Monday, July 31, 2006

Non-prayer at a Football Game

This may or may not be apocryphal, but it makes an interesting point!


This is a statement that was read over the PA system at the football game at Roane County High School, Kingston, Tennessee, by school Principal, Jody McLeod.

"It has always been the custom at Roane County High School football games, to say a prayer and play the National Anthem, to honour God and Country."

Due to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, I am told that saying a Prayer is a violation of Federal Case Law. As I understand the law at this time, I can use this public facility to approve of sexual perversion and call it "an alternate lifestyle," and if someone is offended, that's OK.

I can use it to condone sexual promiscuity, by dispensing condoms and calling it, "safe sex." If someone is offended, that's OK.

I can even use this public facility to present the merits of killing an unborn baby as a "viable means of birth control." If someone is offended, no problem...

I can designate a school day as "Earth Day" and involve students in activities to worship religiously and praise the goddess "Mother Earth" and call it "ecology."

I can use literature, videos and presentations in the classroom that depicts people with strong, traditional Christian convictions as "simple minded" and "ignorant" and call it "enlightenment."

However, if anyone uses this facility to honor GOD and to ask HIM to Bless this event with safety and good sportsmanship, then Federal Case Law is violated.

This appears to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, diabolical. Apparently, we are to be tolerant of everything and anyone, except GOD and HIS Commandments.

Nevertheless, as a school principal, I frequently ask staff and students to abide by rules with which they do not necessarily agree. For me to do otherwise would be inconsistent at best, and at worst, hypocritical... I suffer from that affliction enough unintentionally. I certainly do not need to add an intentional transgression.

For this reason, I shall "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," and refrain from praying at this time.

"However, if you feel inspired to honor, praise and thank GOD and ask HIM, in the name of JESUS, to Bless this event, please

feel free to do so. As far as I know, that's not against the law----yet."

One by one, the people in the stands bowed their heads, held hands with one another and began to pray.

They prayed in the stands. They prayed in the team huddles. They prayed at the concession stand and they prayed in the Announcer's Box!

The only place they didn't pray was in the Supreme Court of the United States of America - the Seat of "Justice" in the "one nation, under GOD."

Somehow, Kingston, Tennessee Remembered what so many have forgotten. We are given the Freedom OF Religion, not the Freedom FROM Religion. Praise GOD that HIS remnant remains!

JESUS said, "If you are ashamed of ME before men, then I will be ashamed of you before MY FATHER."

If you are not ashamed, pass this on
.

Politics and the Church

Excellent:

The NY Times article on Greg Boyd’s church in Minneapolis is catching attention. Why? (Below.)

I’d like to give some reflections, and I’m keen on your response, especially as it is timed with our series on Randall Balmer’s book, Thy Kingdom Come, who happens to be quoted in the NY Times piece. I’m keen on what you think local churches should do.

Here are two central paragraphs in the article:

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

Make that a third paragraph: “When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Here’s the core issue, and most in the Religious Right don’t get it.

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others — by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others — “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

So, what do we do? How do we as followers of Jesus relate to politics? Frankly, I’m embarrassed at the Church: I’m embarrassed how liberal mainliners kowtow to the Democrats, equating the US Constitution on rights and freedoms as somehow equivalent to the gospel. And I’m embarrassed with the Religious Right’s whorish behavior of aligning itself with the Republicans. Jesus would say to each, “I never knew you.” Now that you know how I feel, let me offer some observations about how Christians and churches can participate in the political process. Read More.

Crosspost: RedBlueChristian.Com


Saturday, July 29, 2006

WHEN IS FREE SPEECH OVER THE TOP?

Iv’e brought up free speech issues before. This one is particularly over the top. Photographer Jill Greenberg intentionally makes chidren cry then takes photos and gives them provocative titles. Her main ire is against the conservatives. In my opinion, this is abusive. Here is a link to the photos. Am I wrong, or is this deeply disturbing behaviour hidden in the guise of free speech?

Link

Further info of her attack on a blogger critical of her work.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Emergent

Courtesy, Rusty Lopez
For some great photos, visit Rusty's site and have a look.

Canadian Professor Fined for Stating Opposition to Homosexuality

Posted in the: It might happen here someday too department.

A Canadian professor has been fined two weeks pay by a Nova Scotia university for telling a student that homosexuality is an unnatural lifestyle. But despite the disciplinary measures imposed against the educator, he says he refuses to succumb to the administration's "intimidation."

Cape Breton University (CBU) fined veteran history professor David Mullan $2,100 in response to two human rights complaints filed by a homosexual student who coordinates the campus' Sexual Diversity Office. The student took umbrage at two letters the professor had written to his former Anglican bishop two years ago.

The letters posted on Mullan's website criticized the bishop and the Anglican Church of Canada for their acceptance of homosexual "marriage." CBU student Shane Wallis was offended by the content of the professor's letters and lodged a formal human rights complaint with the university. Read More.



Harvard Introduces Third Gender

Always thought there were just men and women, male or female? Guess again.

Prospective applicants to prestigious Harvard Business School no longer have to be of the male or female gender. One pro-family leader in Washington, DC, is criticizing the school for legitimizing transgenderism.

Before completing an application, students looking to enter the Harvard Business School MBA program are asked to fill out an online profile that offers three choices of gender: female, male, or transgender. The form also asks prospective applicants if they would be interested in learning more about the school's "lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender" community.

Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute (CFI) at Concerned Women for America, says "it's not compassionate" for Harvard to encourage people to reject their "God-given natures." But then Knight considers the source.

"I'm not surprised it's coming out of Harvard," he says, "because they've flirted with the idea that, in terms of sexuality, anything goes, and they've given intellectual respectability to it." Knight continues, sharing that he feels it is "harmful" that Harvard, one of the most prestigious colleges in America, now thinks there are three sexes instead of two. "That kind of thing trickles down to other institutions," he laments.

Transgenders are individuals who have changed their sex through surgery, or at least have tried to. The CFI director contends that people among that group are not likely to mark "transgender" on their Harvard profile, but rather the new sex they have adopted. Like the homosexual movement, the transgender movement is "picking up speed," says Knight. Read More.




Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A BLUE LOOK AT RED CHRISTIAN QUOTES

Over at the dark christian, a very blue christian site, they are commenting on these quotes from the red side of the christian world. I have to admit they are powerful in a negative way. The red-blue divide is so polarized they have a struggle even talking to each other. The extreme of “blue” is communism. The extreme of red is fascism. They both have some scary overlapping points with regards to government control over the citizens who live under either form of government.

When I was in seminary, it was pointed out that there are four kinds of Christians: closed conservatives, open conservatives, closed liberals, and open liberals. Only open conservatives and open liberals can have an actual conversation with a true exchange of ideas and the possibility of changing to the point of view of the other on an issue or two. The main problem is most people would rather be right than make relationships right. Most people sit just one side or the other of the middle of the political spectrum and many have positions that are on both sides of the middle of the political spectrum.

