Session #1: practicum

This is what I'm talking about -- honest to God blogging.

This is a vacation?

K -- I haven't been really absent
here over the last month, but I've hardly been blogging in an all-out frenzy in the last 30 days. And, given circumstances at work, I'm not likely to be back here "full time" until about Turkey Day. So the Sidekicks have re-upped and they'll be manning the blog with the requisite "best of me" posts on Wednesday because, as you know, I can't hear you because of the sound of how awesome I am. That graphic kills me -- I need that poster for my office.

Coupla things on my mind this morning that I wanted to blog. The first is an e-mail I got from CafePress about the Pawn Shop -- they think the name of my shop isn't very creative and doesn't cause people to find my shop when using search engines. In all seriousness, they want me to rename it something like the t-shirt and mug shop in which you can buy TeamPyro gear and all kind of "homeboy" apparel, not to mention t-shirts which make fun of trends in American Christianity and Christian t-shirts in general. That seems a little wordy, and it also seems less like a joke when you put it that way. I think they hate me because I've been a "Top Shop" two months in a row right now, and all of it has been on the backs of the Protestant heroes of the faith.

The other thing I wanted to blog about was Stand to Reason -- Greg Koukl's podcast/website/blog. You know -- I love those guys. I was listening to an old STR podcast with John Mark Reynolds, and he was talking with Koukl about the . He was promoting it, and ironically it happened last weekend in California.

I'm posting that here because, as I look at the people being featured at GodBlogCon, I see a lot of "blog" and a lot of "con", but no so much "God". Here is the list of speakers.

There are some good ones there -- LaShawn Barber, Joe Carter, um, Mark D. Roberts, ... um, did I mention Joe Carter? People who are actually blogging about God (the Christian God -- Jesus, Son of Man, Lion of Judah, King of Kings; you may have heard about him at this blog). But it makes me a little punchy that we list political activists who are (allegedly) Christian in the blog ranks, and that somehow Hugh Hewitt gets to be a "God Blogger", or that (coff coff) Jimmy Akin is a featured guest at this little shin-dig.

You know -- it's not about his Catholicism, either. It's about his luke-warm ability to read others' works and write about them. This is a guy who's been an (allegedly) professional apologist for more than a decade -- and he still can't read something written contra his views without either bias or ignorance creeping in.

There are an army of far better bloggers than these people who have leveraged their pre-existing day jobs into blog readership. I mean, how much contemplation did it take to figure out that the key people at the Family Research council ought to be blogging to "get the word out" on thier social agenda? Most of the rest of these people -- I get more hits than them in any average week, and my technorati rank is stellar compared to them. When you compare them to TeamPyro, fuggedaboudit.

If we want to have a GodBlogCon, let's have one right here -- I'll start later this week, and I'll explain to you how this thing works and how to improve your blog, and we can even have breakout sessions in the meta. And you know what? I'll do it for free, and you won't have to leave your kitchen or office or whatever.

I am also upgrading (read: making simple so IE6 readers can view all the stuff) the blog template. It makes me sick that the template is taking a beating in IE, but I knew eventually Microsoft would not be a real competitor in the browser marketplace. They're not tenacious enough. Until then, please do yourself a favor and get Firefox, and you'll see that I'm not kidding -- it renders better. See the sidebar to the right (or to the botton in IE) for details.

Last thing: Lunch with the Philster today. I may call him "Hoss" just to see how he takes it.

Back to the sidekicks.

It starts with a clean heart

(This is actually a cross-post, and I hope no one minds but it's what I'm about today...)

As reformation day is upon us, you and I are going to read a lot of personal reflections in the next few days about what this day actually means to various people. To some people it means quite a bit, as it marks a truly significant day in the history of the Christian church. To other people, it means very little and they might even try to tell you it means nothing, since it has no importance in their own lives or their own understanding of history.

are you making this the prayer of your heart?

Some say the reformation was a failure - as it didn't reform the church in Rome.

Some say we need a new reformation - as the modern church is corrupt in numerous ways.

Some just don't care one way or another and couldn't tell you anything about the events that led up to, or that were significant about the reformation at all.

It occured to me recently, what might happen if we did have another reformation, in our day? What would be the outcome, if a young man nailed a list of 95 things dreadfully wrong with the evangelical church, to a local church door? More than likely, he'd be derided by the ecumenical crowd for pointing out those 95 things and laughed at by mega-church enthusiasts. I wonder who would really pay attention to his list of 95? Would it really matter? Would it have any kind of impact on this generation of believers, or the next generation? Would believers still be writing about the reformation of 2006, in the year 2506?

As for me personally, I'd love to see another reformation. A real one, where honorable men of God stand up for what is right and true, and reject what is ungodly and unprofitable. One where men and women would find the boldness and courage in Christ to speak up and speak out for the truth of God's word, without any matter of watering down, compromise or blending of unBiblical philosophies or practices. I'd dearly love to see that on a broad scale - all across Canada, the US, England, Europe... the world.

Reformation Day

Recently Steve Camp posted at his blog an exhortation for believers to make this year's Reformation Day a day of fasting and prayer for reformation, repentance and revival for His church in every nation . Toward that end, brother Steve has been posting articles with this theme, that you might find a great encouragement:

I would greatly encourage you to read these posts, and let them bless (and convict) your heart.

The more I thought about praying for another reformation, the more I wondered what that would really look like? While it's easy to say "we need another reformation", it's a completely different matter to find yourself on your knees earnestly petitioning our Heavenly Father for it in our homes, churches, cities and countries. If you're going to pray for genuine reformation, repentance and revival, then I believe that's exactly how it should start. If you might be wondering what to pray for and who to pray for, here are some suggestions: (warning - this may change your prayer life!)


How are things going in your own life? Is your attitude in check, your faith doing okay? Are you praying daily that He might use you as a vessel of grace to minister to the needs of others?

Your spouse

If you're the husband, seeking God's wisdom and guidance in the leadership in your home, is always a good place to begin. Making it a matter of prayer to be attentive to your wife and children, setting the example for them through various means such as family devotions, and regular family prayer, is always a good thing to pray for as you lead in your home.

If you're the wife, have you given much recent thought to the Biblical mandate of submission? How are you doing in that area? Are you making a good and comfortable, Godly and encouraging home for your husband? Are you being the kind of wife that you know He's called you to be according to His word? Are you praying for your husband every day?

Your children & extended family

How is your example to your children, your siblings, your parents? For your children, you are in direct authority over them, and in that authority bears a great responsibility to raise them up according to His word, and set the example for them to follow after as they grow up. Parents must take this responsibility seriously, and make it a matter of prayer ever day. Likewise with your extended family - are you taking every opportunity He affords you to minister His grace to them?

Your Christian friends and aquaintances

How are your friends doing? Do you know? Are you praying for them? Is there something you could be doing in addition to prayer that might bless them in some way? Is someone sick, in a difficult relationship, or in some other kind of unpleasant situation?

Your pastor & church leaders

Your pastor bears a great responsibility to equip you and solidly ground you in the word of God. Are you praying for him, and the other leaders in your church that they might be blessed with wisdom as they lead and teach?

Your congregation

You worship and sing praises to the Lord every week with these people. Do you really know them? Who is suffering? Who just had a baby and really needs help? Who among them is weak and needs ministering to right now? Would it bless someone's heart to get a card from you this week, or a phone call just to let them know you're praying for them and thinking of them? How can you better serve, in your local church?

Your church's associations & fellowships

Most churches are connected in some way with other churches, or fellowships. Is everything going well there among these fellowships & associations? If yes, then praise God! Pray that He might be pleased to continue to be gracious this way, and open more doors for the gospel's sake. If no, then pray for those areas where things aren't going so well, that He might be pleased to grant wisdom and understanding.

