Thinking Out Loud

February 21, 2019

Peter Enns: A Fresh Lens for Approaching the Bible

Filed under: bible, Christianity, doctrine, reviews, theology — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:42 am

For most of us, hearing about a book which purports to teach us “How to” read the Bible usually presents two possibilities:

  • a basic introduction to the organization of the Christian scriptures, such as a Bible handbook; the type of thing we might give to a new believer; or
  • an introduction to the idea of Biblical interpretation, or what is called hermeneutics.

In How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How an Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom, Rather than Answers—and Why that’s Great News Peter Enns takes a rather different approach; showing us how the scriptures themselves have developed — a word preferred over evolved — different ideas which are commonplace in Christian thought, including the idea of an enemy (satan) or the idea of the resurrection of the physical body.

Or here’s another way of looking at the book: Many of you were aware of a controversy a few months ago when Andy Stanley said that the Church needs to jettison itself from the Old Testament. (It was that j-word that got him hot water.) I would suggest it’s not a stretch that Peter Enns would say that successive Old Testament writers were themselves trying to jettison themselves from earlier Old Testament writers; that this is a process which has been ongoing. (See Chapter 10, the section headed “Exhibit A.”) Follow this line of thinking, and you might find yourself believing that the Bible is a living book.

Or similarly, it’s as though one Gospel writer might bristle at the the way another writer has framed a particular episode in the life of Jesus. But of course, each is writing for a different audience. Peter Enns captures these anomalies, but sees them as part of his delight in reading scripture, not as a problem to be solved.

While his scholarship is evident, his approach in this book has a remarkably common touch. In one section makes it clear that “open theology” is above his pay grade. Furthermore, one can only take on so much in a more general treatment of Bible interpretation. The book doesn’t try to be all things for all people.

Some readers may be disturbed at Enns’ gratuitous use of writings from the Apocrypha to substantiate certain arguments. As an Evangelical, I accept the historical value of those books, but am often unaccustomed to seeing them quoted in the books I review. (Keep in mind however that this books is published by HarperOne, not the Zondervan or Nelson divisions of HarperCollins.)

Still others may have a knee-jerk reaction to the books subtitle, especially “…an Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book…” Ambiguous? Yes. For Enns, that’s part of the Bible’s basic equation; and that’s exactly where the “wisdom” in the other half of the extra-long subtitle comes into play.

Reading this following Stanley’s Irresistible made for an interesting pairing. In terms of our understanding of the book of books, something is clearly afoot, and Peter Enns doesn’t want you to miss it!

Thanks to Dave Knox at HarperCollins Christian Publishing Canada for the opportunity to read How the Bible Actually Works. It went on sale on Tuesday in hardcover wherever you buy fine books.

Previously at Thinking Out Loud: A November, 2016 review of Peter Enns’ The Sin of Certainty, in which, coincidentally, Andy Stanley’s name also was mentioned!

Postscript: Books like this one, and Andy Stanley’s (mentioned above) and Rob Bell’s What is the Bible? are part of a fresh genre of books which, while not Bible handbooks in the traditional sense, serve much the same purpose. For a more conservative approach books like Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth continues to fill the void between handbook and general guide to hermeneutics.

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February 20, 2019

Wednesday Connect

So as you read yesterday, we got back Monday night from Cuba. I was working on this list at 5:00 PM and my computer wanted to run a Windows update. I told it no, which usually means it tries the next day. Instead of that, it started running it at 7:00 PM. I had more than dozen things open and lost quite a few. You’re told that having the latest version includes security features to protect you, but I am convinced that a majority of the updates we are constantly forced to endure are adding functionality which is entirely motivated by commercial purposes. So if you have issues with the size of today’s list, take it up with Microsoft.

This week’s opening graphic is from a site I’ve visited a few times for Christianity 201, titled Broken Believers.

♦ “A team of 26 Christians from Alberta had been working for the aid group Haiti Arise when they became stranded by the protests at a compound in Grand Goâve, about 31 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince.” The Canadian missionaries have been safely evacuated from the country.