In speaking with people, most people care about health care service delivery, retirement, education for their children and grandchildren, a stable economy, etc. The mechanics of how they want those things delivered is often the sticking point for arguments. There is one thing that concerns me, however, the apparent attempt to remove Christianity from places in which it is legally allowed to exist. I believe there is a strong anti-Christian movement working against all of us, both red and blue Christians and don’t quite know what to do about it. However as a red christian (most of the time) Ann Coulter scares me.

__
Ann Coulter
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.
Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.
Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity, as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of ‘kill everyone who doesn’t smell bad and doesn’t answer to the name Mohammed’

Bailey Smith
With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.

Beverly LaHaye (Concerned Women for America)
Yes, religion and politics do mix. America is a nation based on biblical principles. Christian values dominate our government. The test of those values is the Bible. Politicians who do not use the bible to guide their public and private lives do not belong in office.

Bob Dornan (Rep. R-CA)
Don’t use the word ‘gay’ unless it’s an acronym for ‘Got Aids Yet’

David Barton (Wallbuilders)
There should be absolutely no ‘Separation of Church and State’ in America.

Read More.


DO MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD?

Thought provoking article from an Australian perspective:

The Rev Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, is on record saying about Islam ‘I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion’. More extreme still, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the US, the Rev Jerry Vines, is on record saying that Muhammad, Islam’s founder, is ‘a demon possessed paedophile.’ Clearly neither believes that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

In his inaugural sermon as Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, the Very Rev Phillip Jensen made the logically valid point that, given their competing truth claims, not every religion can be true. Dean Jensen went on to characterise false religions, ie non-Christian religions, as evil and satanic, leading their followers astray from the true God. He didn’t specify Islam but the implication was there.

Atheists say that no religion is true; all are false. Spiritualising relativists – probably Australia’s largest religious group (behind the census fa├žade of nominal membership of Christian churches) – tend to see all mainstream religions as true; each pointing to the same God or to the same transcendent or supernatural realm. But is this so? Read More.

Cartoonist likens Olmert to Nazi

Disgusting, that's the only term I can think of. To compare Prime Minister Olmert to an SS officer who used Jews for target practice is beyond low. Notice there are no new Mohammed cartoons:

Invoking a scene from the film Schindler's List, one of Norway's largest newspapers recently published a political cartoon comparing Prime Minster Ehud Olmert to the infamous commander of a Nazi death camp who indiscriminately murdered Jews by firing at them at random from his balcony. Read More.


Men may be banned from daring to bare their chests

This is too funny! I can sympathize, having lived in England seeing males without shirts would be disturbing.

Men may be barred from baring their chests - and stomachs - in public under new local laws being considered by town halls.

They would stop men stripping off their shirts in crowded town centres and give powers to police to remove any who defy the cover-up laws. Read More.

THE COMING THEOCRACY

Great article by Ross Douthat on the spate of books predicting an emerging reconstructionist theocracy that is about to overtake the US. And here I thought the 10 commandments were being pulled out of public areas:

This is a paranoid moment in American politics. A host of conspiracies haunt our national imagination, and apparent incompetence is assumed to be the consequence of a dark design: President Bush knew about the attacks of September 11 in advance, or else the Israelis did; the Straussians took us to war in Iraq, unless the oil companies did; the federal government let the levees break in New Orleans, unless it dynamited them itself.

Perhaps the strangest of these strange stories, though, is the notion that twenty-first-century America is slouching toward theocracy. Read More.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Trilemma

This is the argument concerning whether Jesus is who He claims to be. If we believe he was a good and intelligent sage then we have to believe who he says he is. That is God because he claims to be God. (John 1:1) He makes many statements claiming to be I Am. A claim he understood meant that he was claiming to be God.

The choice is this, Jesus is either who he claims to be, God, or he is a lunatic:

When the first Christian apologists began to give a reason for the faith that was in them to
unbelievers, this doctrine of Christ's divinity naturally came under attack, for it was almost as
incredible to Gentiles as it was scandalous to Jews. That a man who was born out of a woman's womb and died on a cross, a man who got tired and hungry and angry and agitated and wept at his friend's tomb, that this man who got dirt under his fingernails should be God was, quite simply, the most astonishing, incredible, crazy-sounding idea that had ever entered the mind of man in all human history. The argument the early apologists used to defend this apparently indefensible doctrine has become a classic one. C.S. Lewis used it often, e.g. in Mere Christianity, the book that convinced Chuck Colson (and thousands of others). I once spent half a book (Between Heaven and Hell) on this one argument alone. It is the most important argument in Christian apologetics, for once an unbeliever accepts the conclusion of this argument (that Christ is divine), everything else in the Faith follows, not only intellectually (Christ's teachings must all then be true) but also personally (if Christ is God, He is also your total Lord and Savior).The argument, like all effective arguments, is extremely simple: Christ was either God or a bad
man. Read More.

HT: Evangelical Outpost

Girly-Jesus, the feminized church and absent men

Interesting point:

I wrote a long time ago that the churches have turned Jesus into a metrosexual.

Now the United Methodist News Service asks, “Are churches ‘too feminized’ for men?

Author David Murrow says a typical guy feels as comfortable in church as Tom Sawyer in Aunt Polly’s parlor.

“He must watch his language, mind his manners and be extra polite,” Murrow writes in his popular 2005 book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. That’s because the altar flowers and felt banners, mostly female Sunday school teachers and blue-haired ladies playing the organ, all make church feel like a “woman’s thing.” And unless a man enjoys serving on a committee or passing out bulletins, he may feel there’s not much for him to do, so he steers clear.

Today’s contemporary worship services aren’t much better: Their soft praise-and-worship songs and emphasis on relational needs are better suited to the needs of women than men, says Murrow… . Read More.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Making the E-mail Rounds

Dear Senator,

As a native U.S. citizen and long time customer of our Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Immigration and Naturalization Service in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My reasons for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill’s provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, I only need to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years.

I recognize a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone else in the U.S. figures it out.
Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have paid taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $ 2,000 fine. Is there a way I can apply to be an illegal retroactively? This would yield excellent results
for me and my family. We paid pretty heavy taxes every year from 2000 thru 2005.

Another benefit in gaining an illegal status would be that our children would receive preferential treatment relative to their college / university applications and tuitions.

If you would provide me with an outline of the process needed to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of all the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative.
Thank you for your assistance.

Your Loyal Constituent, _______________________

HT: Mark Williams


Quote of the Day

"Gay relationships are a bit different. I'm sure we'll be allowed to roam if we want to. But we love each other dearly." George Michael on his up coming marriage to Kenny Goss.