Other Christian churches & outreach ministries in your city

Remember these churches and ministries as well as your own. God's people come from various backgrounds and churches, and it's quite likely the family of believers in the church down the street from yours, has many of the very same needs that your own church has.

Church planting ministries

Lifting these men and women up in prayer is crucial. As a people of faith we depend on one another to remember us this way - and a church planting ministry is a much needed resource in our day. You might want to remember to pray that God's blessing be on these people as they stand firm on His word and minister to their communities and congregations.

International ministries (radio, web, direct mail, apologists, writers, lecturers, etc)

In the high-tech age we live in, almost all of us are blessed by these people, in some way. Keeping these people in prayer and thanking the Lord for their ministries is something that we shouldn't forget to do.


You probably already pray for your own church's missionaries (I hope), but what about the missionaries in my church, or the church across town? How about the missionary families? In many cases this is very dangerous work, and quite often these men and women literally put their lives in jeopardy to take the gospel to those that have not yet heard of Christ. Praying for their safety and their assurance is something we should all be doing.

Civil leaders

In almost every form of government throughout the world, there are ungodly men and women in leadership. As people of God we are called to pray for these people, so this is something we shouldn't ever neglect to do.

While this is obviously not an exhaustive list, or any kind of all encompasing treatment on how to pray for certain people, I do hope that it gives you some ideas on who to pray for, and why. Someone once said that genuine revival starts with one person on their knees. I believe that to be true, as it will bring about reformation in your own life, and will be an edifying thing to those around you.

May we see another genuine reformation in our time, one prayer at a time.

Fellowship Obstacle #1

Having trouble being teachable? Here are some tips!

Tip #1: God gave you two ears, and only one mouth. Do the math.

Tip #2: Remember, it isn't the messenger, it is the message (Recall Balaam's Donkey?)

Tip #3: If at first you don't agree, don't assume it is because they simply don't understand your point.

Tip #4: Remember that God didn't always instruct Moses face to face - sometimes he used people too.

Tip #5: The biggest hindrance to your spiritual education is going to be your own ego.

Follow these five tips, and you will find yourself suddenly able to take instruction from any of God's saints. We are called to edify one another, and to receive the same from each other - this works best when self is on the cross.

Have a nice day - and spend some time today in prayer for this coming Lord's day!

... gonna wear me out ...

Geez. He's gonna wear me out, I swear. Listen: I don't think church should be a black-tie event, but you know something? I don't think church has ever been a fall-about event, either. I have said this before, and I'll said it again here: if missiology is about how I cut my hair and what clothes I wear, it's not worth debating -- it shouldn't even come up.

But isn't the real stinker here that, on the one hand, one side has one uniform and on the other hand, the other side has another uniform, and both sides are trying to make a theological point for their fashion statement? Think about that -- is it any more or less sinful to say that my jeans and a t-shirt is actually the more theologically-acceptable gear than it is to say that the business casual of some 'burb' church is actually the more theologically-acceptable? It's a stupid argument on its face -- trying to see which kind of legalism is the more profound.

The missiology snootery is starting to wear me down, I promise you. I'm all ears for things like whether or not we are surrendering the cultural capitals of our civilization, and whether we are actually interacting with people who need the Gospel or creating our own Gospel ghetto. I'm listening. But let's remember that we are messengers of a savior who is Lord and Christ -- who places demands on us that may force us to give up our "Jesus is my side of fries" attitudes for something a little more sacrificial than spending money on extended super Dish network with Game Day in order to "stay in touch" with the culture. Extra Foam.

At any rate, one of the sidekicks has a post on-deck for today. Make sure you spend the Lord's day in the Lord's house with the Lord's people, and try to show up after a bath in clean, modest clothes. The rest is between you and God.

BOC-Political Activism and the Gospel

I was highly tempted to post something on DW, but since we're in the height of the political season, I opted for this instead.

A reasoned view of how politics and the Gospel should play out on the weekdays, with a dose of "what about church discipline" thrown in for good measure.

From Aug '05...

P.S. The original subject line was THE NEEDLE IN HAYS' TACK

Ok -- ok. The subject line is hokey. Steve Hays has been bristling about ECBs and their usefulness in Kuyperian political philosophy, and I just posted 6-pages on his blog in response to his latest salvo. Personally, I respect Steve and think the world of him -- but we don't agree on this one.

Here's the text:

Great questions. I have a free moment before my day is over here at work and I drive 6 hours to my in-laws for the weekend. Thanks to Steve for thinking about this with me, even if we cannot come to agreement about the matter.

| 1.I’m all for godly church discipline, but just
| what, exactly, do the critics of ECB have in
| mind? Say that 30% of Southern Baptists are
| divorcees. How does church discipline apply
| retroactively? Should they all be
| excommunicated?
| I pose this as a serious question. What
| concrete proposals do the critics of ECB
| have to offer? What tough-minded measures
| do they recommend to curb moral laxity in
| the church?

Since this is a pragmatic question, it deserves a pragmatic answer: start anywhere. This is not a matter of high theology. The problem is not that we have “lax” church discipline: it is that there is no church discipline to speak of. The handful of churches that attempt such a thing have no hope of enforcing it because the offenders will simply find a church that doesn’t care.

The answer to the question is “start anywhere”. FWIW, I don’t think excommunicating all divorced people in the SBC would be a very effective first volley – because it is indiscriminate and it is also the wrong message. It says, “We didn’t bother to try to help you have a decent marriage, and we didn’t try to help you heal your marriage, so we’re going to punish you by throwing you out of church.”

How about we start with mandatory pre-marital counseling that challenges couples to see marriage in a holy and practical way – a way which places the emphasis on sacrifice and lifting one’s mate up to God as a gift rather than as a secular romantic tax-relief vehicle?

| Suppose we did excommunicate all of the
| divorcees. And suppose, for good measure,
| we were to excommunicate all of the Free
| Masons as well.
| By definition, that would purify the church.
| Yet it would do nothing to purify the general
| culture. Rather, it would simply relocate the
| problem. It would transfer the nominal
| believers from the church to the street.
| Exporting our internal rot to society at large
| would make the church better, but it would
| do nothing to make the general culture any
| better.

The issue is not purifying the church, Steve: the issue is the church acting on the Gospel first, and then acting on the results of the Gospel. The church will never be completely free of unbelievers in the ranks until the final judgment, but until then, we are tasked (and I’m going to hate saying this, so feel free to give me the business over saying it) not to give out merciless (even if justified) beatings (ouch) but to give mercy because we have received mercy.

I have not intended to make the point that the church should be doing nothing until it perfectly reflects the measures internally demanded by Scripture – I have been trying to make the point that the church’s business is the Gospel, and because the church in America is really, desperately empty of that complete message of God’s work and man’s role in responding to that call, the church needs to figure out why it’s “A-List” of activities has political action and short-term programs rather than the Gospel.

We should vote; we should write letters to the editor; we should be teachers and managers and builders and pastors and whatever you have there on the list of what people do. But in all things we should be preaching the Gospel first.

| 2.There are other complications as well. Say
| that Mom and Dad are nominal believers.
| They’re on their second or third marriage.
| But they bring their kids with them to
| church—kids from their various marriages.
| If you excommunicate the parents, you
| excommunicate the kids. So you take the
| kids out of the church and put them back
| onto the street. Does that improve the
| general culture?
| My immediate point is that it’s very easy to
| issue vague, facile imperatives about how
| the church ought to do some spiritual
| Spring-cleaning. But if this is to be more
| than empty verbiage, then it needs to be
| followed up by some very specific policy
| proposals.

