone.”   Warning:  Finney pulls no punches.  For example: “Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, ‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’”  Check it out here.
  • You’ll notice the previous link is actually lifted from something called Dead Guy Blog.  (Tag line: ” Learning from the giants of the faith that have gone before us to strengthen our faith and stir our affections toward God.”)  I wanted to include this blog as a separate link highlight and I want to encourage you to check out the entire blog, not just the permalink to one entry.
  • David Fitch’s “A Warning List for Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering” at his blog, Reclaiming The Mission, has a lot more substance to be limited to just the missional conversation.   What do you look for in a church?   Maybe it’s all the wrong things!    I like number ten.  The last sentence.   Read all ten warnings here.
  • My favorite Nashville pastor, Pete Wilson, quotes John Ortberg: “It has never been easier to obtain the scriptures and never harder to absorb.”  Profound stuff, eh?   Sendin’ Pete some link love here.
  • Kathy at the blog, The Well has a gripping item from David Yonggi Cho telling the story of a pastor who prepares his family for the martyrdom they are about to experience.   That very night.   Read it here.
  • Jesus Christ preached the good news of The Kingdom.   He didn’t just offer “Get out of Hell” cards.   Sometimes that message gets lost on even seasoned churchgoers.   Christian musician Shaun Groves gets caught in the middle of such a situation at one of his recent concerts.
  • Finally, to make it an even dozen, here’s a link from this blog just a few days ago that I thought would generate more comments.   Hidden between the lines is the answer to the question, Why Evangelicals Don’t Have Crucifixes.   Or maybe not so hidden.

Thanks to Steve McCoy at Reformissionary for the link to Re Think Mission.

Here’s a link to our last link list,  and also the one before that.

If you got this far and still haven’t linked to anything, consider just the first three items on today’s list.

October 28, 2009

Your God Is Too Misunderstood

In a world where we often speak of “brands” in Christian publishing, it’s unusual to see a publishing imprint where many different voices seem to speaking to one central mission or sharing one common voice.   Windblown Media has managed to do just that, pushing a giant “pause” button on some of our nearest and dearest views on both the Godhead;  and our views on the church — us — the way we interact together as the body, as well as within our families or mariages.

As with He Loves Me, The Shack, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Bo’s Café, and now The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford, readers are treated to a fresh perspective, one that is sure to bring about some agitation by those who would have us follow a God that is not a kindler, gentler deity.

The Misunderstood GodWhen I first flipped through the pages of The Misunderstood God, I was expecting something similar to the first half of Your God Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips.   I came to that book about a dozen years ago for the first time, and was astounded by how much my own God perspective was informed more by comparisons to other authority figures than informed by scripture itself.

While some people might see books like this as a giant piece of chalk (or marker) about to write on the giant blackboard (or whiteboard) everything one needs to know in terms of their doctrine of God, I prefer to see this kind of book as a giant eraser, cleaning off all those false doctrines and wrong views we’ve collected over the years.   Sometimes, such an eraser has to scrub a little bit harder to get some of those off the board so we can start fresh.

In fact, the first half of Your God Is Too Small by Phillips does just that type of deconstruction — in only about 60 pages of this rather small book — before reconstructing in the second half; but it’s the first half of the book that really packs the greatest punch.

darin huffordBut a few chapters into The Misunderstood God I finally figured out that the deconstruction and reconstruction takes place here on a chapter-by-chapter basis, using as its motif, I Corinthians 13.   I’ve heard people speak before on how the “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage can, if it’s true that ‘God is love,’ be read as, “God is patient, God is kind…”   I had just never seen it before as the key to healing misunderstandings we have about the nature of God.

The problem compounds for those who — in either J. B. Phillips’ generation or Darin Hufford’s generation — can’t embrace the idea of a kinder, gentler God because it would mean unsubscribing from all the lifelong beliefs they have held.   Many people are predisposed to being angry because their God is angry.   Actually, I heard that years ago at a music festival where a speaker suggested — in jest — the following worship lyrics:

He is Lord!
He is Lord!
He has risen from the dead
And blown his  stack!