Jesus Descendant to Write New Book

Thanks to the DaVinci code all the worms are coming out of the wood work. Kathleen McGowan claims that she is a descendant of Jeus and Mary Magdalene. I'm sure the little problem of a lack of documentation (not that there are any records going back that far) will slow her down. Once you start the ball rolling with ludicrous conspiracy theories, they just keep coming.

If you're one of the 40 million readers of The Da Vinci Code, get ready to stretch your credulity still further. An author is about to claim that she is the living embodiment of the Holy Grail, a direct descendant of the physical union between Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ. She's American, she's 43, and she means it - every word.

Even though it seems her claim comes straight from the world of fictional make-believe, Kathleen McGowan, a married mother of three, is about to tell her story in a "partly autobiographical" novel that hopes to trade directly on the vast worldwide audience captured by Dan Brown. It promises to light almost as many fires of controversy as Brown's novel itself.

For, however outlandish Ms McGowan's claims, they are being taken seriously by one of the world's most respected publishing houses. Simon & Schuster is publishing her book and ploughing a marketing budget of more than a quarter of a million dollars into promoting it. It has already invested a seven-figure sum in the rights to her book, The Expected One. "I certainly expect there will be a backlash,"Read More.

That's and understatement!



Sunday, July 23, 2006

God's army has plans to run the whole Middle East

Just lovely:

Hezbollah, the group at the heart of the Lebanese conflict, is the spearhead of Iran’s ambitions to be a superpower, says Iranian commentator Amir Taheri

‘You are the sun of Islam, shining on the universe!” This is how Muhammad Khatami, the mullah who was president of Iran until last year, described Hezbollah last week. It would be no exaggeration to describe Hezbollah — the Lebanese Shi’ite militia — as Tehran’s regional trump card. Each time Tehran has played it, it has won. As war rages between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Tehran policymakers think that this time, too, they can win.

“I invite the faithful to wait for good news,” Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last Tuesday. “We shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame.”


What are the links between Hezbollah and Iran? In 1982 Iran had almost no influence in Lebanon. The Lebanese Shi’ite bourgeoisie that had had close ties with Iran when it was ruled by the Shah was horrified by the advent of the clerics who created an Islamic republic.

Seeking a bridgehead in Lebanon, Iran asked its ambassador to Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, a radical mullah, to create one. Mohtashamipour decided to open a branch in Lebanon of the Iranian Hezbollah (the party of God).

After many meetings in Lebanon Mohtashamipour succeeded: in its founding statement it committed itself to the “creation of an Islamic republic in Lebanon”. To this end hundreds of Iranian mullahs, political “educators” and Islamic Revolutionary Guards were dispatched to Beirut. Read More.

ACLU SUES FOR ANTI-GAY GROUP

Westboro Baptist Church is known for their radical stance on the gay agenda. This is the group that pickets military funerals saying the troops were killed because the US is pro gay.

Missouri and other states enacted legislature barring picketing near funerals. The ACLU says that this infinges on free speech. Unfortunately whenever the ACLU is involved I am suspicious. At the same time, does it infringe on free speech? If we cherish free speech in this country does that mean that we have to accept the bad with the good, or have they crossed the line?

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., on behalf of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which has outraged mourning communities by picketing service members’ funerals with signs condemning homosexuality…In the lawsuit, the ACLU says the Missouri law tries to limit protesters’ free speech based on the content of their message. It is asking the court to declare the ban unconstitutional and to issue an injunction to keep it from being enforced, which would allow the group to resume picketing. Read More.


Friday, July 21, 2006

CAN WAR BE JUSTIFIED?

Augustine and Aquinas argue from an ethical perspective that war can be justified. If God can do nothing immoral than the wars of the Old Testament must be considered ethical or just. The perspective of many in the antiwar side is that all war is unjustified, and Jesus is always for peace. Is this justified? I don’t think so, nowhere in the New Testament does it condemn soldiers, and war basically isn’t talked about. Also can there be no opposition to evil? If we are complete pacifists what about the Police and arresting criminals. You see where absolute pacifism can lead.

So the question of a just war needs to be clarified. Can there be a just war? Yes, I believe there can. Is the war in Iraq just? Let’s look at what many in the church define as necessary for a just war:

Going to War: The first set of principles deals with reasons for a nation to go to war.

1. The war must be declared by a sovereign authority.

2. The cause must be just.

3. Those who fight must do so with the right intention of bringing about good and destroying evil.

4. War must be the last resort; all other methods for peaceful settlement through diplomacy must have been exhausted.

5. The good achieved as a result of the war must outweigh the evil which led to the war.

Conduct of War: The second set of principles deals with the modus operandi of a war.

1. Efforts should be taken to avoid civilian deaths.

2. The force used must be in proportion to the situation

Is the Iraq war just, or Israel in Lebanon? Does our definition of a just war need to be re-defined in light of jihad and radical Islam?


Calvary Chapel and Purpose Driven: Oakland vs. Abanes

Must say I am getting tired of the attacks on Rick Warren, have these people ever read what he has to say? I went on to Roger Oaklands web site (I had never heard of him) and was profoundly unimpressed. If you believe the Catholic church is a conspiracy to usher in the antichrist this sites for you!

If you have attended a Calvary Chapel for any length of time, you may know Roger Oakland of "Understanding the Times". Roger's ministry is " affiliated with Calvary Chapel movement and I have spoken at hundreds of churches and conferences by invitation of Calvary Chapel pastors worldwide". He considers "Understanding the Times" to be a discernment ministry.

He defends Calvary Chapel for pulling all of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life/Church materials from their distribution. His statement can be found here:

http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c48.shtml

Oakland outlines four reasons that he believes CC has pulled Warren’s materials as:
1) Differences in beliefs on eschatology (Warren encourages focuses on establishing Kingdom of God now so that Jesus will return, Smith/CC focuses on the imminent return of Jesus),
2) Warren has endorsed the Emerging Church movement, Smith has been very outspoken against it,
3) Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism - CC movement has always been based on systematic teaching of bible not experience-based Christianity - Warren has clearly indicated willingness to investigate and even align himself with leaders in these teachings, and
4) Church Growth Philosophy - Smith does not promote church growth programs - and has stated on numerous occasions that the growth of CC is not by human effort or cleverly designed plans.

Now, this might be the end of the story, were it not for Richard Abanes, who wrote a book defending Rick Warren and PDL. He posted on a blog in reponse to Oakland's four points, and he said..