As I said, I don’t think a mass excommunication is the answer. You’re building an argument against something I wouldn’t advocate – especially because the objective of church discipline is not cleaning house but reform of those who say they are disciples of the Gospel, which is to say “reconciliation and unity”.

I am not voicing a facile imperative about spiritual house-cleaning. I haven’t used those terms or anything like them. What I have been saying is that our first weapon against the evil that men do is the Gospel – not the sword. And because the church is in a frankly-disastrous state, using the sword when we can’t even pick up the Gospel is backwards and useless.

Let’s imagine that in the foreseeable future all the legislation we might want to pass about abortion and gay marriage gets passed. What do we do next? If gay marriage is illegal, what about pre-marital and extra-marital sex? These are the same kinds of evils. But I think that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to stick his political neck out and say, “if you have sex before marriage, or outside of your marriage, you are violating the core of our society and your act should be illegal.”

Where this message is rightly pressed and rightly framed is inside the Gospel, and by necessity the message comes from inside the church. Does it result in some legal ramifications? I would say “yes” – but qualify that by saying whatever legislation comes of it, it is based on Gospel principles.

Until we are delivering the Gospel, all the laws we would deliver will be only secular rules that no one understands or can rightly obey. And think about this: without their epistemological foundations, those laws would be easily manipulated into something never intended.

| 3.BTW, is church discipline the same thing
| as preaching the gospel? Or is this
| something the church needs to do before it
| can get back to preaching the gospel, which
| it needs to do before it can participate in the
| democratic process?
| After all, if the church were to get really
| serious about church discipline, that would
| plunge a denomination into a very divisive,
| bitter, and all-consuming controversy.
| So what should be our priority: reaching the
| unchurched with the gospel, or taking
| remedial action against nominal believers in
| the pew?

I am certain it would be controversial. I am certain there would be fall-out. But I am certain that it is part and parcel of the Gospel. One of our problems today is that we have disjoined “discipline in the church” from “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Discipline in the church is a direct function of reverence for Christ – and is therefore a direct corollary of the Gospel.

Part of teaching the unchurched the Gospel is teaching them how to rightly live inside the Church. This is itself not either/or: it is one thing.

| And I hope a critic of ECB isn’t going to tell
| me that we can do both (evangelism and
| church discipline), for if it’s true that we can
| do both, then the C-bees would rightly reply
| that we can do evangelism and politics at the
| same time too.

The crazy thing, Steve, is that I agree that they can be done together – but the Gospel comes first! If we stick to the example of gay marriage, we reject gay marriage not because of legal or political reasoning: we reject it because it offends God. Marriage is established by God, from the beginning, between one man and one woman, and the two shall become one, leaving their parents and cleaving to one another.

So whatever law we ought to be enacting, it must reflect the categorical nature of marriage. To simply call it “a legal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife” (cf. defense of marriage act) is to completely overlook what we are actually trying to defend: God’s intention for marriage.

If the Gospel leads first, the correct definition of marriage is much more specific, and is tied to the affirmation of God’s intent in creating man and woman. I don’t happen to have a draft of such legislation, but that’s what Gospel-first means: we don’t accept that those who hate the Gospel have a way to express what only the Gospel expresses. In that, we do not accept their definition of terms, especially legal terms.

| 4.One critic of ECB has said that the church
| cannot have two priorities. If true, this is not
| merely a criticism of ECB, but a criticism of
| political activism, per se—even if it were
| limited to fellow evangelicals.

That was me. What I said was that the church cannot have two first priorities – two things cannot occupy the first place. You cannot serve God and mammon, etc.

It’s a criticism of political activism for the sake of having a finger in the pie. I stand by it. Political activism is not an end unto itself: it is a derivative end, a consequence of a greater goal or premise. If the Gospel is not leading the activism, the activism is trying to lead the Gospel. I can hardly imagine how that cannot be true.

| BTW, this is a problem when you talk to the
| critics. When you press them hard, they will
| admit that political activism is legit, but
| once the pressure is off, they revert to their
| gospel-only, every-member-evangelism line.

You won’t get that from me. Political activism is appropriate if it is lead by the Gospel. If it is lead by some other urge, it’s outside the bounds of Christian ethics.

| 5.As a matter of fact, the “church” can,
| indeed, have more than one priority. As I’ve
| remarked before, the painful irony here is
| that those who presume to speak on behalf
| of the church in opposition to ECB have a
| very defective doctrine of the church.

Anyone – or any organization – can have a list of priorities – but there can only be one first priority. That’s why it’s “first”: it’s definitive. It sets the tone for the balance of the priorities.

| There is a division of labor within the
| church, for the “church” is simply the
| community of believers, who come together
| for worship, but have a wide variety of
| callings in life outside the church. Everyone
| is not called to be an evangelist. Dobson is a
| pediatrician and child psychologist; Colson
| is a lawyer.
| It is possible to have a godly vocation
| outside the ministry, is it not? Ironically
| again, critics of ECB attack the C-bees for
| being too cozy with Rome, yet the critics are
| operating with a tacitly Catholic ideal, in
| which to be a wife and mother or family
| man is second-best.

You are missing the point entirely, Steve: I have not once argued that everyone is called to be only one thing inside the body. What I have said is that the Gospel comes first. That means, for example, as a lawyer Colson ought never to lie in order to advocate for a client – even though that’s legally acceptable. It means that Dobson, as a psychologist, ought never to manipulate others into doing things – even if it is for their “own good”.

And if we have political activists, so be it: but let them live by the Gospel first, and advocate laws that come from the Gospel first. Let’s keep this as specific as possible, Steve. Here are the definitions from DOMA:

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

Would you agree that this is an adequate definition of marriage? Is it the one you would advocate in speaking of marriage? Or is it, instead, a weak piece of legislation because it misses the point of marriage entirely?

Now what if the Gospel came first? That is, what if God’s definition of marriage was “in” this definition – for example, if the law made explicit reference to Gen 2, Exo 20, Mat 5 and Eph 5? Would that be a better piece of legislation – more powerful that merely banning same-sex marriage – or would it be merely another choice?

My gripe is that the Gospel is not in their legislation at all. The law as it was written is merely a club – “gay? No! Hell No! No marriage for you!”

You can be a Christian politician – if the Gospel comes first. Otherwise, you’re just a politician with a fish-pin on your shirt.

| I’ve said this before, yet it doesn’t sink in.
| But isn’t this a fixture of the Reformed
| Baptist theology?

It is – but in defining the role of the magistrate, the LBCF says “according to the wholesome laws”, and says that waging war may be done “under the New Testament”.

The question is not, “can a Christian be a politician”, but “he must still be a Christian if he is a politician.” “Christian” doesn’t just mean “baptized”, does it Steve? Of course not. It bears the weight of LBCF XXI,3: “They who upon pretence of Christian liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any sinful lust, as they do thereby pervert the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction, so they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righeousness before Him, all the days of our lives.”

That is at least as essential to the matter of defining Christian magistrates and the methods and motives of ECBs as the explicit definition of the civil magistrate as a class.

| 6.In Scripture, the church is not prior to the
| state, and the state is not prior to the church.
| Until the return of Christ, these are both
| essential social institutions.

I agree – but they are separate institutions, and in the best case the state is populated with members of the church.

| Indeed, the state exists for the primary
| benefit of the church. Although the state can
| persecute the church, yet, in the common
| grace of God, the state more often functions
| to protect the elect from the reprobate.
| Without law, there would be no church.
| Without law, the reprobate would
| exterminate the elect.