I remember everyone laughing at the absurdity of those lyrics, but really, that’s the God-picture that’s more dominant in our minds.   Which is why the Windblown books, particular He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen and The Misunderstood God are so badly needed.

I do think there are some rough edges in the writing.   A few sentences left me wide-eyed wondering, “Did he really mean to say that?”  I thought of marking pages as I was reading, but then I figured the critics will find these soon enough.

What matters most here is that books like this are refreshing to the soul.    Maybe the chalk (or the marker) is needed, but the eraser first has to get rid of everything previously written.  Books like this are rare, which makes them a breath of fresh air.

God loves you.   God is love.   He is a loving God.    Yes, he is a God of justice and yes, he has shown his judgment of sin in the past and will do so again.   But the latter has been inscribed on our minds much more than the former, which needs to be said again and again, if only to be given equal time.

God loves you.  God is love.   He is a loving God.   Just say that out loud a few times.

God loves me.  God is love.   He is my loving God.

For a quotation from the book, link back to this post here a few days ago.

For He Loves Me, here’s my review from December 16, 2008, a remix review from May 3rd.

For So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, here’s my review from April 19, 2008.

For Bo’s Café, here’s my recent review from September 14, 2009.

he loves methe shackSo You Don't Want To GoBo's CaféThe Misunderstood God

Pictured:  book cover, Darin Hufford, Windblown Media family of titles.

October 27, 2009

My Blog Has Been Translated Into Another Language

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:43 am

Here’s what I wrote and what they wrote:



The announcement several days ago that Shane Hipps, author of Flickering Pixels (Zondervan) would be leaving Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizona to join the teaching staff of Mars Hill Bible  Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan has been greeted with mixed reactions.   In case you don’t know Shane, here’s how his personal website tells it:

Prior to accepting his call as a pastor, Shane was a strategic planner in advertising where he gained experience in understanding media and culture. Much of his time was spent working on the multimillion-dollar communications strategy for Porsche Cars North America.

Several years into his career, he had a “Damascus” experience in which he realized he was spending his life working diligently to perpetuate consumer culture and promote values that ran counter to his most deeply held beliefs. So he left advertising to pursue his long held interest in spirituality and theology.

He went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and in 2004 accepted a call to serve as Lead Pastor at Trinity.

The heresy-hunting website Apprising Ministries wasted no time — and no love — to proclaim that Hipps joining Rob Bell amounted to “peas in a corrupt spiritual pod;”  mixing the metaphor with a picture of sheep jumping off a cliff.   C’mon guys, tell us what you really think.

I mentioned last week my own concerns with Rob Bell’s recent interview with the Boston Globe.   But the sensationalism of Apprising — a ministry birthed by Ken Silva, a SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) pastor in America — somewhat destroys their credibility.

Instead, I decided to head over to Trinity Mennonite’s website and in particular take the time to listen to Shane’s announcement — it’s not his final sermon — to his church in its entirety.   It was, I believe one of the finest sermons I’ve ever heard where a pastor defines his calling to move on.   And while the sermon was somewhat of an administrative necessity, he alluded to several passages of scripture.

“I can’t resign from this community.  My heart is still here.   I love this community.   …But I have to leave.   So I told them they’ll either have to fire me or send me.   It is my humble wish that somewhere down the road you will be able to send me, because I need you; I carry you with me.”

Several times he tells his congregation that he loves them.   Something you don’t often hear pastors say with this level of emotion.    He tells them that he didn’t “create” anything at Trinity, but simply “named” the giftings that were working within the congregation.

I personally doubt if any of the Apprising Ministries people bothered to listen to that sermon.   They don’t know Shane’s heart.   And based on their resource list, they don’t understand the next generation — or ministry to the next generation — whether labeled emergent, emerging, missional or postmodern.

You can hear the sermon by clicking on the sermon audio page, and selecting Sunday, October 4th.     Take the time to listen as you’re working at your computer for the next half hour.


The proclamation several years ago that Shane Hipps, writer of Flittering Pels ( Zondervan ) would be leaving Threesome Mennonite Church in Glendale, AZ to join the instruction staff of Mars Hill Word Chapel Church in K Rapids, MI holds been recognized with miscellaneous reactions. Just in case you make n’t cognise Shane, here Holds how his personal website states it:

Prior to accepting his call as a curate, Shane was a strategical deviser in advertisement where he derived experience in understanding media and civilisation. Much of his clip was passed working on the multimillion-dollar communications scheme for Porsche Cars North US.