" ((1)) Differences in beliefs on eschatology (Warren encourages focuses on establishing Kingdom of God now so that Jesus will return, Smith/CC focuses on the imminent return of Jesus), ***FACT: This statement is incorrect. Warren/Saddleback DOES NOT teach establishing God’s kingdom to bring in Christ’s return. Warren/Saddleback is pre-mill, pre-trib, standard Southern Baptist eschatology. Warren/Saddleback, however, DOES teach that it is the responsibility of Christians to better the world by loving others, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and clothing the naked—quite biblical, actually. Read More.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

DETAILS OF FAILED CLONED BABY EXPERIMENT

It appears that Panos Zavos who claimed to have tried to clone a human in 2004 really made the attempt. This type of cloning (reproductive) is highly controversial. Two arguments against cloning deal with family/procreation and humans being created in the image of God. I see cloning as the end product of the slippery slope that began with embryonic research. The question that arises, when is a human a human? I err on the side of caution so reject any experimentation that has the potential to destroy life, or even tamper with life at the embryonic stage.

_____
A maverick fertility expert has revealed hard evidence of a controversial attempt to produce the world’s first cloned human baby.

Panos Zavos, a reproductive scientist, created a storm in 2004 when he called a press conference in London to announce he had cloned a human embryo from the skin cells of an infertile man and transferred it to the uterus of the man’s wife. He later said the transfer had failed and the woman did not become pregnant, but many scientists doubted whether he had performed the experiment at all.

Most cloning and fertility experts say such a move to create a clone baby would be unethical and dangerous for mother and child - few female animals implanted with cloned embryos carry them to term or give birth to healthy offspring. The idea could not be taken seriously, they said, until Dr Zavos, who is based at the University of Kentucky and runs a private fertility clinic in Cyprus, published his results and methods in a scientific journal. Read More.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"'Theos is a Count Noun:' Is the Word 'God' or 'a god' in John 1:1c A Response to Jehovah's Witness Apologists

Interesting:

The proper translation of John 1:1 has been the center of debate between Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians for centuries. As is well known, the traditional translation of the last clause in John 1:1c is: "And the word was God," which would seem to be a clear declaration of Christ's Deity. With the publication of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (NWT) in 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS) put its stake in the ground by rendering the last clause of John 1:1 as: "and the Word was a god." Since then, the WTBTS has officially offered a variety of arguments and scholarly quotations in support of its translation, some of which are summarized and responded to here.

The dispute centers on the lack of the definite article (Greek: ho) prior to the word "God" (Greek: theos). John includes the article prior to "God" in the preceding clause (literally, "and the Word was with the God"), but omits it in the final clause. The WTBTS sees this omission as grounds for an indefinite translation ("a god"). Trinitarians have responded that the lack of the article does not always make a noun indefinite, but often is used to attribute the nature, character, or qualities of the noun to the subject. "God," in this view, is a "qualitative noun," attributing the nature, character, or qualities of "God" to the Word. See here for a more detailed analysis.

Recently, some Jehovah's Witness apologists have developed a sophisticated defense of the NWT translation and attack on the traditional rendering on the basis of "God" being a "count noun." Count nouns, they say, cannot be purely qualitative in meaning, but must always be either definite or indefinite. The argument is often phrased like this:

Theos is a count noun. Count nouns must be either definite or indefinite. Since the Logos is said to be "with" the God, He cannot himself be "the God" (definite) and so much be "a god" (indefinite).1

In this article, I will examine this argument in detail, as presented by leading Jehovah's Witness apologists Greg Stafford, Al Kidd, and Rolf Furuli, and will provide reasons why I believe it is not logically or linguistically sound. I will also offer a brief defense of the purely qualitative semantic force. Read More.

RedBlueChristian.Com

This blog is finally up. Check it out, I am one of the contributors. It will cover politics from a christian red and blue perspective.

Link

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mainline denominations losing impact on nation

They will continue to diminish. When you no longer believe anything you tend to lose significance:

The foot soldiers in some of America's greatest battles carried neither guns nor swords. Instead, armed with Bibles and faith in God's mercy, they prayed and marched and fought to end slavery, improve social welfare and establish civil rights.

Members of those churches, some of which became known as mainline denominations, were society's vanguard, shaping the country's culture and refining debate.

But those times are long past. Today, the opposite is occurring as secular culture defines mainline churches' dialogue on everything from social issues to politics and morality, tellingly shown this summer at the emotional and acrimonious national gatherings of the Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopal Church. Read More.



Monday, July 17, 2006

The Region: The Arab mind-set

If this article is true, I am afraid it does not bode well for the Arab world:

The crisis sparked by Hamas and Hizbullah is more important and revealing in psychological terms for the Arab world than any military or direct political impact. The most poignant statement of its meaning is a leading Arab liberal's anguished cry in a letter, summing up how these events mark the death of the dream of democracy and pragmatism among his people:

"I have been watching some 20 Arabic-speaking television channels (Egyptian, Emirate, Qatari, Syrian, Sudanese, Lebanese and Kuwaiti). The outcome is: Either these (hundreds of) people who appeared on the screen(s) and talked passionately about 'our' dignity, raising 'our' heads, 'our' national pride and the victory that God will grant 'us' were mad, or I am the one who represents madness."

In short, extremist groups with an assist from the media controlled by Arab regimes can still stir up the old-time hysteria quite successfully. Who needs peace, stability, economic progress, women's rights, an independent judiciary, an accurately reporting media, control of corruption, a good educational and health system, free speech and all that stuff when you can kidnap Israelis? Read More.

A Third World War

Interesting article by Newt Gingrich. I think he does make some valid points, we are in an ideological war that will not end soon. Radical Islam and Western culture are fundamentally incompatible. What's going to happen? I don't know, but I am afraid terrorism is here to stay:

Like you, I spent the past week viewing the events in the Middle East with growing concern. In the 13 weeks that I have been bringing you my thoughts in Winning the Future, I have shared with you directly many challenges facing us. But no challenge confronting America is greater than the one I am writing about today. And no challenge requires us to be more candid and more direct about what victory will require. Read More.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

From Lord to Label: how consumerism undermines our faith

Has consumerism infiltrated the Church? I would argue yes, Jesus has simply become another brand that we wear. In our consumer driven society we can take off one label and replace it with another. When a christian is one who goes to church but then reverts back to being whatever label they would like to be during the week that is consumerism.

It used to be that we were defined by who our family or friends were, now we are defined by what we consume. Likewise we are defined by the church we go too, and it's impact on how others may see us. We shop for a church like we shop for a car, what is the color, does it have full options, leather interior, etc. If our church is not meeting our need this year we shop for a new one. This is all a result of the power of consumerism. It impacts every aspect of our lives including our understanding of the church and Christ.

I believe we need to get back to the concept of who we are in Christ and not what we have in Christ. Only in the US could a radical prosperity doctrine take place. This article deals with some of these issues:

Christian critiques of consumerism usually focus on the dangers of idolatry—the temptation to make material goods the center of life rather than God. This, however, misses the real threat consumerism poses. My concern is not materialism, strictly speaking, or even the consumption of goods—as contingent beings, we must consume resources to survive. The problem is not consuming to live, but rather living to consume.