♦ A Chicago Tribune summary of the weekend services at Harvest Bible Chapel reveals that, especially at the Saturday night service, some people got up and walked out during a video sermon by Pastor Rick Donald. (Personally, I hope their next church has a real live pastor from week to week.)

♦ Exactly how controlling was Harvest Bible Chapel?

A year or so before leaving Harvest I had written a blog post about holiness in which I had referenced the growing fad of tattoos in our culture. I hadn’t realized that James had gotten a tattoo that week. My blog had indirectly undermined James. As a result, I was asked to meet with the elders, pull the blog piece and write a new one that James would first approve. James ended up sending me a copy of the new approved blog post, and out of fear, I complied. I didn’t want to be rebellious against authority. I also managed to write an apology to James for the pain I had caused him. I regret staying at Harvest after that meeting with the elders. I should have left that week…

A former Women’s Ministry Director at the original campus speaks out.

♦ The phone call begins, Hello. This is St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you, please press 1…” But several minutes in, if you’re still connected comes the sales pitch. “A call center operator who said she was from the Philippines asked how much I’d like to donate. I gave $1.47. My idea was to see the organization’s name show up on my bank statement to get more information, but that plan failed. It showed up as a PayPal transaction. But I didn’t have to look to hard to find out who made the call. It came from Manasseh Jordan Ministries, an organization based in New York and run by a man who calls himself Prophet Manasseh Jordan.

♦ Well, duh? “The United States has announced that it will not be pressing charges against the remote Indian tribespeople who brutally murdered American missionary John Allen Chau.” A roundup of these more-or-less unapproachable people would have been interesting to watch. And what if inbred North Sentinel Islanders all look the same? (Okay, that last sentence wasn’t helpful, but this is a really dumb announcement.)

♦ E. T. phone home! That is where E. T. stands for Elder Theo. “The reaction to last week’s announcement that Mormon missionaries will now be able to call home once a week—instead of twice a year, as was the former policy—has been mostly positive.” But some think it’s a bad move; that today’s missionaries are “Clinging to their helicopter parents.” (And weren’t we supposed to stop using the word ‘Mormon?’)

♦ After two weeks in Uganda, J. Lee Grady repents of his spoiled-rotten American attitude.

I encourage you to examine your attitude. We Americans are so blessed, yet many of us have no clue how the rest of the world lives. We complain when the Wi-Fi signal goes out, or when our Amazon order doesn’t arrive in two days, or when we don’t have enough legroom on our flight to our Orlando vacation. And then we post our childish complaints on social media so we can infect everyone with our toxic self-centeredness.

♦ His name wasn’t Jesus, it was Apollonius. So says a low-budget film, much to the general annoyance of theologians.

UPDATE to a previous story here:  A conservative group called CitizenGo has managed to cancel the second coming. Actually it’s a about a comic book: “The Second Coming series, from DC imprint Vertigo, was due to launch on 6 March. Written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Richard Pace, its story followed Jesus’s return to Earth. “Shocked to discover what has become of his gospel,” he teams up with a superhero, Sun-Man, who is more widely worshipped than him.” The group got 200,000 signatures, even though their usual thing is anti-abortion and anti-LGBT campaigns.

♦ A new book claims that a majority of Vatican priests are gay

♦ …meanwhile, a New York Times article tries to identify the source of the issue: “Today, training for the priesthood in the United States usually starts in or after college. But until about 1980, the church often recruited boys to start in ninth grade — teenagers still in the throes of puberty. For many of today’s priests and bishops over 50, this environment limited healthy sexual development. Priests cannot marry, so sexuality from the start was about abstinence, and obedience.“…

♦ …which brings us to your new Catholic word-of-the-week: “Laicized.” Try to guess before you click.

♦ …and in a not-directly-related-but-also-Catholic article, what do you do when your doctrine doesn’t permit divorce? Well of course: Annulment.

The problem is that Rome is trying to justify people by making the Law easier. That’s why they have the annulment. Sinners can’t go to heaven, and they certainly can’t take communion. So what is a sinner to do? What’s a divorced person’s hope for righteousness? In order to justify people, Rome needs to move the laws around, invent excuses, pull some bureaucratic levers. Poof! It never really happened.