Several eld into his calling, he holded a “ Damascus ” experience in which he realise he was passing his life working diligently to perpetuate consumer civilization and encourage values that ran counter to his most deeply maintained beliefs. So he left advertizement to prosecute his long held involvement in spiritualty and divinity.

He attended to realise a Mdiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, and in 2004 accepted a call to function as Lead Curate at Tercet.

The heresy-hunting site Apprising Ministries squandered no clip and no love to proclaim that Hipps joining Rob Bell amounted to “ peas in a corrupt religious seedcase; ” merging the metaphor with a ikon of sheep leaping forth a drop-off. C’mon cats, say us what you really believe.

I cited last hebdomad my ain concerns with Rob Bell ‘s recent interview with the Boston Earth. But the sensationalism of Apprising a ministry birthed by Cognizance Sylva, a SBC ( Southern Baptist Convention ) parson in America slightly destruct their credibleness.

Alternatively, I determined to head over to Trinity Mennonite’s website and particularly yield the clip to listen to Shane ‘s annunciation it Holds not his last discourse to his church in its entireness. It was, I believe one of the finest discourses I ‘ve ever heard where a parson delimitates his vocation to go on. And while the discourse was slightly of an administrative necessity, he alluded to several transitions of Word.

“ I ca n’t renounce from this community. My bosom is still here. I love this community. … But I should leave. So I sayed them they ‘ll either need to fire me or direct ME It is my lowly wishing that someplace down the route you will be able to direct me, because I involve you; I transport you with me. ”

Several times he states his fold that he loves them. Something you make n’t oftentimes hear rectors state with this grade of emotion. He says them that he maked n’t “ make ” anything at Three, but only “ called ” the giftings that were working within the faithful.

I personally doubt if any of the Apprising Ministries people troubled to listen to it discourse. They make n’t cognize Shane ‘s bosom. And based on their resource listing, they make n’t understand the following contemporaries or ministry to the following contemporaries whether labeled emergent, emerging, missionary or postmodernist.

You can hear the preaching by snapping on the sermon audio page , and taking Sun, Oct Fourth. Take the clip to listen as you ‘re work on your computer for the following half hr.

But the question is, “Who are they?”   The person in question blogs on Windows Live, which means I can’t even leave a comment.   He (or she) ripped off the entire article including the pictures, the links and even the formatting.    I can’t decide if this is funny or pathetic.  Or someone’s high school homework exercise.    A mention would be nice.

If you have Hotmail or Windows Live, and want to suggest that credit where credit is due would be appropriate, you can link to it here.

Or maybe someone can just tell me what language it is I’ve been translated into…

October 26, 2009

A Guide to Christian Bloggers

So how was church yesterday?    If you’re like the majority of Evangelicals in North America (and increasingly, the UK) it probably went down something like this:

  • you were casually dressed
  • there was an opportunity to have coffee either before or after the service, or in some cases, during the service
  • either at the outset, or part-way through the service your kids were dismissed to enjoy their own worship “experience” in a kid-friendly “environment”
  • you sang a number of modern worship choruses, perhaps with a hymn or two added for flavor
  • your pastor — equally casually dressed — preached a message from a topical series he is working through with key points and texts projected on a large screen at the front
  • after the service you had a couple of brief conversations with people from your small group who you will see later in the week at someone’s home

Such is Christian worship in 2009.

EZGtoons - Erin Gillespie 11409But now you’re sitting at your computer and you’re surfing for some good Christian blogs to read, but finding yourself in a kind of spiritual twilight zone.     The people you’re reading — in many cases anyway — don’t look or talk like the people you meet on Sunday mornings. You ask yourself, “Why can’t I find a blog by someone online who looks like me?”  So you keep searching.

Why is this?