We find ourselves in a culture that defines our relationships and actions primarily through a matrix of consumption. As the philosopher Baudrillard explains, “Consumption is a system of meaning.” We assign value to ourselves and others based on the goods we purchase. One’s identity is now constructed by the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive, and the music on your iPod. In short, you are what you consume.

This explains why shopping is the number one leisure activity of Americans. It occupies a role in society that once belonged only to religion—the power to give meaning and construct identity. Consumerism, as Pete Ward correctly concludes, “represents an alternative source of meaning to the Christian gospel.” No longer merely an economic system, consumerism has become the American worldview—the framework through which we interpret everything else, including God, the gospel, and church.

When we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with Gap, Apple, and Starbucks to express identity. And the demotion of Jesus Christ from Lord to label means to live as a Christian no longer carries an expectation of obedience and good works, but rather the perpetual consumption of Christian merchandise and experiences—music, books, t-shirts, conferences, and jewelry. Read More.



Guest Blogger: Dr. Ray Anderson on his new book, "An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches"

I had several classes with Dr. Ray Anderson when I was at Fuller. He is an able theologian who gets to the heart of the matter. Anderson is heavily influenced by Barth and Boenhoffer so it is no surprise that he takes a strong Christiological approach to an emergent theology. He brings out a very relevant point, if we strive to be post modern and culturally relevant but lose sight of who Christ is have we developed another gospel?

Timely questions, and important in light of where some of the emergent ideas seem to be heading.

Ray S. Anderson

The modern attempt to integrate the secular academy with a religious worldview took the form of the question--What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? Tertullian (160-225 A.D) was the first one to use the formula, in a negative way, and it has been replicated in a hundred different ways in our modern quest for assimilation, if not integration, of faith and reason. In my recent book, An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches, I argue that, for the apostle Paul, the seminal issue was not the debate at Athens but the debacle with the leaders of the church at Jerusalem. The geographical distance between Jerusalem and Antioch could be measured in miles; the theological distance was, as Kierkegaard once put it, and a point that Barth later adopted, the 'infinite, qualitative distinction between God and man.' The church at Jerusalem was held captive by the religion of Moses (Ishmael); the church at Antioch under Paul's leadership was inspired by the creative and eschatological vision of Abraham (Isaac). Thus, for Paul, the question became--What has Antioch to do with Jerusalem?

In arguing my thesis I do not intend to disparage the Christian community at Jerusalem. It was the source of an incredible spiritual force that resisted attempts to suppress and even destroy it. When those who were dispersed due to persecution fled to other cities, including Antioch, they carried with them the gift and power of the Spirit along with the message of a crucified and risen Messiah. When I contrast Antioch and Jerusalem it is for the purpose of sharpening the focus on the content and direction of the emergent theology uniquely envisioned and proclaimed by the apostle Paul. In reading the growing body of literature coming out of the emerging church movement, I worry that a postmodern philosophy has too easily become a hermeneutical criterion in which attempts to make the message if the gospel culturally relevant is in danger of presenting 'another gospel.' I argue, instead, that the contemporaneity of Christ is not established by attempts to make the historical Jesus relevant to our culture, but is the result of the eschatological 'moment' (chairos) of the resurrected Christ occurring through the Holy Spirit in our time as a proleptic manifestation of the Kingdom of God. While Barth held that the Word of God becomes contemporary through the preaching event, Bonhoeffer argued that it is Christ himself who is contemporary through the church--'Christ exists as community.' I take this to be more in line with Paul's view of the emerging church at Antioch and through the mission out of Antioch, that Christ, not merely the message about Christ, is the essential content of the gospel and the formative character of the church. Read More.




A new intolerance visits Provincetown

This is interesting, apparently the gay community is becoming intolerant. I'm always fascinated by how those who claim to be tolerant are so intolerant themselves.

The same sex marriage issue is not going to go away anytime soon. I am afraid there will be extensive polarization on both sides. Most evangelical Christians will be against same sex marriage based upon scriptural principles. This is correct because we believe that there is a higher order for morality. At the same time we must love all people regardless of what we may think of there actions. The old phrase love the sinner hate the sin is actually true!

PROVINCETOWN -- Town leaders here are holding a public meeting today to air concerns about slurs and bigoted behavior. And this time, they say, it's gay people who are displaying intolerance.

Police say they logged numerous complaints of straight people being called ``breeders" by gays over the July Fourth holiday weekend. Jamaican workers reported being the target of racial slurs. And a woman was verbally accosted after signing a petition that opposed same-sex marriage, they said. Read More.



Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Flag and the Church

Interesting:

What place does American patriotism have in the church of Jesus Christ? This is the question that those of us who are American pastors and church leaders must address. Read the whole thing.

RedBlueChristian.com

This blog is about to begin. It is going to concern politics, ethics and whatever from both sides of the political spectrum. I have been invited to participate and am grateful to Dr. Jackson for the invite.

I will update when the blog begins. You can also keep up to date by visiting SmartChristian.com

Being Mocked: The Essence of Christ’s Work, Not Muhammad’s

This article gets to the heart of the differences between Christianity and Islam.

From John Piper:

February 8, 2006

What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery.

If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” (Psalm 22:7). “He was despised and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

When it actually happened it was worse than expected. “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. . . . And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him” (Matthew 27:28-30). His response to all this was patient endurance. This was the work he came to do. “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

This was not true of Muhammad. And Muslims do not believe it is true of Jesus. Most Muslims have been taught that Jesus was not crucified. One Sunni Muslim writes, “Muslims believe that Allah saved the Messiah from the ignominy of crucifixion.”1 Another adds, “We honor [Jesus] more than you [Christians] do. . . . We refuse to believe that God would permit him to suffer death on the cross.”2 An essential Muslim impulse is to avoid the “ignominy” of the cross.

That’s the most basic difference between Christ and Muhammad and between a Muslim and a follower of Christ. For Christ, enduring the mockery of the cross was the essence of his mission. And for a true follower of Christ enduring suffering patiently for the glory of Christ is the essence of obedience. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). During his life on earth Jesus was called a bastard (John 8:41), a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), a blasphemer (Matthew 26:65), a devil (Matthew 10:25); and he promised his followers the same: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household” (Matthew 10:25). Read More.



50 MOST INFLUENTIAL CHURCHES

I must be really out of touch, I don't recognize many of these churches!

Link

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Karl Barth And Coined Words

From Dr. Jim West:

Like every other theologian worth his salt, Karl Barth made up words when he needed to express a concept for which one did not exist. Paul did it, of course, and so did many of the other biblical writers. And Barth, too, wasn't afraid so to do.