Grammy Award winners for 2019 in three major Christian categories.

 — I’m afraid that’s all the time I had this week. I’d really love to stay and sing a song, but the sign on the clubhouse wall says it’s time to go.


How we’re viewed: Granted, this comes from a militant (or if you prefer, ‘bold’) atheist group, but the views contained are not exclusive to them.

 

 

February 19, 2019

An Amazing Divine Appointment

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:22 am

This picture was taken in Boca de Sama, one of the villages. It’s possible that some of the resort and tour staff live in places like this, but more likely they live in crowded cities.

Before Ruth and I left for Cuba last week, someone asked me if we were going on a mission trip. I supposed that’s more consistent with our history as a couple, but no, the purpose of the trip was ostensibly pleasure.

However, as with our previous trip there, we did take some Spanish New Testaments and Christian books; about 12 pieces in total. (I greatly regret not having taken about four more.) This is so important when Canadians are travelling to Cuba because Americans can’t go there, and Europeans don’t have access to U.S. Christian resources in Spanish.

There is a tradition of Canadians leaving gifts on the bed each morning for the housekeeping staff — so we include a piece of literature here — but I did give a few directly.

And the we met L., part of the resort’s entertainment staff. He was standing talking to the lifeguards and we got into a one-to-one conversation about family, education, work, faith and life in general.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I have goosebumps just typing this. They happen but you have to be programmed to expect them and then intentional about making them happen.

Either that day or the next I said to him, “Would you like a Bible?” He said he had one but it was borrowed and wanted to give it back to the person who had given it to him. (God was already at work!)

The reason I felt bold enough to come out and ask him if he wanted one — feeling bad that I had to walk it back and say it was only a New Testament — is because of another divine appointment we had with Steve, another guy from Canada who is spending a month at one of the resorts. Steve is a whole other story which I’ll save.

L. never got the Bible the next day. We just didn’t connect. But we did the day after.

And then he said something extraordinary: “Are you going to the buffet? I’d like to join you for lunch.” Just that day I had comment that you never see the hotel staff at the buffet. God was up to something!

For an hour we talked (Ruth was there for 75% of it and made some excellent contributions.) Christianity in Cuba has its beginnings in Roman Catholicism — though Pentecostalism is growing rapidly — and L. struggled with the sacramental view of baptism; that it is the human agency of salvation; that it changes you into a different person. There were many other discussions including about words which are important but not Bible words, such as “trinity” or “incarnation.”

The subject turned back to his family. I told him to be sure to impart his faith to his kids, mentioning them by name. For some reason I started tearing up at that point and so did he. He then told me it had been an hour and he had to get back to work.

Pray for L., his partner (couples tend to live together in Cuba) and his two kids A. and L.  His sister is an Evangelical — they call us Evangelists which is appropriate — so he does have other possibilities for getting his questions answered.

Do you believe in divine appointments? I do. This came at a time of genuine spiritual disappointment, and yet for an hour afterwards, I walked the length of beach in amazement of how God set it up. Pray also for J. who was so happy to get a copy of “In Touch” by Charles Stanley which helped break open a wider conversation. (I think many of the Canadian Christian tourists are very reticent about their faith while on holiday.) Pray also for T., our housekeeper, who was the recipient of about 7 of our pieces of literature.

Pray also for M. who took us on all-day jeep tour including a hike and swim in the mountains. He grew up Quaker — a large Christian group with a strong presence in Cuba — but like many Cubans, can’t get to church because they are always working.

February 18, 2019

When Ministry Organizations Compete

Do you get jealous when the church or ministry across town has an event that happens to catch the eye of the local newspaper? Or do you rejoice that God is using them in such a way? ~ Jennifer Maggio – Competition in Ministry.


John 3:26 NLT So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”

competition among ministries

It started with a staff member at Organization A bad-mouthing Organization B.

Frankly, it resonated with me because I had some history with Organization B. Furthermore, Organization A was paying me a part-time salary.