It’s largely because the Christian internet is dominated by a number of people who have a particular axe to grind.    Once you’ve been doing this for awhile, you’ll recognize them — “By their links ye shall know them” — but until then, here’s a primer on what you’re finding on your computer screen…

Militant Calvinist Soldiers

There’s nothing objectively wrong with being Calvinist.   Most people are either Calvinist or Arminian in terms of their core doctrines, so you’re going to end up as more one or the other eventually.   The problem is that these people are consuming vast amounts of bandwidth engaging all kinds of deep debates which, while they might prove valuable in terms of Bible study on obscure points of doctrine, no one can remember how they got started.

The other problem is that they tend to use the word “Calvinism” or “Calvinist” ten times more often than they use words like “Christian” or “Jesus.”    Or worse, they use words like “Monergism.”   Believe me, if you think you’re coming down with a case of Monergism, you might want to get it checked.

Personally, I want my ticket to Eternity to be based on Christ’s finished work on the cross for my sin, and not that I stood for a particular organization, denomination or doctrine; or that I could recite all the proof-texts for a particular viewpoint.

King James Onlyites

Somewhere along the line, the joy of their salvation got sucked out and replaced with a mission:  That all Bibles everywhere on earth be eliminated save for their one copy of the King James Version in black leather.   With a red ribbon marker.   And a zipper.

Which, is fine if that’s what you like.   Goodness knows one part of my Zondervan Bible software is still set up to do keyword searches in good ol’ KJV, though it displays the results in something more readable.    But Onlyites aren’t allowed to have preferences.   They have to spiritualize everything, and if they can’t find enough external evidence supporting the supremacy of one particular translation, then they make stuff up.

Never get in an argument with these people because there is nothing — absolutely nothing — you can say that will sway them.   Yea, verily, their mind hath been firmly fix-ed, neither shall anyone dissuade them.  Thus spake I.

The Law and The Gospel Litigists

The fact is, we’re all sinners in God’s eyes.   We’ve all missed the mark in various ways at various times.   Our attempts at righteousness are as far from “pure white” as the paint rags I used during our last kitchen reno.   So yes, nobody is going to get on God’s heaven registration list just by trying to live a good life and be a good person.

On the other hand, this approach, as true as it is,  while it works well if you’re doing somewhat random “witnessing” to strangers, is about as far from lifestyle evangelism as you want to be; especially with friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers, fellow-students, etc., that you want to see cross the line of faith over the long-term.   Plus, at least you’ve earned the right to be heard, instead of spouting volcanic eruptions of guilt and condemnation.

So while it’s true that there aren’t many roads to God, there are many ways to introduce someone to Jesus.   L&G people tend to get upset if you’re not doing it their way, or winning as many people as they are, or feel called to do street ministry.


Years ago, a rather cool guy named Walter Martin figured out that with all the cults and “isms” out there, it would be good for someone to track the beliefs of different writers and organizations whose beliefs bear a strong external similarity to Christianity, but also hold to other ideas that are somewhat off the wall.   He started what is often called a discernment ministry.

With some of the excesses sometimes found in the Charismatic movement, that investigation started hitting closer to home.   Which may be justified.   Especially when you have a research staff documenting everything so that your end product isn’t just a load of innuendo and veiled accusations.

Today however, it seems like there is a Walter Martin wannabe around every corner.   And they don’t trust anyone under 40.   Which means they can — and probably will — show up at your church on Sunday morning and nitpick over the use of words and phrases and pronounce you apostate, cultic or — even worse — Emergent.     (Note:  Emergents who quote Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards totally confuse them.)   And you don’t want to know their views on music.

Sermon Scribes

These people never actually blog anything original but simply cut and paste vast amounts of sermon texts, often completely omitting to include anything resembling paragraph breaks.

Like the Hindu temple priests who believe there’s something in the incense that rises up to God,  these Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V bloggers believe that there’s something of value in posting these vast and usually impossible-to-follow sermons online, that apparently can only be perceived by God Himself and other Sermon Scribe bloggers.

Personally, I’ll take a podcast over text.   You get the inflection of the speaker who, if they are tech-savvy enough to post a podcast, usually has a communication style that’s less 1910 and more 2010.   Plus you get the audio equivalent of paragraph breaks:  Deep breaths.

