Monthly Archives: October 2009

My obligatory “what does this Christian think about Halloween” post

It seems that few holidays are more divisive within the Christian community than Halloween. Countless Churches have, by this time, already had their “Fall festivals”, many more will have theirs this weekend, and an enterprising few will have theirs the week after (for anyone whose sweet tooth has not yet rotted out).

The internet abounds with articles spelling out the evils of Halloween and why Christians should avoid it like the plague-ridden un-dead corpses many will dress up as. However, instead of adding yet another insulting post on why you will be visiting the hell many will re-enact this coming Halloween, I want to tell you why our fascination and struggle with this cultural holiday makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

First, it makes me laugh to think that we (that is, the Christian community) are going to make a dent in what is now the second-largest commercial holiday in America through our sour-puss moralizing and incessant preaching at our “heathen” neighbors whose adorable kids come to our door seeking fistfuls of candy.

It’s not that we shouldn’t point out the pagan roots of Halloween (particularly the history of Halloween in America) and how many of the fascinations it promotes are unwholesome and unhealthy1, but we must ask ourselves whether we are helping educate those around us or merely alienating them by appearing to be killjoys rather than bearers of salt and light.

A co-worker of mine who helps out at a local animal sanctuary brought me a pamphlet the sanctuary’s owner handed out that described the evils of Halloween. Unfortunatly, the very tone and intent was enough to keep him from reading any of it’s content. Rather than inform him, it merely served to reinforce the notion that Christianity is merely a giant list of dos and don’ts.

That’s a shame because it’s a far cry from the freedom we find in Christ.

Finally, it makes me sad that many Christians honestly think that Halloween is our biggest battle worthy of consuming so much of our time and energy. As with the faux-outrage over “Holiday Trees” during the winter solstice, err Christmas, I have to wonder where these same people are the day after their beloved holiday when the season changes but the same cultural evils such as abortion, rampant sexual immorality (in our own homes!), and general apathy to any and all cultural issues continues unabated.

I can hear many thinking at this point “well, shouldn’t we be concerned with cultural issues?”. Well yes, yes we should. However we ought to be consistent in what we choose to be outraged by which means if you think shielding your child from the evils of Halloween is a worthy thing, don’t let me catch them playing Grand Theft Auto or watching just about any movie that’s been made in the past couple of decades. Heck, if you are going to refrain from Halloween because of it’s pagan influence, why not refrain from Christmas as well?

Sadly, some would take that as an admonition to refrain from what I’ve listed above as if it were a checklist conferring greater holiness to those who manage to check off more “I don’t do..” items (Christian moralizing strikes again!). That’s not what I’m advocating either, lest we fall into the equally dangerous trap of thinking that our holiness is directly tied to how much we disconnect from the world around us (more on this at another time, but it will suffice to call it Christian isolationism for now).

candyThis Halloween you’ll be able to find my family and I going door to door with large bags with which to collect massive amounts of candy.2 I’m only sad my 3rd child isn’t here yet so I can dress him up and collect even more candy (CANDY!).

What you won’t find me doing is preaching against my atheist co-worker and his Zombie Jesus costume (which, the more I think about it, the funnier it gets). Why? Because 1.) it’s not the most pressing issue and 2.) it is a huge and needless distraction.

So now you have, for what it’s worth, this Christian’s position on Halloween and those who choose to practice it.

Happy Halloween!

  1. I’m thinking here specifically about the emphasis Halloween places on the occult and death in general. []
  2. Why? Well, I have plans to feed it all to my kids and have them operate a dynamo connected to a generator which should theoretically power our house for years on the amount of energy they will produce 😛 []
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Wordy Wednesday: Dunamis

Bad habits

Many pastors trained in Greek like to try and shed light on the Scriptures by telling their congregations the Greek words behind the text. And often, they decide to help their audience connect with the word by using an English derivative. As good as their intentions may be, it unfortunately this practice adds more confusion than it sheds light. In this case, the most common practice is to define this word with it’s English derivative, dynamite. The problem with this is that it violates a basic principle of translation which, in this case, adds modern connotations of destruction, damage, chaos, and mayhem that would be foreign to the original authors, especially since dynamite was not invented until 1867.