But years later, I connected with the director of Organization B. We discovered many common interests. I saw their ministry in action. A friend started working for Organization B. I ended up financially helping him. Later, a ministry I was heading up partnered with Organization B for a project. Mostly, I came to understand why a certain group of people would gravitate to Organization B and not Organization A.

Immediately, I regretted the years I had been estranged from Organization B and its staff and its constituency.

Ministry organizations compete for donation dollars as well as for volunteers. But instead of staring at each other across a great divide, it’s better to find ways to (a) get to know each other better and (b) partner together. Perhaps even more. The charitable sector can see it as competition, but Christian ministries are, in theory at least, members of the same body.

We all labor in different vineyards, but we can’t afford to bad-mouth organizations whose work somewhat parallels — we may even see it as duplicating — our own. That just creates barriers to fellowship and friendship; and when heard by someone like my younger self, prevents cooperation and partnership from happening.

“…..whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31b

February 16, 2019

When Serving in Ministry is an Afterthought

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

It was 1989. The big city Christian bookstore closed at 6:00 PM on Saturday nights. At 5:30 he walked in and we got into a conversation where he let it be known that his reason for shopping was that he needed to buy an accompaniment tape as he was booked to be the “special music” at church the following morning. He wanted to listen to a few songs and “get some ideas.”

This wasn’t a small country church. This was a church that would have about 1,500 people in each of two services. The next day. In 15 hours.

img 021316He had left it to the very last minute.

I was reminded of this on Thursday when something similar happened at another Christian bookstore about an hour from where I live. The people needed six copies of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala.

They needed them for Saturday. The owner of the store wondered if I had any ideas.

Yes, I do! Plan ahead!

It amazes me how people can show up for work on time, pay their bills before the due dates, and never miss an oil change on the minivan, yet seem totally ill-equipped to do anything related to the church until it’s the last minute.

Historically, the typical stereotype was the Sunday School teacher who pulled out the lesson plan after supper on Saturday and spent ten minutes “going over it.” Is it too idealistic of me to imagine that somewhere there were Sunday School volunteers who began the process mid-week and actually allowed their minds to consider the lesson and fresh ways to present it? I certainly want to think that.

There’s a law in economics that states that everyone’s property is no-one’s property. What that means in this context is that many in the local church have simply never taken ownership of the life and ministry efforts of their local congregation.

img 021316aOne of the worst musical habits I picked up involved a group of instrumentalists who would be tuning their guitars or bass guitars and then, at a certain point, stop and exclaim, “Well… Good enough for gospel.”

Good enough for gospel? Is that what we’re aiming for? Simply good enough? Close enough? Whatever happened to “Do everything as unto the Lord?”

I was in church the next morning when the guy sang his solo. He did good, but not great. And I couldn’t enjoy it because I knew the story; the half-hearted, last-minute approach that had gone into preparing to minister in music that day.

February 15, 2019

The Contrast Between Enjoying Great Bible Teaching and Living in the Real World

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:27 am

I once had a weird flashback to a brief period in my childhood when the phrase, “So what?” was considered the height of rudeness, especially in a child and parent context.

It came to mind for an entirely different reason however. I was thinking about the great host of scriptural teaching that we are now afforded through websites, blogs, podcasts, streaming and video-on-demand; not to mention traditional media such as books, radio and television.

Being cold or hot spiritually is a slightly different topic, but I thought I'd toss this graphic in to today's discussion salad.

Being cold or hot spiritually is a slightly different topic, but I thought I’d toss this graphic in to today’s discussion salad.

On Sunday I heard three sermons. One I was sitting in church. Two I was sitting at my computer. I actually had the option of watching full services; but chose just to track with the teaching portion. Otherwise, I could have technically been to three church services.

But for all the teaching I’m getting — and I am fairly stuffed most days — there are times when I observe a disconnect between scriptural truth and what is going on in the real world. When I look away from the pages in the book, or glance away from the computer screen, I see a Christianity that is totally messed up, at least in places, including my own.