Ecclesiastical Elite

There are some good leadership blogs out there.   I even link to some of them in my blogroll.  But if you’re a new Christian, you need to know these aren’t for you so much as they’re for pastors to communicate with other pastors.

Frankly, pastors have different issues than the rest of us.   They live in a world that is vocationally as far removed from you are as the east is from the west.  They work odd hours.  They drink a lot of coffee.  They read books that even the staff at your local Christian bookstore don’t know how to find.

I have great respect for these men, and 99.44% of them are men.   But their blogs should exist on some kind of private blogging network that only other pastors can access.   One of my favorites is actually not on my blogroll for just that reason.    I started thinking about how frustrated and confused I would be if he were my pastor.    It’s good stuff, it’s just not good for everyone.

Conference Crowd

Some people think the big money to be made off Christianity these days is in running conferences and seminars.    I disagree.   The big money is actually in the airline business and the hotel business.   And those lanyard name tag things.

This crowd devotes at least 66.7% of the blog postings in anticipation of a forthcoming conference and another 66.7% coming down from the conference high.   The remaining 66.7% is spent live blogging from the conference itself.   (Hey, it’s arithmatic license, okay?)

There is an saying among modern Evangelicals:  “Send a man to a conference and you’ve recharged his spiritual batteries for a day.  Teach him how to organize and run his own conference and you’ve kept him run off his feet for life.”

Narcissistic Marketers

With this category, we’ll end this this theme, and since you’ve all been patient enough to get this far, you can read more about this in my latest book, which, while you’re ordering it online, you can actually pre-order my next book which is coming out next month.

Plus, we just got in a skid of my first book, and if you’re interested in buying these in case lots (only 72 copies to a case) to give away to all your friends, we can ship them to you free freight if you order them by Friday.   Christmas is coming, and you don’t want to be without a gift to give that unenlightened pagan who lives next door.

Also below you’ll find a link to my latest video promoting all four of my books, plus a PayPal donation button if you really enjoy the great insights I post here daily.   On the sidebar, you’ll also find a link to a story about me in the New York Times and a picture of me receiving CBA Book-of-the-year in the category “Christian non-fiction miscellaneous;” as well as all the details of our “Holy Land of the West” 14-day tour of Wheaton, Illinois (with optional day trips to Barrington, Elgin and a two-day side trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota.)  Did I mention my book?

October 25, 2009

Finding Elim

Filed under: cartoons, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:52 pm

Finding Elim by Dave Nelson is just what I was looking for today!   It follows the adventures of Pastor Bob at St. John’s, and sometimes Assistant Pastor Steve, wife Marge and granddaughter Zoe.   Mostly, I’m taking a day off to get ready for tomorrow’s Thinking Out Loud Guide to Christian Bloggers. I think you’ll enjoy it.    In the meantime, click on the comics themselves if you want to visit more comics at Dave’s site,

Finding ElimFinding Elim2

October 24, 2009

Guilty By Association: Why Evangelicals Don’t Have Crucifixes

When I was in the sixth grade, my friend Jimmy Moss and his family moved to Morristown, New Jersey, where he later decided that his life calling was to enter the priesthood.

I have never seen Jimmy since.   I doubt very much he goes by ‘Jimmy’ now.  “Father Jimmy?”   Okay, it’s possible.

crucifixJimmy’s family were Catholic.   I know that because we had several discussions about it.   Not so much Jimmy and I.   Mostly my parents and I.   It was considered necessary that I know a little about this particular take on Christianity should it ever come up.

Later on, I decided to check it out firsthand.   Much later on.   I think I was in my mid-twenties when I first attended a mass.    I was working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Toronto at the time, and there was another girl in the office who also had never been to a mass, and so we both agreed that on the next weekend we would attend a mass.

I remember several things about that mass.   It was the middle of summer and the sermon was short.   If there was one at all.  If there was, I can tell you the announcements took up more time.  It seemed like we were in and out of there in about twenty minutes.    In truth, it couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five.

I didn’t know where to turn in the missal to follow the order of service.   Someone nearby spotted my confusion and informed me we were in “the sixteenth Sunday of ordinary time,” or something like that.    But they were flipping back and forth between different sections of the missal, which didn’t help.