In 1933 while corresponding with Dietrich Bonhoeffer about the "Arian Paragraph", Barth described the attitude of some Confessing Christians (those who disagreed with the racism of the Nazi's) and their hesitancy in speaking out about the German Christians (that is, Christians who belonged to the Nazi Party) with one of his own invented words- "Mundtotmachung".

"Making the mouth dead"... Isn't that a beautiful descriptor? "Mundtotmachung" is exactly what happens when Christians now refuse to, or fail to, oppose what is wrong in government or society. Thank you Karl, for one of the most intriguing words- and useful. Now, whenever someone acts the toady, we can succinctly say that they have succumbed to "Mundtotmachung".

-Leave it to Barth to come up with such a descriptive term. For those who don't know Barth is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.

Charioteer of the Gods

Remember the book Chariots of the god's by Daniken? Ever wonder how he came up with this theory? It seems he took it from a French horror writer!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SKEPTIC VOL. 10, NO. 4 (2004)

The idea that extraterrestrials served as humanity's earliest deities came to popular attention with Swiss author Erich von Daniken's 1968 best-seller Chariots of the Gods and the influential 1973 NBC documentary In Search of Ancient Astronauts, based on that book. But for people familiar with the science fiction magazines of the 1940s and 50s, von Daniken's "revolutionary" assertion held more than just a hint of other writings that claimed long before that the gods were not of this world. In fact, much of von Daniken's case perfectly parallels the work of a certain New England writer of horror stories, and the route from horror story to nonfiction best-seller bounces us from America to France to Switzerland.

Providence, Rhode Island author H.P. Lovecraft has been justly hailed as a master of the horror story, and his work claims a place beside Edgar Allan Poe and Steven King in the pantheon of the genre. Born into a wealthy family in 1890, Lovecraft's life was a series of reverses and declines as his family lost their fortune and his parents succumbed to madness. He was precocious and self-taught scholar who read voraciously and devoured as much literature as he could read. He read the novels of H.G. Wells, whose War of the Worlds told of the coming of alien creatures to earth. He also read the eighteenth century Gothic masters of horror, and above all Edgar Allan Poe.

When he set about writing his own works, he began to blend the modern world of science fiction with his favorite tales of Gothic gloom. Lovecraft tried to bring the Gothic tale into the twentieth century, modernizing the trappings of ancient horror for a new century of science. Lovecraft published his work in pulp fiction magazines, notably Weird Tales, though many of his works were not published until after his death in 1937. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, science fiction and horror magazines reprinted Lovecraft's tales numerous times, and he became one of the most popular pulp authors.




Hitting back at hip-hop hustlers

Good

Link

Monday, July 10, 2006

Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins

What happens when you no longer believe in anything.

HT The Smart Christian

The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

nstead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe." Read More.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

JESUS AND PLACES OF PAIN 1

Thought provoking:

Link

Understanding and Evangelizing Members of the Baha'i Faith

Good article on the Baha'i. They are growing and are becoming more active. Here in Florence they have a presence. As Christians we need to know how to deal with this religion in love and truth.

The Baha'i Faith is a young, widely distributed, fast growing, independent world religion that believes in the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of humanity, and practices social activism. The Baha'i Faith follows the teachings of Baha'u'llah who is their ultimate prophet and the latest Great Manifestation of God. The Baha'i Faith has historical connections to the Babi religion and Shi'ite Islam but has moved beyond both of these middle-eastern religious traditions. Baha'u'llah, whose title means "glory of God," founded the Baha'i Faith in Persia (modern Iran) about 150 years ago.

Who Are The Members of the Baha'i Faith?

Members of the Baha'i Faith are called Baha'is. There are about six million Baha'is from about two thousand ethnic groups in about two hundred countries of the world. About one hundred forty thousand Baha'is reside in seven thousand different locations throughout the United States. The highest concentrations of Baha'is in the United States are in South Carolina, California, Texas, Georgia and Illinois. The Baha'i Faith is the second most widely distributed religion in the world behind Christianity. There are Baha'i assemblies in more countries than assemblies of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. The Baha'i Faith also enjoys a faster rate of growth than any of the five world religions list above. While most Christians do not know much about the Baha'i Faith and do not know many Baha'is, there are Baha'is in virtually every region of the United States. There are Baha'is in many locations where there are Southern Baptists and these Baha'is need to meet the one and only Great Manifestation of God in the flesh--Jesus Christ.

While no generalization is entirely accurate, as a rule, Baha'is in the United States are often professional people who have thought carefully about their religion and tend to be heavily involved in social and political causes like civil rights, world peace and poverty issues. Baha'is are often people who are inclined to use their minds, support causes and articulating their beliefs. Because the Baha'i Faith is a relatively new religion, Baha'is usually join this religion deliberately. It is rarely the case that Baha'is in the United States join the Baha'i Faith only on the basis of their association with the Baha'i culture in the absence of an attraction to the teachings of Baha'u'llah. Most Baha'is become Baha'is because they are attracted to the teachings of the Baha'i Faith and reject the exclusive claims of Christianity, or Islam, or some other major world religion. Read More.

The big-bang story of U.S. private business

I always new the economy was doing well, but wow!


Did you know that just over the past 11 quarters, dating back to the June 2003 Bush tax cuts, America has increased the size of its entire economy by 20 percent? In less than three years, the U.S. economic pie has expanded by $2.2 trillion, an output add-on that is roughly the same size as the total Chinese economy, and much larger than the total economic size of nations like India, Mexico, Ireland and Belgium.

This is an extraordinary fact, although you may be reading it here first. Most in the mainstream media would rather tout the faults of American capitalism than sing its praises. And of course, the media will almost always discuss supply-side tax cuts in negative terms, such as big budget deficits and static revenue losses. But here's another suppressed fact: Since the 2003 tax cuts, tax-revenue collections from the expanding economy have been surging at double-digit rates, while the deficit is constantly being revised downward. Read More.

Arab nations slam Israeli aggression, international 'silence'

"International silence" Uh, yeah, hamas committed an act of war. You reap what you sow, and now they want it to stop. The post 9/11 world has changed, terrorism is no longer tolerated in the west.

The foreign ministers of Arab nations attending a meeting on
Iraq in Iran condemned Israel for its "increasing aggression against the Palestinian people" and attacked the "silence" of the international community. Read More.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

How big is baptism to you?

I'm in the process of teaching on the book of Roman's and came across this on baptism and Roman's chapter 6. This is very thought provoking, and merits further study.

Nearly every human being with a taste for mischief explores what Paul says in Romans 5. If sin’s forgiveness magnifies grace, why not just sin? Paul’s answer might surprise some of us.

The answer to this mischievous exploration is baptism. Yes, that’s right. Romans 6:1-4 sets it out: “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” “Never!,” Paul says. Why? Because we’ve been baptized.