That is an interesting statement, and I will mull it over.

| And this is another reason why Christians
| need to involve themselves in the
| democratic process. For if we leave it to the
| unbelievers, then the unbelievers will turn
| the coercive powers of government against
| the church and thereby muzzle the gospel.

You are again overstepping the bounds of my argument: I’m not advocating a total withdraw from society. I am not advocating a church in a bunker. I am advocating against compromise of the Gospel to effect alleged political gains.

| A certain amount of persecution can have a
| refining effect, but persecution on a
| totalitarian scale can decimate the church.
| Just look at the impact of ironclad
| communism on Eastern Germany? And look
| at how the reunion of Germany after the fall
| of communism had the effect of secularizing
| Western Germany.

Is one of the premises of this statement that the church in Western Germany was healthy when the wall came down? I’d like to research that topic before I agree or disagree. Anecdotally, I don’t think that’s true, but I’d have to read up on it to give you a real opinion.

I really must run. Be well this weekend and do not attend any political rallies without my prior approval and the consent of your ruling elders. :-)

Today's Menu: Legalism with a side of tradition bondage

Well, now that I've got your attention...

Recently I did a google to locate a diagram or instructions on how the Amish/Mennonite folks set up their indoor drying lines for the winter. I know it's not rocket science, but I thought a visual (diagram or writing) might help. My dryer's been on the fritz so I'm planning on installing a laundry line or two, take some of the workload off the dryer. Of couse with the recent tragedy of the schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community, there were a lot of 'current event' type of articles to wade through before I could find some comprehensive Amish/Mennonite lifestyle articles.

I never did find what I was looking for, but what I did find was somewhat interesting. I think a lot of us "Englishers" (this is what they call us) are fascinated with the Amish lifestyle for no other reason than they seem to be the closest we'll ever come to seeing the results of a time-machine. Especially within the Old Order Amish/Mennonite communities, these are a people who have stopped the clock for the last 300 years or so. To be sure, their lifestyle is interesting especially if you compare it to the way most North Americans live, and waste massive amounts of time on absolutely pointless persuits and/or entertainments. While most all of the Old Order women are spending their days cooking, gardening or sewing - many of their English women counterparts are painting their toenails and watching Oprah. Okay, not all of us watch Oprah or paint our toenails but I think you get my point.

What was even more interesting to me were the reasons behind a lot of the lifestyle specifics of the Amish. Some of the most unusual reasoning goes into what they do:

- Clothing does not have buttons, because the Amish were persecuted by soldiers that wore bright, shiney buttons on their uniforms. Buttons represent that to them - so buttons are out.

- Underclothing is hand made, because store bought underclothing is snug fitting (especially with the elastic in it) and causes temptation.

- Most Amish do not have their pictures taken due to the graven image commandment given in Scripture.

- Some Amish communities still practice what is called "bed-courtship". The young man who is courting the girl will arrive at her house after the parents have gone to bed for the night and he will stay overnight in her bed. They believe this practice prevents the young couple from running around, and gives the parents the assurance of knowing where they are. (I am not making this up, I assure you).

- Part of the reason some Amish communities do not have church buildings, but hold church in the homes of the community members, is so that the entire community can keep an eye on the family and see that they're lifestyle is in accordance with the Church Ordnung (church order).

These are just some of the things that stuck out to me as I reading through Amish lifestyle sites. One of the sites I read was that of a man who grew up Amish, left several times and modernized, and finally left for good and spent the next many years fighting the legal system to get protection for his abused neices and nephews, within the Amish community.

It seemed obvious to me as I read, that while most Amish live that way because they prefer it, the ones that have the biggest problems with that lifestyle (and end up excommunicated, shunned and miserable within their Amish communities), are the ones that rebelled against the legalism of the lifestyle. Maybe a young man was caught with a radio. Or a young woman might have been discovered to be wearing undergarments with elastic in them. A boy might have his sleeves rolled up too high toward his elbows. A girl might get this fancy idea in her head that she wants to continue her education past the 8th grade. Any number of things like this would fall into the category of "sinning" and would be met with strict discipline within the Ordnung. While these things are indeed a "sin" within their own community, they are in fact not a sin against our Heavenly Father. They are man-made traditions that keep the people in bondage to a certain lifestyle, and strict adherence to the rules of the community out of fear of being physically disciplined (if a child) and publicly humiliated if an adult.

Like with any "ex" of any religion, they are the ones who have the most to say about such rules and orders, and why they left. In many cases, they didn't necessarily desire to leave their faith or belief in God, they just couldn't reconcile the forced lifestyle with who they understood God to be.

As I was reading and thinking about all of this, I thought of a lady I know of (through a friend) that is not Amish, but has the very same kind of legalistic pattern to her thinking. She is a professing Christian just like the Amish, but at the same time she is so caught up in the man-made traditions handed down to her by her own parents, and there is no joy in her Christian life. No joy in actually being a redeemed person, walking by faith, thankful for His grace. It's all about control, rules, power-struggles, etc.

I went through a little of this myself, early in my own Christian life. It's not a pretty place to be. It's also not what we're called to live like, when Jesus said take up your cross and follow me.

I don't really have any kind of stunning conclusion to this post. I just wish it weren't so easy to get caught up in legalism and bondage to man-made traditions that cloud our view of what it really means to live in Christ. It was an eye opener to read of these legalistic rules within the Amish communities, but it really made me think of us Englishers, and our own made up rules and guidelines that we tend to defend as if they were Scripture.

Maybe there's a lesson in here somewhere for all of us to take a closer look at our own traditions, and see how we're doing?

Have a lovely Monday.


The Lionization of Orthodoxy

How many creeds, councils and confessions must a man adhere to in order to proudly wear the "orthodox" label? The answer really is: it depends. We would all agree that you should at least be able to say, with conviction, that you agree to all that you find in the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.

Of course, this same council prohibited kneeling, and declared that you could only be rightly baptized by an orthodox believer, and if the person who baptized you later became an heretic, your own baptism would be invalidated. Which is the soft way of saying, the councils were often pretty good at dealing with identifying heresy, but were often a little over-the-top in assessing their own authority.

So where do we draw the line. If you accept the Nicene Creed, but kneel during the litrugy - can you still claim to be orthodox? What about if the guy who baptized you turns into a modalist ten years from now?

What about the Council of Constantinople in 381. Are you still orthodox if you agree with the new improved Nicene Creed (sans anathema)? What about if you disagree with that famous third canon - that the bishop of Constantinople should be next in power to the bishop in Rome? What if you thought both should have equal authority, or perhaps have no special authority? Would you still be orthodox?

What about the council of Ephesus in 431. Are you still orthodox if you think calling Mary the mother of Christ is wrong? Must she always be referred to as the mother of God? What if this council anathemized you because you think that Jesus cast out demons by the finger of God (Holy Spirit) - are you still orthodox?

What about the council of Chacledon in 451. Are you still orthodox if you felt that a deaconess need not be at least 40 years of age, or that monks and nuns should be allowed to marry like everyone else?

These councils did a good job (generally) of identifying heresies - and I think when most of us think, of "orthodox" we aren't thinking of all the ecclesiastic debris that came along side this stuff (such as was mentioned above), though the faithful papist may disagree. Typically we reason that if we agree with the bulk of the creeds (inasmuch as they agree with scripture), and we agree that the heresies identified by these councils are in fact heresies (though -not- because these councils called them heresies - but rather because we draw from scripture the same conclusions these councils drew from scripture.

We dare not suggest that we begin discarding or neglecting church history! Good gravy no, we just don't exalt these things above scripture.