I hear the reading, jot down the three points, but there’s a part of me that says, “So what?” This time though it’s not in the defiant tone that got me in trouble as a child, but it’s more of a cry of, “Why isn’t this making more of a difference in my life?” Or, “Why am I not seeing this lived out in my life and the lives of my acquaintances?”

A year ago, in a different context, I shared this analogy:

Last summer I purchase some clear wood stain as well as a gallon of opaque wood stain for another project. With the clear product, it took layers and layers and layers of application before I noticed a difference taking place and it immediately struck me that this is what happens with sermons. Applied to our life in layers, the effect is initially invisible, but evidenced over a lifetime of faithfully attending to hear from God’s set-apart leaders.

That’s why I would never give up my listening/reading habits. But I do wish I could find more of a synergy between the idealized Christian life described by those authors, pastors and Bible teachers versus my everyday life in the trenches.

Am I looking for a sign? Longing to see a miracle? Wishing for a better batting average on answered prayers? Simply needing a vacation? Maybe that’s part of it.

Or perhaps my spiritual confidence is just becoming shaky. Not fragile to the point of nearing extinction, but just shaky in terms of where it ought to be proportionate to the years I’ve been on this faith journey, the people with whom I’ve interacted, and the material I have been privileged to have heard or read.

I don’t want to be SuperChristian™, but I just want there to be more of a one-to-one correspondence between the spiritual ideals I can so easily espouse, and my usually stressed-out, burned-out daily experience.

Just being transparent, that’s all.


Related: September, 2011 – Faith Under Pressure

February 14, 2019

Being Able to Recognize Love

heart sandwich

I have a favorite lunchtime sandwich consisting of at least two types of lettuce and a mix of tomatoes, peppers, radishes and cheese. My wife makes them for me, and if my schedule required me to need to take a lunch every day, I could eat them every day. Sometimes they’re on a Kaiser bun, and sometimes, they’re on a whole wheat bun like the one in the picture.

Not too long ago, I was having a post-lunch phone call with Ruth and I commented that the way she had cut the bun and placed the sandwich formed a heart shape.

“Did you know that today’s sandwich forms a heart?” I innocently asked.

“Yes…” she replied but there was something implicit in the short reply that I needed to pursue.

“How long have you been doing this?”

“Years.”

Wow! …And then after a long silence, I said, “I guess I never noticed; I just opened up the package and started eating.”

We have a word for love that is not returned, unrequited love, but what about unnoticed love? What about the person who pours love into a spouse, a child, an elderly parent; and that love simply flies over their head?

Using The Five Love Languages as a template, this would consist of words of affirmation that aren’t truly heard, physical touch that is misinterpreted, gifts that are not appreciated, quality time that isn’t seen as an investment in the other person, or acts of kindness that are written off due to a sense of entitlement or are simply missed as in the example above due to distraction?

Put yourself in my place for a moment. I would have to ask myself, What other little acts of love am I missing? Probably more than just than one. What about similar ‘messages’ from my children, or my co-workers, or people in my church?

But then again, perhaps this is partially about unrequited love. Simply put, we talk a lot about the ‘I love you return.’ Someone says ‘I love you’ and there is an expectation that the context or the relationship is such that the other person will say it back. When they don’t, there’s that awkward silence.

So basically, there’s a situation here where someone has been saying they love me to me every workday at noon, and I wasn’t responding. Instead, I would phone after lunch and say things like ‘Did you remember to pay the water bill?’ or ‘We’re having a really slow day today and what’s making it worse is that…’

So I need to say something like, ‘Thanks for today’s sandwich; I love you, too;’ and by rough estimates, I need to say it about 500 times to make up for past deficiencies.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ruth.

I love you.


For everyone else, here’s a summary of the love languages from FierceMarriage.com; click the image to read the accompanying article and check out the book by Dr. Gary Chapman where you buy quality Christian books.

love languages


We were also married on Valentine’s Day. I’ve written about that twice before:

Given the nature of Canadian winters, we celebrate on a 6-month offset, on August 14th.