Once again: Law increases sin; sin is “hyper-increased” by grace. Therefore, the more sin the more grace. That is mischievous moral logic. Why? Because of baptism.

Baptism, according to Paul, is dying in Jesus’ death and rising in Jesus’ resurrection. Baptism is our incorporation into Jesus, it is participation in Jesus’ own recapitulation.

Baptism ushers a person into Christ. Baptism is a picture of both death and resurrection. So, the power for a life “beyond sin” is the elimination of death by dying with Christ and the acquisition of life by rising with Christ.

Now, for those of us who grew up in that very-low church tradition where baptism meant nothing — even though it was made sure that everyone got dunked, this message shocks a bit. Does Paul really believe that baptism ushers us into Christ? Clearly. No other way to read Romans 6:1-4. Does this mean “baptism saves”? Now we’re asking questions as Paul’s opponents ask. Of course not. Christ saves. And we enter into Christ by undergoing baptism because we have come to trust in Christ. Link.

Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures

Reminds me of Seminary.

From Middlebrow:

I can’t account for why this passage made me laugh so hard that my eyes teared up. It’s just funny. It’s from an early chapter in Robert Southey’s (1774-1843) sprawling and unclassifiable book The Doctor. The narrator, trying to fall asleep, tries one trick after another:

I put my arms out of bed. I turned the pillow for the sake of applying a cold surface to my cheek. I stretched my feet into the cold corner. I listened to the river, and to the ticking of my watch. I thought of all sleepy sounds and all soporific things: the flow of water, the humming of bees, the motion of a boat, the waving of a field of corn, the nodding of a mandarine’s head on the chimney-piece, a horse in a mill, the opera, Mr. Humdrum’s conversation, Mr. Proser’s poems, Mr. Laxative’s speeches, Mr. Lengthy’s sermons. I tried the device of my own childhood, and fancied that the bed revolved with me round and round. … At last Morpheus reminded me of Dr. Torpedo’s divinity lectures, where the voice, the manner, the matter, even the very atmosphere, and the streamy candle-light were all alike somnific; –where he who by strong effort lifted up his head, and forced open the reluctant eyes, never failed to see all around him fast asleep. Lettuces, cowslip-wine, poppy-syrup, mandragora, hop-pillows, spiders-web pills, and the whole tribe of narcotics, up to bang and the black drop, would have failed: but this was irresistible; and thus twenty years after date I found benefit from having attended the course.

Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! Dr. Torpedo’s Divinity Lectures! I can’t quit saying it.

Update on Axis

From Gene Appel from Willow Creek:

For 10 years, Axis services have been devoted to helping the Next Gen connect with God through high- intensity weekend services with relevant teaching, worship and art that brings faith into a clearer focus.

But, as you know if you’ve been hanging out at Axis for any length of time, it’s about much more than a weekend service. It’s about the heart you have to make a difference. It’s about community. I know that every week there are groups from Axis reaching out to help the homeless, reaching people in prison and serving the under-resourced in our neighborhoods. Whether it’s within the walls of Willow, or out in the world, Axis is devoted to giving back and to getting involved. Axis is real people really doing life together.

For several months The South Barrington Leadership Team and the Axis team have been partnering together asking God to lead us to a new vision for Axis. This weekend I spoke to Axis about the next evolution of our church and of Axis. One of the key distinctives we see emerging in our church is a heart for a healthy, diverse church with an intergenerational vision.

To live this vision out, we are committed to serve and embrace the 20-something community as well as the distinctives of the Axis services.

Axis is not ending, but the weekly expression of the Axis service is. The vision to reach 20-somethings has not changed, but how we reach them is changing. BBQs, gatherings, and events are planned for the summer, built around the Saturday evening service meeting time. Read More.

What to do when your church hits a plateau

I'm posting Rick Warren's toolbox. I don't always agree with Warren but he does have some thought provoking ideas on church growth.

I hear it frequently: "My church has hit a plateau. What can I do to get it moving again?"

While this can be a common crisis, it’s not unfixable. There are several things you can do to help your church move beyond its growth block.


First, though, it’s important to understand that the longer your church has been plateaued, the longer it’s going to take to get it going again. There is tremendous power in momentum. At NASA, most of the energy – the jet fuel – in a rocket engine is used up in the first several hundred yards. It takes all that fuel just to get the thing off the launch pad. Once it's in orbit, it takes very little power to keep a rocket going. But you still have to get the thing going, and that initial push takes a lot of time and energy up front.


If your church has been plateaued for six months, it might take six months to get it going again. If it's been plateaued a year, it might take a year. If it's been plateaued for 20 years, you've got to set in for the duration!


I'm saying some people are going to have to die or leave. Moses had to wander around the desert for 40 years while God killed off a million people before he let them go into the Promised Land. That may be brutally blunt, but it’s true. There may be people in your church who love God sincerely, but who will never, ever change.


I often tell the pastors of existing churches to remember the illustration of an oil tanker. It takes about 14 miles for an oil tanker to make a U-turn. That's like a lot of churches.


For a church to turn around it may take many, many minute degrees of change and a long time to make a complete turn around. I personally believe you have to be called to a church like that.


People ask, "Is it easier to start new churches, or is it easier to take existing churches and turn them around?" My answer is this: "It's always easier to have babies than to raise the dead." However, God is in the business of raising the dead! He's a pro at resurrections, but it just might take some time.


So what do you do with a church that has plateaued? I believe you need to do three things:


First, as we’ve just discussed, understand that it will take time. As pastor of an existing church that needs to be turned around, you must pray for an extra amount of patience. People change very slowly. They are resistant to change because they recognize that life as they’ve known it will cease to exist. So the very nature of the primary group is to fight change. It can take time to win them over. Read More.



What (again) is an emerging theology?

The whole idea of an ‘emerging theology’ is nebulous, which is probably unavoidable and probably a good thing. But every now and again I feel the need to sketch some boundaries, contours, intentions, commitments - if only to help us keep in view the stated purpose of this site, which is to ‘assist the development of a transparent, community-driven theology for the “emerging church”’. There have been good discussions along these lines in the past: ‘Outline of an emerging theology’, ‘What is the relationship between emerging and evangelical theologies?’, ‘The marks of a renewed theology’. This is simply another personal attempt to give some definition to the phrase ‘emerging theology’.

So here, very briefly stated, are what I feel to be some of the leading characteristics of an emerging theology. It reflects my biases and blindspots. If people want to suggest corrections or additions, I would be happy to take them into account and republish the list as a more collective statement.