We all (at least on the evangelical side of the fence) tow-the-line, parroting with zeal that "there must be a balance!" - even if we haven't the first idea where that balance is supposed to be. Too many of us, I think, ignore church history altogether because we feel that all we really need to know is our bible. But in thinking that we forget that the people who fell into heresy weren't without scripture themselves - that these "heretics" were typically the well-read theologians of their day - not laymen, but presbyters and bishops - well respected and quite influential indeed. It behooves us therefore to reason that if these worthy men could go astray - then we must allow for the possibility that left to our own devices, even having a good grasp of scripture isn't necessarily any sort of guarantee that we will never err in our understanding. The wise man errs on the side of caution - which in this case means he doesn't toss out church history because he knows how to read the bible.

The point to all this is really is just to highlight the fact that the term "orthodox" (I apologize again to my papist friends) isn't as cut and dry as it might first appear. Some would suggest that unless you can write the WFC out in your own blood - from memory - you are not orthodox "enough" - while others think that if you can recite the gist of John 3:16 your plenty orthodox already.

I recall with morbid fascination the first time I realized that I held a belief that had been anathemized by one of the councils (justification by faith alone has been anathemized you know). When I saw that there was a real synod that met and anathemized me, and when I correctly reasoned that these people had exactly the same authority as any of the people in any of those other councils which had anathemized all the other heretics - well, let's just say that I gained a new perspective into how much shrift I ought to be giving to the term "orthodox."

It was then that I became satisfied with a label that perhaps is less than orthodox - I call it the "I am not a heretic, at least as far as I know..." label. It works for me, for now.

The bottom line today people is this: Don't toss tradition out the window just because you are an evangelical, and don't cling to it as though it were scripture. A whole lotta error has been identified already and can be easily avoided ever after if we are willing to learn a bit from our christian fathers. Tradition is very much like a Christian "Talmud" - there are some good things in it, but following it exclusively or with undue authority is going to lead you eventually away from scripture, away from truth - and chasing a label** instead of Christ.

**Now 100% Talmud Compliant

BOC-Do Something Now (for the Gospel)

In the comments to yesterday's post, Frank mentioned hanging a sign on the well in the native language with "John 4:13-14" on it. The reason for the sign is in this excerpt from a July '05 post, from a previous call to "do something for Africa." As a bonus, Frank throws in his testimony...

I ask all these questions because the answer, in its most-raw form includes the matter that we ought to feed the hungry, aid the sick, and comfort the prisoners. But the answer must also include cultural reform – and when you read those words here in this blog, you had better understand that “cultural reform” means “the invasive expansion of the Gospel message and its consequences”.

I’m not preaching a prosperity Gospel here – I’m not advocating that the Gospel means that by 2010 Africa could all be paved and landscaped so that it’s a nice drive-by. I’m saying that the Gospel strikes down the barriers between races and between tribes and between language groups – it is the message that God has made His peace to all the nations, and that means the nations of Africa as well as the nations of the West. I’m saying that the Gospel calls men to share each others’ burdens, and in that it calls those with power (read: the local political rulers) to exercise compassion and justice in carrying out their ministry which is ordained by God. I’m saying that the Gospel calls men to repent of sin – and the sin of sex apart from marriage is not a worse sin than any other sin, but it is the one which is ravaging the health and welfare of these people. I’m saying that the Gospel has already been delivered to us, and if we hand over a bowl of soup, or a pill, or a dollar, and when we do that material act we do not take a moment and preach the Gospel which has empowered us to do this work, we have failed as disciples of Christ.

Look: here’s what I mean. About 4 months ago, our associate pastor was about to go on sabbatical and as part of his last sermon before leaving, he gave me the honor and privilege of providing my testimony to the church as an example of the Gospel.

To keep it brief, my testimony is this:

I grew up Catholic, and became an atheist. I rejected God and embraced the philosophy of man. Ten years later, everything I had done to suit that philosophy of man-made priorities had proven itself to be, as Paul said succinctly, “skubalon” – dung. My life was not worth living because it was only my life – my choices, my values, my ethics. I wanted to die because of the emptiness, and planned to die, but God showed me a different plan through the Gospel.

I had to come to that lowest of low points to find out that God would go any distance to do what He planned to do – and it wasn’t just for laughs or as an open-ended possibility: God did what He did for me. “Me” who cursed the name of Jesus; “Me” who spit on the idea of church and worship; “Me” who thought that selflessness was suicide and vain. God did what He did for me – and that changes who and what I am and what I ought to be.

So now when I do something for someone, it is in Jesus’ name – the name which is above all names, who emptied himself out in order to take the form of a servant for the sake of my salvation and God’s glory.

When I finished giving that testimony, I had lunch with my brother-in-law, and he said to me, “You know, I have never been that low in my life. I can’t imagine what it’s like.” And when I hear that, I’m stunned – because he’s not the first person to ever say that to me.

If you have never been so low as to know that the only hope you have is in Christ, and in Christ alone, then I suggest you have never met Jesus and you have no idea what the power of the Gospel is. That is not to say you cannot be saved: it means that you do not understand the definition of the word “saved”. And in that, you have no idea what the gift is you have been given if you claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

That gift – and its power to change death into life both in the soteriological sense and in the “I got out of bed this morning” sense – is the greatest gift we can send to the African continent. It cannot come without the food, and the money, and the medicine, and the education, and the investment – but it is possible that all of those other things could arrive without the Gospel. And the Gospel will not be delivered by those who do not realize that it is the power which gives life to dead bones.

If that happened – and it is happening right now, make no mistake – then we would be doing far worse to these people than letting them starve to death. If we do not do these things in the name of Jesus Christ, we might as well send them money to establish a porn industry, because it will no doubt be a solid way to generate cash for them and their economy. We must do these right things in the right spirit for the right goal of every tribe, tongue and nation on Earth giving praise to God.

This is really not about whether we give $30 billion or $3 trillion to Africa: this is about calling dead men out of their tombs. This is about Lazarus and whether God was careless to let him be dead or if God planned to use his condition to bring Glory to Himself.

By the way, since Jesus hasn’t come back on the clouds yet, this is about you and me getting ourselves together and doing what He sent us to do. Each with his own gifts, and each as members of one body, but each without any doubt as to why we do what we set out to do, and let our critics either be reached by our message, ashamed for their hatred, or damned.

pre-emptive blog

MONKEY: a simian; an ape; a primate.

MONKEE: a manufactured popstar; also one who is in the thrall of one who is a monk.

MONKIE: diminutive of "Monk".

In case it comes up, OK? This is a preemptive blog entry to avert global internet conflagration.

well ... (2)

Yeah, something else has happened in the last 2 weeks that has gotten my attention, and I mentioned it when I put the new button to the right: BloodWater Mission.

Here's the deal: we -- you and me, all of you 300-400 people who read my blog and me and my wife -- need to raise $3000 to build one well in Africa. My quick calculation is that if we each give $10, we can do it before Christmas.

The question is: how do we know that we have raised $3000 to build a well?

Listen -- you click the link at the right that says "obey Jesus with $1.00", read the fine print, and then click through to the donations page. When you key in your donation, in the personal info in the "COUNTRY" line, type "centuri0n" (with a ZERO, not an "O"). That's how BloodWater will track our donations, and we can get updates from them to find out if we have raised the money for a well or not.

UPDATED: My mistake -- you have to put "centuri0n" in the COUNTRY field in the BILLING INFO, not the "personal info". In the personal info, the Country field is a drop-down; it's a text box in the billing info. It makes me happy that readers e-mailed me about this because it means you're trying to donate. Nice work.