I also remember the guy standing at the back reading a copy of the tabloid Sunday paper.   I don’t think he ever looked up from the sports pages.    I was later informed that “being there” was paramount.   It was important to attend apparently, even if your heart wasn’t in it.  Just show up.

Which would explain the guy who was wet.   The way I figured it, he must have lived directly across the road from the church.   He had jumped out of his backyard pool, donned the minimal amount of clothing, and joined the newspaper reader at the back of the sanctuary.   He was the one dripping water droplets on the floor.  Really.

I didn’t go forward to “receive the host,” i.e. take communion.   But I tried my best to sing the two hymns. And I knew the words to repeat the “Our Father.”   And my reflexes were quick enough not to launch into, “For Thine is the kingdom…”

Most evangelicals have never been to a mass.   Nearly twenty-five years later, I would attend again.   Once every quarter century.   I guess that makes me a nominal Catholic.

…Anyway, I was often invited into Jimmy’s home.   I remember several things about it all these years later.   The first was that if I stayed for supper, Jimmy and his two brothers had to wash their hands before and after meals.    That was new to me, then, but it’s a practice I’ve adopted recently since discovering the world of sauces and salad dressings.   A good meal is one where I leave with sticky fingers that require a rinse.

crucifix2The second was the presence of crucifixes.   I think they were spread throughout the house; but the memory may be of general religious icons; there may have only been the one at the front door.

This was a Catholic home.    That was communicated to every guest, every salesman, every one of the kid’s friends.   I couldn’t avert my eyes.  Jesus was there on the cross, and he didn’t look happy.

We didn’t have a crucifix in our home.   Crosses in my evangelical world were distinctly sans corpus, a phrase I just made up mixing French and Latin.  As kids in Sunday School we were told that Catholics have crucifixes and Protestants don’t.    I wonder sometimes if it would have been good if we had one.

This Christmas, the Gregg Gift Company brought out some kind of ornament for the front hall that says, “This Home Believes.”   I don’t think one’s expression of belief should be reduced to a sign, or that a sign should be expected to carry the burden of verbal witness, but I often wonder if we should have something at our front door that alerts guests, salesmen and friends that “This is a Christian home;” preferably something that contains in its iconography the unmistakable message of the core of Christianity.

Something like, oh, I don’t know, maybe a crucifix.

October 23, 2009

Blogger Starts NASB-Only Movement

Filed under: bible, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 pm

Somewhere in the house, I have a New American Standard Bible (NASB).   It was given to me around 1980 by my parents, and it suffered the terrible injustice of being left on the roof of my car after  church on a hot summer day as I removed a suit jacket (remember those?) before driving home for lunch.

NASB classic red hardcoverI saw the Bible fly off the back of the car and as I started to pull over, watched in the rear-view mirror as a car hit it dead-on.   All things considered, the Bible stood up rather well, but another new translation, the New International Version (NIV) was already making waves and my Bible’s somewhat injured front cover signaled this might be a good time to make the NIV my principal text.

I haven’t thought much about the red hardcover NASB since, but tonight it occurred to me that if you wanted to make a case for using a particular translation exclusively, there are much better compelling arguments in favor of that translation being the NASB than many of the others out there.   It’s a formal-correspondence version used a lot in evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges for that very reason, though not much these days outside those given to serious study.

And since the Christian community has shown itself capable of fostering all sorts of weird and wonderful causes, I figure starting a NASB-only movement makes as much sense as anything else out there.

So I am herewith forming the NASB-only movement, right here, right now in this very blog post.   It begins now.   And you were there.

Now I need some people with more than just a hint of resident anger who can help me bash and trash all the other translations.    And we’ll need someone to write a book or two as to why all the other translations are totally inaccurate.

And we need some kind of miracle story “proving” beyond the shadow of a doubt why I have received this mantle to spread the efficaciousness* of the NASB.

Maybe something about my copy surviving a direct hit from a ’73 Pontiac Bonneville.

*That word had my spell check humming for several seconds.   But I think for the movement to survive the weekend, making up new words should be part of the bargain.