  1. A theology for a community that is in self-conscious continuity with the biblical people of God and the calling of Abraham to be blessed and be a blessing to the nations of the world.
  2. A theology done under the lordship of Christ.
  3. A theology that gives priority to narrative in order both to define its core and to contextualize the content of biblical teaching.
  4. A theology that seeks to understand the intimate relationship between text and historical narrative.
  5. A theology that at its heart is a reading of scripture.
  6. A theology that as a matter of methodological commitment celebrates, reinforces, and exploits community: an emerging theology is strongly relational, conversational, interactive.
  7. A theology that is strongly aware of, and responsive to, the locality in which these conversations take place.
  8. A theology that attempts to resist certain distortions of modernism.
  9. A theology that is broadly but not slavishly postmodern in its epistemology, wary of absolute formulations, tolerant of diversity and plurality, sensitive to the social manipulation of texts.
  10. A theology that places a high value on intellectual and critical integrity - ‘integrity’ being, I think, the ‘postmodern’ word in that sentence. Read More.

Has Doctrine Become the New Dirty Word?

A relationship with Christ is essential. We can have head knowledge and not heart knowledge which is not good. It is, however essential to have knowledge (doctrine). Churches tend to behave how they believe. This article explores the issue of doctrine today in the church.

In his book A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan), Brian McLaren makes a piercing assessment of evangelicals. He says they have focused on having all the right doctrinal beliefs, but they lead lives that, often, don’t match those beliefs.

He sums up their mindset like this: “[O]ne could at least be proud of getting an ‘A’ in orthodoxy even when one earned a ‘D’ in orthopraxy [the application of doctrine to one’s life].”

Many Christians think McLaren is on to something.

A lot of evangelicals affirm doctrines they don’t really believe, according to Dr. Gregg Ten Elshof, chair of Biola’s undergraduate philosophy department.

“It's not that they disbelieve what they affirm,” Ten Elshof said. “It's just that they have no real belief either way. What they affirm has nothing to do with the way they live."

Dr. Richard Flory, an associate professor of sociology at Biola, calls the problem “an intellectualized Christianity, where it stays in your head and doesn’t work itself out on the ground.”

This can be seen in some churches, according to Dr. John Hutchison. Hutchison is chair of the Bible exposition department at Biola’s seminary, Talbot School of Theology. He said: “There’s been a disillusionment with churches who pride themselves on teaching very orthodox doctrine, yet you don’t necessarily see a difference in their members’ lifestyles.”

Multiple studies have shown, for example, that Christians get divorced as often as, or more than, non-Christians. Studies have also found that many Christians, even pastors, regularly view pornography. Evangelical pollster George Barna said that nine out of 10 born-again Christians fail to live differently than the rest of the world.

McLaren thinks many “doctrinally sound” Christians tend to be arrogant, judgmental and unloving toward non-Christians and, even, Christians who have different doctrinal views.

In his book Think Like Jesus, Barna said that many people who claim to be Christians lead lives that are indistinguishable from non-Christians.

McLaren believes an answer to this inconsistency is for Christians to shift their focus from having abstract doctrinal knowledge to leading authentic, Christlike lives — lives that are characterized by traits like humility and genuine concern for people.

Many evangelicals have expressed a similar sentiment that relationships are more important than doctrine. As the popular catch phrases go: “Christianity isn’t about head knowledge but heart knowledge” and “it’s not a religion but a relationship.”

True, Christianity is fundamentally about a relationship with God. Evangelicals have historically stressed that the Christian faith is essentially a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Yet it’s precisely because Christianity is a relationship that doctrine is so important, according to Ben Shin, who teaches classes on the Bible, hermeneutics and spiritual formation at Talbot. Shin said that, in any relationship, if you want to grow closer to the other person then you have to know more about him or her. Read More.

Islam or death

From the Lansing Journal letters to the editor:

I read Le Roy Barnett's letter ("Muslims, speak up," June 26) about Muslims' opinion on Abdul Rahman's conversion to Christianity.

Islam is not only a religion, it is a complete way of life. Islam guides Muslims from birth to grave. The Quran and prophet Muhammad's words and practical application of Quran in life cannot be changed.

Islam is a guide for humanity, for all times, until the day of judgment. It is forbidden in Islam to convert to any other religion. The penalty is death. There is no disagreement about it.

Islam is being embraced by people of other faiths all the time. They should know they can embrace Islam, but cannot get out. This rule is not made by Muslims; it is the supreme law of God.

Please do not ask us Muslims to pick some rules and disregard other rules. Muslims are supposed to embrace Islam in its totality.

Nazra Quraishi
East Lansing

It is important to remember that to be a Muslim is a way of life, there is no seperation of church and state. To convert to another religion is punishable by death. And we wonder why there is violence coming from Muslim countries.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Answers to Common Questions about Creation

From Mark Driscoll, an excellent overview on creation:

Today a debate rages about the question of origins and where creation and humanity came from. Much of the passion that surrounds this question is because the question of origins has implications for everything else. For example, Genesis says that there was a beginning to history which means there will be an end. Genesis says that creation comes from God which means it belongs to God. Genesis says that people come from God which means that people will stand before God in the end.

Within Christianity there had not been a widespread debate on the nature of creation until the sixteenth century. Nor was there much of a debate about the length of the six days of creation until the nineteenth century. This is because if someone simply read the account in Genesis 1–2 and the primary summary accounts throughout the rest of their Bible (e.g., Exodus 20:11; Psalm 136:1–9), they would likely believe that God made creation out of nothing in six literal twenty-four hour days.

But with the rise of modern science and evolutionary theory, the Biblical account of creation came under continual attack, which caused some Christians to seek to reconcile science and Scripture. When done rightly, science simply operates by the order God placed in creation and therefore points back to Him so there is no need to bifurcate science and Scripture. But in an effort to accommodate bad scientific hypothesis that had gained credence, some relatively new interpretations of Genesis 1–2 and views of creation emerged. Today there is a mountain of books written on these issues, some of which I have included in the appendix for further study in addition to some helpful websites on the matter. In this brief book I will seek to briefly address only a handful of the more common questions regarding creation.

Lastly, I would like to stress that Genesis was not written with the intention of being a scientific textbook. Rather, it is a theological narrative written to reveal the God of creation which means its emphasis is on God and not creation. Because of this, Hebrews 11:3 says "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."

Genesis is far more concerned with the questions of who made creation, how He made creation, and why He made creation than when He did. Therefore, as Galileo said, the "Holy Ghost intended to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

At Mars Hill we want to be clear that there is a distinction between debates within Christian theology and debates that are not Christian. For example, godly Bible-believing and Jesus-loving people can and should graciously debate and discuss what Genesis 1–2 means without viewing one another in the same light as non-Christians who hold to atheistic evolution. This is because there is an enormous difference between discussing what the Bible says and ignoring it altogether. It is in this spirit of loving dialogue about Scripture that I will seek to answer the most common questions about the Genesis creation account. Read More.