When I get back to work, I'm going to drop $25 in the kitty. And I'm not ashamed to say this: what, exactly, were you going to spend $10 on this month that you could put off until after Christmas? I just has to replace the alternator in my car, and I did it myself to save the labor so I could drop my $25 for this campaign. Maybe you could drink water from the dispenser at work for the next 3 weeks and put your Starbucks money, or your Dr. Pepper money, or your Dasani money in a jar and send that.

You know: if you think these people who don't have a sink could use a drink this year. You.

murder and martyr (2)

This is what I get for checking in.

Malkin and her league of international watch-bloggers have reported (with some MSM outlets) that a protestant pastor has been murdered in Indonesia, and they are calling his death an "execution" and an "assassination".

There are only a few ways to read this reporting, and you can choose without my guidance which one is about right. I don't have a dog in this fight, but it's worth thinking about:

[1] Malkin & Co. read my piece on the death of Sister Leonella a few weeks ago and have rightly decided that not every death of every Christian at the hands of Muslim radicals is martyrdom, in which case we can stick to what is really happening here and not turn this into something it not.

[2] Malkin & Co. have a double standard about martyrdom, and Catholics in religious orders who are murdered are necessarily saints, but Protestants can't be called martyrs unless they are missionaries killed by anthropologically-prehistoric savages in a jungle.

[3] Malkin & Co. think people killed by rogue operatives are "martyrs", but people killed by [alleged] government conspiracies are "assassinated".

I don't think any of these are really very generous toward the other writers I'm talking about here -- but it seems to me that if one is going to change one's view about a sort of event (for example, the philosophical weight of random murder of sociologically-Christian workers), one should do more than simply change one's rhetoric: one ought to explain why, about a month ago, the shooting of a nun is "martyrdom" and now the shooting of a Protestant minister is "assassination". It's a pretty significant distinction, especially in the context of the global conflict we are talking about here.

Now I'm going off to rest and relax. You know: as if.

Hypostatic Union and Teen Pregnancy

This is old bread from my pantry, but it's one of my favorites, and the first post I wrote that got a comment from Cent. That was the first step toward my destiny: to play second-fiddle to a brashly self-promoting book peddler from Arkansas.

Ehh, you take what you can get. At any rate, enjoy.


The EPT is positive. The ever-loving boyfriend is AWOL. The 17-year-old girl sitting in your living room is begging you not to tell her parents.

Bookmarked on your lampstand is a volume of church history containing the Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451. The creed defines Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man, one person encompassing two natures. His human and divine natures are joined “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.”

What earthly good are heavenly creeds when life hurts? Theological formulations are dandy in the cool silence of the lecture hall, but does theology ever intersect reality? For instance, of what value is the doctrine of the hypostatic union to an unwed pregnant teen?

Christian orthodoxy claims Jesus as the uncreated Son of God, consubstanial and eternally co-existent with the Father (John 1:1; 17:5). In plain Hebrew, he was Immanuel, “God with us.” Though he relinquished his grasp on divine glory to tread the dust of Galilee, his divine nature was not shelved in a heavenly warehouse until his return. While he “dwelt among us” (John 1:14), he allowed the veil of his flesh to slip just long enough for Peter, James, and John to understand whom they were following (Matt.17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36).

At the same time, the Son was not engaged in a metaphysical Halloween game. His flesh was not an ingenious disguise to cloak Jesus’ divinity; he was not God wrapped in human skin. Humans are susceptible to temptation, and Satan took full advantage of this one cosmic chance to tempt the untemptable God (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 4:1-11). Immortality does not die naked and impaled to a cross. When Jesus surrendured to death at Golgotha, a mortal man died (Phil. 2:8).

Back in your living room, she's sobbing uncontrollably now. How does any of this matter to her?

It matters because Hebrews 2:9-18 matters, particularly verse 18: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (NASB). What we sinners need is someone who understands where we’re coming from, and who can plead our case with the Father from an empathetic heart.

If Jesus was God but not truly man, he may have regal compassion on us. He may even be affectionately inclined toward us. But if his divine nature never partook of our human experience, he can’t understand what it means to be tempted. However merciful God’s nature, we are ultimately left guilty and shivering before the Judge of all the earth, with no tender-hearted intercessor who sympathizes with our struggle. The Father knows people are weak (Psa. 103:14). Jesus knows how it feels to be weak.

On the other hand, if Jesus was truly man but not God, his sympathy is pointless. You as a human being can feel the pain of my guilt, but you can’t relieve it. More to the point, the death of a mere man could never atone for the sins of many. At best, the substitutionary death of a perfectly pure man could free one sinner from the sentence of death. Only the death of the infinite-finite, immortal-mortal God-man could conceivably propitiate God’s wrath for “a great multitude which no one could count” (Rev. 7:9). If Jesus was not very God of very God, his death was virtually meaningless, and we remain shackled to our guilt. But if Jesus was indeed true deity, his death frees his people from all guilt, and his resurrection secures their eternal resurrected bliss.

A pregnant teenager doesn’t need a lecture on Chalcedonian ontology. She doesn’t even need to read this limited defense of the doctrine of Christ’s hypostatic union. But she does need to know Jesus understands her weakness, and that his sacrifice of love offers hope to his hurting and guilty people. If she is a child of God, she needs to know Jesus sympathizes and will not throw her away. If she has yet to repent in faith, she needs to know the sacrifice of Calvary can make all her guilt and shame go away forever.

Despite first impressions, the doctrine of the hypostatic union is theology in action. It comforts and strengthens, encourages and emboldens. It brings light to the sinner lost in the brooding darkness of his own soul. It gets the bruised saint back on his feet, brushes the dirt off, and helps him walk again.

As Linus said, sound theology has a way of doing that.

This Is Where I Am Right Now - Part II

If you haven't checked out Frank's T-Shirt with the above slogan - check it out.

A few days ago I wrote a post on my own blog which answered that question for non-Christians who wanted to know "where they were at" with God right now. If you want to have a bit of context for this post you can read that post here.

If you are a Christian however, you are -in Christ- and therefore, as we read in Ephesians 1:6, you are acceptable to God. Yes, you say, thank-you Daniel for pointing out the obvious. I agree - this truth is obvious, but I find that it is the obvious truths that we spend the least time plumbing the depths of. There are Theologians who can tell you the difference between infralapsarianism, and supralapsarianism - and let you know in detail why one is right and the other is wrong - who haven't given much thought to what it means to be in Christ.

So, if you are a believer, let's plumb that depth a bit and see how deep it goes.

In Romans 6:3-5 Paul paints a well rounded picture of our union with Christ. Those of us who were placed into Christ shared in Christ's death, burial, and into his resurrection by virtue of being inside Christ. I say "inside" rather than in - because it is a literal truth. When we say "in Christ" some have the tendency to make a metaphor out of it and in doing so, rob the text of its teeth. The text uses the word "baptized" - but many of us can't hear the word baptize without thinking of being baptized into water. The text however isn't talking about being baptized (immersed) into water - it is talking about being baptized into Christ. Why is that important?

First a bit about the Holiness of God. If you haven't read Sproul's book on the Holiness of God, I would suggest borrowing it and finding the chapter that discusses the text of Isaiah 6:3, wherein God is described as "Holy, Holy, Holy." I am no Hebrew scholar, but I am told that in Hebrew repeating a word like that gives emphasis. If you wanted to say that God was really holy you would say he was holy-holy (consider the Holy of Holies). But God is described as "Holy, Holy, Holy!" - not a mere three-fold, but Holy in flashing letters ten miles high. Holiness, Sproul goes on to teach, is not to be limited to simple purity - as though God were merely pure or sinless. Holiness means separated from everything else - alien. God is the Creator - and everything else is creation. Let that sink in for a bit. Hey? Why are you still reading slacker - I meant that- pause here for at least a few breaths and really meditate upon what that means - Creation may tell us a bit about our Creator, it will certainly give witness to there being a Creator - and even give glory to our Creator - but our Creator is of a different order than His creation - an order that is utterly alien to it.