February 13, 2019

Wednesday Connect

First of all thanks to those of you who responded to Last Wednesday’s “serious week” of highly focused items without the tabloid-style stories. The stats were encouraging. This week’s list needed to be completed by Saturday night, so apologies for things which broke earlier this week that I’m not aware of. Graphics like the one above appear at the start of the week on the Happy Monday feature from Clark Bunch. I love that type of humor. He will have posted something newer by the time you read this, so here’s a link to both this week and last week!

♦ The Archbishop rides again! First, he shocked everyone with his “speaking in tongues” revelation. Now this: ‘Who cares’ if you’re Protestant or Catholic?

♦ He was doing apologetics before some of the rest of us knew what the word meant. The UK’s Michael Green passed away last week, so Premier Magazine re-ran an interview it did with him in 2010.

♦ Before he died of a lethal injection, Dominique Ray was a Muslim who was on death row. All he wanted was to have his imam present in the chamber. “Ray has exhausted his death sentence appeals and now only seeks to die with a measure of spiritual comfort. Alabama automatically gives Christian inmates this benefit: Since 1997, the Rev. Chris Summers has witnessed nearly every execution in the state, kneeling and praying with prisoners just before they are killed.” The state of Alabama said no, even though the imam already had clearance to visit the prison

♦ …Alabama then solved the problem by banning all “spiritual advisors” from being present during executions; including prison chaplains.

♦ Essay of the Week: “It is an interesting fact that Christianity’s three most famous creedal statements, the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, contain no moral doctrines.  They contain metaphysical doctrines, e.g. the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement; and what I suppose may be called historical-miraculous doctrines, e.g., the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Ascension. But no moral doctrines: nothing about the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the two great commandments – love God, love your neighbor.”

♦ What will your life be remembered for? Often it’s the things we do near the end. If we start poorly but end well, people remember the ending. If we start well, but end poorly, people remember the end. This article by Julie Roys solidifies the characterization of James MacDonald as a “mob boss.” What a shame if this is his ultimate legacy

♦ …On the weekend, one website was reporting MacDonald was already gone from Harvest. (This story may be updated or the situation may be altered by the time you read this. One of the drawbacks of an early deadline this week.) (For updated news, see the Twitter feed of WLS radio personality Mancow Muller.)

♦ They don’t just think evangelism is optional, but they actually dare to say it’s “wrong.” Barna Research “is releasing Reviving Evangelism, a new report based on research commissioned by Alpha USA. This study looks at the faith-sharing experiences and expectations of Christians and non-Christians alike. Among the major findings in this report is the revelation that Christian Millennials feel especially conflicted about evangelism—and, in fact, almost half believe it is wrong to share their faith.”

♦ Last week’s National Prayer Breakfast. I actually spent some time trying to find a good summary of the event and finally settled on this one. It’s one of those silly “5 things” articles where you have to click to get the next thing, but it covered details other had not, like who led worship and the bipartisan prayer moment.

♦ Provocative Headline of the Week: “Let’s talk about virginity-shaming.

♦ The people God puts next to you on an airplane; those moments when God says, “He’s not an airline companion in the next seat. He’s a mirror.”

♦ Justin Bieber talks to Vogue magazine: “Justin has been especially focused on his own moral development lately, what he describes as ‘character stuff.’ Last fall he made a decision to step back from music for the moment to focus on being the man he feels no one ever taught him how to be, and above all a good husband. ‘Just thinking about music stresses me out,’ he says. ‘I’ve been successful since I was thirteen, so I didn’t really have a chance to find who I was apart from what I did…”

♦ Chris Pratt talks with Stephen Colbert about trying The Daniel Fast, a Biblical diet

♦ …but actress Ellen Page has called Pratt out for attending Hillsong, which she sees as an anti-LGBTQ church…

♦ …meanwhile, the day after The Late Show appearance, Pratt remembered that it was Christine Caine who was the source of a powerful quotation that left Colbert deep in thought for a few seconds: “If the light that is within you is not greater than the light that is on you, the light that is on you will destroy you.” He says that quote has helped him survive Hollywood.

♦ Though it’s still not known how many LifeWay bookstores will be closing, current President Thom Rainer said the company “did all they could” to save them.