October 22, 2009

Disenchanted Anglican Congregations Invited to Adopt Catholic Brand

When the large Pontiac dealer out on the freeway near my house got dropped by General Motors, it didn’t shut down.   It emerged as a Hyundai dealership and simply carried on business as usual.

With large numbers of Anglican churches frustrated with the issue of ordination of gay clergy, The Vatican is inviting those churches to be rebranded much like my local Pontiac franchise was.

Here’s the lead from writer Cathy Lynn Grossman on the USAToday Religion page:

USA TodayThe Vatican has opened an express lane to traditional Anglicans — unhappy with their own church’s moves toward accepting female and gay bishops — to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church their forefathers left nearly 500 years ago.

In a surprise announcement from Rome, Pope Benedict XVI approved a provision to create a new church entity that will allow Anglicans to join the Catholic Church in a format similar to Ukrainian or Eastern Rite Catholics, keeping their liturgy and married priests, but not married bishops.

The announcement Tuesday stunned many in the 77-million worldwide Anglican Communion, particularly the Church of England, where the Archbishop of Canterbury has wrestled for years with factions that opposed female bishops.

Pope - confessionIt’s a sell job where you want to emphasize the similarities, not the differences:

“Don’t forget, we had 1,500 years of unity with their forebears and today’s Roman Catholics. It’s the same apostolic tradition,” said the Rev. James Massa, head of the interfaith and interreligious affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The move is certainly being seen as born out of pure motives:

Rev. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, saw the Vatican announcement as a global event, “maybe one of Benedict’s biggest moves.

“Rome is trying to find a structural solution to an unbearable pastoral problem,” Harmon said. Vatican leaders “clearly feel that if they don’t intervene now, it will get worse. Their motive is the reunification of Christianity. If Anglicanism wasn’t going to provide a catholic solution, the worldwide church would fracture even more.”

But the move is complicated by The Vatican’s refusal to accept married clergy elevated to the role of Bishop.   This, of course, and the more obvious complication:

Archbishop Robert Duncan, founder and leader of the breakaway traditionalist Anglican Church in North America, issued a statement calling Benedict’s move “a momentous offer,” and he “blessed” those who choose this new path.

However, Duncan spelled out major obstacles between Anglican traditionalists and Rome that still stand. He cited “our historic differences over church governance, dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary” and the nature of the priesthood.

One leader noted that while Catholics have welcomed Anglicans and former Anglicans in the past, this move ends up in “creating what he called ‘parallel structures’ for entire groups of converts.

You can read the entire USAToday article here.   BTW, the religion page at USAToday is always bookmarked on this blog.

Ottawa Gatineau…For my Canadian readers, here is an analogy I’ve always found helpful.   The conversion of an Anglican to, for example, Pentecostalism, might be compared to someone living in Ottawa who decides to move to Windsor.   It’s all the same province, they keep their driver’s license and their health cards, but it’s a major move — around 800 km — and a complete change of both climate and culture.

The conversion of an Anglican to Catholicism could be compared to the that same person in Ottawa deciding to move to Gatineau.    The moving van might only have a ten-minute drive across the river, but it’s a new province, requiring a new driver’s license and even a new way of looking at common law.   Compared to moving to Windsor, it’s a cakewalk, but at a deeper level it is a much more radical change of address.  Which one is the bigger move?

For Anglicans, the Roman Catholic Church may seem like a comfortable fit but it is, to use the above analogy, “a change in province.”  It might meet some short term needs; there is this huge emotional bonding to multiple levels of ecclesiastic oversight and generations of history; not to mention robes, processions, choirs and liturgies.

But personally, I see disenchanted Anglicans and former Anglicans finding a better long-term fit in another Protestant denomination or in the creation of a new entity.    What works for car dealerships may not work where matters of faith and doctrine are concerned.

COMMENTS:  If you see your ministry as flitting from blog to blog leaving remarks which attack or tear down another denomination, please note those comments will not be posted here.    On the other hand, if you want to actually discuss the finer points of the topic of absorption of some Anglicans into the Catholic Church, or the Catholic church’s decision to make this offer; then those on-topic comments will be published.   You know who you are.

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