I bring that up because when I talk about "time" - I want everyone to have a very clear understanding of what I mean when I say that God created time and is utterly and absolutely outside of it. Scripture teaches that a day is like a thousand years to God, and a thousand years as a day. That is a metaphor and it teaches us that God doesn't experience time in the way that we do - He is above it.

Now we are ready to consider the consequences of our union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. From my chronological perspective, Jesus bore -me- on the cross, and therefore (with me) all my sins whether past, present, or future - and this all happened 2000 years ago. When I understand that Jesus bore me - I understand that God's wrath wasn't directed at Jesus - it was directed at me personally. I was there. Jesus was just the ark that I was in - He offered himself to God for that purpose - by uniting myself within Him, He was able to bear me on the cross with Himself - and when God poured out His wrath upon me and my sin, Christ put Himself between us (as it were) and took all of God's awful wrath so that I didn't take a hint of it. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - my clothes didn't even smell of smoke - but it cost my Savior his own life - a life that he gave to prove that his love for me was real.

If I were a poet - the magnitude of that love could be painted in words - and maybe we might shed a tear to think of how selfless that was - and maybe we should - but it wasn't an isolated act - it was a demonstration of the character of God. God would do the same every day for eternity if that is what it took - that is Who God is - that is what He is like.

While it is good to reflect upon our God, and what He is like - we want to keep it all in context - That is where we are right now - in Christ. Have you sinned today? Are you hiding in the garden from God because of it? If you are, you don't get it. Christ is right now, in eternity, taking God's wrath for your sin because God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) loved you enough to go to that length to ensure that a way is always open for you to come to God. The anger that God feels for your sin, for your rebellion today or yesterday is being poured out on Christ so that you can -always- come to a throne of grace; even if you are smack-dab in the middle of the most treasonous act of rebellion imaginable - God is not dealing with you, he is dealing with your intercessor who not only delivers you from God's wrath, but gives you his own righteous standing before God.

What that means dear brothers and sisters, is that the condemnation for your sin does not affect God's relationship to you (though it will definitely impact how you relate to Him) - you are right at this moment as reconciled as you are ever going to be, not because you managed to live without falling into sin this morning - but because you are in Christ. I don't doubt that our enemy doesn't want us to get a hold of the most obvious truths - because when we do, we no longer run from God - the sting of sin has been dealt with - we are free to come to God because we are dressed in white - and not our own sin.

God's grace will cover every sin - but if God's Spirit is in us, we grieve for our sins - and rightly so. The genuine believer has no desire to continue in sin, and only does so because they are afraid to come to God on account of their sin. Brothers and sisters - that is the power of death isn't it? Separation from God? Jesus reconciled us to God, and is reconciling us to God. We need no longer be afraid of coming to God, because that love with which He has loved us, has cast out every reason to fear. It isn't that God accepts us in our sin - but that He accepts us in His Son. Sin kept us from God, and God has found a way to stop sin from doing that.

The bottom line - This is where you are right now (if you are a believer), you are in Christ, and nothing can separate you from God's love. Because you are in Christ, your sin can no longer separate God from you. That isn't to say that you are in fellowship with God if you are embracing sin - no way! Light has no communion with darkness - but because God is reconciled to you, you can come to God in prayer knowing that His relationship to you is founded on the truth that you are in Christ. God relates to us because we are in Christ, and not because we are particularly good or repentant. That doesn't mean that we are in fellowship with God when we are full of sin however... Fellowship can only happen when we walk in the light, as He is in the light. But I will touch on that aspect of our relationship with God either on my own blog, or here later.

Spend time in prayer before the Lord's day - come into His presence with thanksgiving in your heart - and give Him praise!

BOC-Does Orthodoxy Matter?

In keeping with yesterday's post, here's a gem from April '05...

In my experience, it always comes back to this question: "Does Orthodoxy matter in the life of the Christian?" "It", in this case, is any discussion in which the name of Jesus Christ is used to advance an agenda.

Let me clear something up before I go on here: having an "agenda" is not a bad thing. Anyone who has ever been in a meeting knows that an agenda keeps the meeting from lasting forever and also keeps the meeting facing some goal. Listen: I know that a lot of people frequently use the word "agenda" to mean "an underlying often ideological plan or program", and intend it to imply some evil motive. I don't intend it that way. When I say, in this series, that someone has an agenda, simply read it to mean that I think this person does what they are doing intentionally. That is to say, they have thought about what they are doing and choose to do it for specific reasons.

God willing, we should all have an agenda. God willing, we all have the right agenda. Don't get all squirrelly because I say someone has an agenda.

So in any discussion where someone is using an agenda and part of that agenda is "Jesus Christ" -- either as an end or as a means -- I wonder if everyone considers the complex matter of Orthodoxy? I ask this because when this matter comes up, it seems like it always causes a wicked stir. For example, someone might say, "I admire the Pope as a Christian leader of historic proportions," and someone else might ask, "I am unaware that praying to Mary 'Possess my soul, Take over my entire personality and life, replace it with Yourself, Incline me to constant adoration, Pray in me and through me, Let me live in you and keep me in this union always,’ was actually 'Christian'. What do you mean by 'Christian'?"

Now think on this: it's not saying that this Pope did nothing of any geopolitical "good". The question being posed is one of orthodoxy, in the same way, for example, that the men at Nicea posed the question of orthodoxy to Arius. The question is not a matter of political usefulness or even humanitarian usefulness. The question is whether the Gospel is being preached when these things were done.

What I have read in the last week or so is this: apparently, that question is irrelevant -- or perhaps it is actually the wrong question to ask at all because of other mitigating factors. Some advocate that there is no right way to determine orthodoxy because of the state of the church; others advocate that the demand for orthodoxy is itself a flawed pursuit because it is abstracted from the good works in evidence. In that, we should be able to call John Paul II, and Bono, and Mother Theresa, and Johnny Cash, and the Apostle Paul all "heroes of the faith" because their work was done in some relationship to the name of Jesus.

Yet it never fails to upset the advocates of this position when one asks anyway, "well, I happen to personally know a fellow who spent 2 years in South America as a missionary building hospitals and teaching school to children -- but he was a missionary for the Latter Day Saints. Is he a Christian hero also?" After you sort through all the hyperbolic rhetoric that comes back, you find the retort, "oh heavens -- he's not even a Trinitarian. That's a stupid example." And that even coming from former Mormons who have rejected the LDS as a false gospel.

Somehow those who will reply in that way simply cannot see the matters of orthodoxy at stake. I would actually agree that being non-Trinitarian (like a one-ness advocate, or a Mormon) excludes one from Orthodoxy -- which is my point in asking the question. What it underscores, however, is the larger issue that the Trinity is not the only matter of orthodoxy. If one is outside the faith for rejecting the Trinity, can't one be outside the faith for adding Mary, de facto via prayers to her that ask her to do the work of the Holy Spirit, to the Trinity? What about worshipping the Eucharist as God? Or for that matter, what about changing Jesus' declaration "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me," to mean that anyone who says he worships the God of Abraham must by implication be brought there through Christ -- even if he explicitly rejects Christ? What if someone was doing all of the above?

All of these questions are matters of orthodoxy -- that is, matters of what is and is not "the Gospel", what is and is not the Good News of Jesus Christ. So if someone finds the cure for cancer and gives it away for free, and dies a beggar for doing so, he may have done something historically exceptional. If someone takes a high-profile stand that flies in the face of both Capitalism and Socialism but it is actually the right moral stand, Amen. But let's not confuse that with Christianity -- which is discipleship to Christ for the sake of the cross and the Gospel.