♫ Elias Dummer, lead singer for the band The City Harmonic has a new solo album, The Work, Vol 1. Check out the song Heartbeat

♦ Parenting Place: Everything you need to know about e-cigarettes in one infographic.

♦ “Unofficially, Disney World and Disneyland have had Gay Days since in the 1990s, but there has never been an officially sanctioned LGBTQ event until now.”

The original blog post for this has long disappeared, but I can’t think of a better day-before-Valentine’s-Day link: Biblical ways in which a man gets a wife.

♦ You’ve always wanted to find this: The best way to refute Jehovah’s Witnesses on their reading of John 1:1. You just have to memorize everything Donall and Conall say

♦ Finally, and I quote: “A man is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent.” An exercise in logic and bio-medical ethics.


source: Southern Baptist Memes

February 12, 2019

Pop Stars, Presidents, Popes: Who is a Christian and Who Isn’t?

Much ink has been spilled and much energy has been spent trying to flesh out the subject of “who’s in and who’s out” in matters of the Christian faith. Only God knows. Approximately three years ago, the religion news story of the week was Pope Francis weighing in on Donald Trump’s faith and Trump’s inevitable response. The Pope asserted that Christians work to build bridges not walls, and on the basis of a statement reflecting this particular fruit of Trump’s character, implied that Trump’s Mexico/USA border wall concept is not consistent with identity as a Christian. Three years later it’s still the same story.

But on what do you base an assessment of someone? Within my own sphere of acquaintances there are people who disagree on a wide variety of subjects; some of which are part of Biblical interpretation, some of which are ethical, and others of which are reflective of the living out of their faith in everyday life. Is any one of these a significant marker of one’s spiritual sincerity or authenticity? Is there a single litmus test of orthodoxy? And is the in-versus-out question based on what I do today or tomorrow or on faith commitments I made at an earlier stage of life? Can I be in one day and out the next?

One of the best articles I’ve seen on this topic is in the book A is for Abductive by Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer in which they speak of bounded sets, centered sets, and dynamic sets; along with helpful diagrams. It’s a book I keep handy, but the lateness of the hour on Friday prevents me from scanning in those pages, so you’ll have to settle for someone else’s work. On the previous page there is a circle with no center point; one is defined as either in or out. X, Y and Z below are all in, but B and C are certainly close. Then they introduce centered-set thinking:

Bounded Set, Centered Set, Dynamic Set

For most of you, this either simplifies things or makes it more complicated. (There’s a logical statement.) But it illustrates the degrees to which people go to try to think through the issue of who’s in and who’s out.

In searching for the graphic I came across this quote from C.S. Lewis along with another diagram:

Christians as centered set vs bounded set_thumb[5]

[The] situation in the actual world is much more complicated than that. The world does not consist of 100% Christians and 100% non-Christians. There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen. There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so. There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand…. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together.

Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass. It is some use comparing cats and dogs, or even men and women, in the mass, because there one knows definitely which is which. Also, an animal does not turn (either slowly or suddenly) from a dog into a cat. But when we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas which we have got from novels and newspapers. If you want to compare the bad Christian and the good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you have actually met. Unless we come down to brass tacks in that way, we shall only be wasting time.

~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 208-209.

So while the media continues to speculate on the faith of pop stars, politicians, Presidents and Popes, know for sure that deciding on either the present devotion or the eternal destiny of anyone in particular is way above our pay grade. We can’t do it when speaking of individual people because we’re not God; but Lewis argues that dealing with it theoretically has no value.

February 11, 2019

Recipe for a Joyless Christianity

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:35 am

One of the best ways to experience a completely joyless salvation is to believe you were never ultimately lost in the first place.

One of the best ways to remain smug about your standing with God in Christ is to feel you were entitled to it all along.

One of the best ways to not be gracious is to remain firm that any grace you have received — amazing or otherwise — is something you deserved. 

One of the best ways to be unloving is to never fully consider the love that has been poured out on you.

All four gospels record the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. But Luke adds this detail:

7.41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

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