To be a disciple of Christ for the sake of the Cross and the Gospel means that we are actually referring to "Christ", "cross", and "Gospel" which are the ones which do all the cool things we say they do. If we say "cross" and we mean a piece of jewelry, or "Gospel" and we mean a kind of campy folk music, there is no question orthodoxy matters. But Orthodoxy does not lose its importance in the first standard deviation from truth, and in fact becomes more critical as we work out to 5 and 6 Sigma.

I'm not trying to draw a small circle here -- because, to belabor my 6-sigma analogy, the best quality system produces the most number of parts inside the 6-sigma quality set -- but to say that when we stop thinking about the nature of orthodoxy, we start walking away from it for no good reason. Yes: orthodoxy matters and it should matter all the time to you for your own sake.

The Big One

Yeah, OK: I'm supposed to be fishing. I was actually fishing (that's a euphemism, btw: I don't fish -- but I'm not blogging so I might as well be fishing) and I read this at the blog of eternal terpitude:
First, we were required ...

to believe in the Atonement.

Then it was the Substitutionary Atonement

From there we moved to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

And now, we must believe in the Vicarious Penal Substitutionary Atonement. (it doesn’t even make a good acronym)

Were the thousands saved on the day of Pentecost really down with the Vicarious Penal Substitutionary Atonement? Was Peter, even?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that none of the people at Pentecost spoke English, so they wouldn't have used any of those words to describe what they believed -- including the Apostles and Disciples (unless the gift of tongues manifested in Th.D. speak). But that said, did Christ die for our sins? I mean, was that part of the Gospel on Pentecost or not?

Because let me be clear about something: anyone who wants to say that the Gospel has evolved over time is, in my opinion, a dangerous person to the faith of others.

When Isaiah says this:
    53:10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
    when his soul makes an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
    11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
the Gospel was preached. And in as much as Christ died for our sins, he died in a specific way for our sins.

The shame, really, is that we -- those who are in the faith 2000 years later -- have to use words like "Vicarious Penal Substitutionary Atonement" rather than "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture". It is not a shame that we understand these things, but that we have to make the specific distinctions we do in order to refute the error of misguided men.

I would agree that we ought to try to preach the Gospel in as common a language as we can muster -- but the Gospel is not a cloud of mystery, something which settles on us with vague good tidings. It is God's plan which He has carried out through all of history for His glory and our salvation.

I think, in that case, we ought to be sure we are talking about what he did specifically rather than without a lot of concern for getting it right.

Sidekicks Part Deux

(Special thanks to the HTML Fairy for help with reformatting this post.)

Cent's gone!

No, really. And he's left us to mind the store.

But like all good sidekicks, we know you don't come here for us, but for the main attraction. So for this iteration of Sidekicks, we're introducing Best of Cent. Only problem is, we need a picture to go with it.

So, here are your choices. Leave messages in the comments. You'll see the winner on Wednesday, when Best of Cent debuts.

A) Cap'n What's-his-name IronJaw

B) Centuri0n--Hard Headed Baptist (is there really any question that this one is the best?)

C) Little Johnny Blogger, a wannabe member of the Lost Boys (the Peter Pan version, not the B-movie vamp version)

D) Cent's ubiquitous avatar (please don't vote for this one)

P.S. One vote per customer. Only the first one counts.

Update: Here's how the voting came out.

A) 2

B) 7

C) 7

D) 2

SIC (Sidekick-In-Charge--that's me) has to cast the tie-breaker, so "B" it is. First Best of Cent post is on its way.

Setting The Stage

While Cent is away, we'll be blogging about a variety of topics. Two things we won't be talking about are Santa and the Brouhaha.

But just to kick things off--sort of set the stage--here's a quote which kinda puts things into perspective...

Oh, and don't forget to vote.

My wife doesn't read my blog because she thinks that the internet is for unsavory weirdos who don't have a proper social life.

I stay awake at night sometimes wondering if she's right ...

the wireless at the pond

Hey. Apart from ruffling Gummby's feathers for doing me a favor, I found this for my iPod.

Then go send an apology to Mark Driscoll's church, OK?


Yes, I am. No, I didn't forget about that. Yes, I will pick it up after I get back.

Sidekicks: you're on.

well ...

There's a new link in the sidebar that you have an obligation to visit. It's a link to Blood:Water Mission. {see graphic to my left}

Look: Jars of Clay may be woggly Methodists, but they have the good sense to do something specific about a tragedy they have seen with their own eyes. And yes: the FAQ page for this site has the chummy little banner in the corner for, which is a complaint for another day -- one which I have already covered in depth about a year ago.

All that said, it takes about $1 to provide a person in Africa with clean water for a year. $1 -- the buck you are about to put in the Coke machine.

I've e-mailed these folks to start a campaign to build a well, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I'll bet you could use the water cooler today and give your buck to some guy who doesn't have a buck or a cup of cold water.

de annotatius secundus

Classic. The first few frames are not coded right, but you'll get over it.

I love YouTube. It's such a murderer of time.

de annotatibus

I have no idea why the question of whether or not there ought to be comments allowed on Christian blogs is even a question. I have no idea why anyone would bother to even have a blog if they planned to keep the comments section closed.

However, about the topic of blog comments (I'll bet: because he doesn't allow them), and I got a good laugh out of his remarks. However, because he doesn't allow comments (apparently for the sake of following Christ -- if someone who reads that post can explain it to me I'd be much obliged; I'm a little puzzled at his omission of the "like ministry" punchline), I really don't have an opportunity to share the joy with him.

For those of you who are curious, here are my top reasons for keeping comments open on this blog:

[5] Because it's possible I might be wrong. If you don't think about this topic any further than "comments are a vital method of self-correction", you will have done well. You know: when someone has the audacity to call people who reject Santa "jerks", he ought to keep the door open to some level of criticism which is at about the same altitude as the comment he originally made.

[4] Because it's possible that somebody might learn something. There is at least one baptist reading this blog today who, after reading my various elaborations on the differences between Presbyterian paedobaptism and other forms of paedobaptism and the credobaptist position of all God-fearing men since John (the Baptist) (that's a joke, folks: laugh and move on), he learned something. It's also possible that I have learned one or two things by interacting with the people who have a strong enough constitution to read this blog from time to time and leave a comment.

[3] Because it builds community. Notice -- not "church" but "community". My wife thinks it's a little weird to make friends over the internet, but that's because she likes to talk and not to write. I like to write and to read. Nice to meet you, too.

[2] Because it foils those who want to call names. The proof, of course, is in the pudding. The meta is a fine record of whatever it is that I am, and while I have made my share of mistakes I don't pretend that I'm not that person by means of historically revisionistic anathemas.

[1] Stats. If you leave a comment, you'll probably come back. It's like potato chips.

And my other opinion for the day is that people who do not turn on comments fall into two categories:

Those who have an ardent following of torch-and-pitchfork wielding villagers who will stop at nothing to start a lynchingThose who cannot defend themselves and perceive everyone who criticizes them as torch-and-pitchfork wielding villagers who will stop at nothing to start a lynching

We will not include a list for either of those categories. You apply the paradigm as far as it is useful to you in your daily life.

As a side note, I really love the Google toolbar spell-checker. If you install it, you will, too.

PageRank Explained

For those of you who installed the google toolbar (like I did) after Gummby pointed it out, here's something you might want to read:
PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page's content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it's a good match for your query.

I need a sandwich

That is, a sacred sandwich.

That's beautiful.