What it means

Greek

δύναμις

Transliteration/Pronunciation

dynamis/dü’-nä-mēs

Strong’s

G1411

Definition

Primary meaning is power, strength, authority.

Where it’s found

Here are the verses where this word is found:

Genesis 21:22; Genesis 21:32; Genesis 26:26; Exodus 6:26; Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:17; Exodus 12:41; Exodus 12:51; Exodus 14:28; Exodus 15:4; Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:20; Numbers 1:22; Numbers 1:24; Numbers 1:26; Numbers 1:28; Numbers 1:30; Numbers 1:32; Numbers 1:34; Numbers 1:36; Numbers 1:38; Numbers 1:40; Numbers 1:42; Numbers 1:45; Numbers 1:52; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 2:4; Numbers 2:6; Numbers 2:8; Numbers 2:9; Numbers 2:10; Numbers 2:11; Numbers 2:13; Numbers 2:15; Numbers 2:16; Numbers 2:18; Numbers 2:19; Numbers 2:21; Numbers 2:23; Numbers 2:24; Numbers 2:25; Numbers 2:26; Numbers 2:28; Numbers 2:30; Numbers 2:32; Numbers 6:21; Numbers 10:14; Numbers 10:15; Numbers 10:16; Numbers 10:18; Numbers 10:19; Numbers 10:20; Numbers 10:22; Numbers 10:23; Numbers 10:24; Numbers 10:25; Numbers 10:26; Numbers 10:27; Numbers 10:28; Numbers 31:6; Numbers 31:9; Numbers 31:14; Numbers 31:21; Numbers 31:48; Numbers 33:1; Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 8:17; Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 11:4; Deuteronomy 16:17; Joshua 4:24; Joshua 5:14; Judges 3:29; Judges 4:2; Judges 4:7; Judges 8:21; Judges 9:29; Judges 18:2; Judges 21:10; Ruth 3:11; Ruth 4:11; I Samuel 2:4; I Samuel 2:10; I Samuel 10:26; I Samuel 14:48; I Samuel 14:52; I Samuel 31:12; II Samuel 6:2; II Samuel 6:18; II Samuel 6:19; II Samuel 8:9; II Samuel 10:7; II Samuel 10:16; II Samuel 10:18; II Samuel 11:16; II Samuel 13:28; II Samuel 17:10; II Samuel 17:25; II Samuel 19:13; II Samuel 20:23; II Samuel 22:33; II Samuel 22:40; II Samuel 23:36; II Samuel 24:4; II Samuel 24:9; I Kings 1:19; I Kings 1:25; I Kings 1:42; I Kings 1:52; I Kings 2:5; I Kings 10:2; I Kings 11:28; I Kings 15:20; I Kings 17:1; I Kings 18:15; I Kings 20:1; I Kings 20:15; I Kings 20:19; I Kings 20:25; I Kings 20:28; II Kings 2:16; II Kings 3:14; II Kings 4:13; II Kings 5:1; II Kings 6:14; II Kings 6:15; II Kings 7:6; II Kings 9:5; II Kings 9:16; II Kings 11:15; II Kings 17:16; II Kings 18:17; II Kings 18:20; II Kings 19:20; II Kings 19:31; II Kings 21:3; II Kings 21:5; II Kings 23:4; II Kings 23:5; II Kings 24:16; II Kings 25:1; II Kings 25:5; II Kings 25:19; II Kings 25:23; II Kings 25:26; I Chronicles 5:18; I Chronicles 5:24; I Chronicles 7:2; I Chronicles 7:5; I Chronicles 7:7; I Chronicles 7:9; I Chronicles 7:11; I Chronicles 7:40; I Chronicles 8:40; I Chronicles 9:13; I Chronicles 11:26; I Chronicles 12:18; I Chronicles 12:21; I Chronicles 12:22; I Chronicles 13:8; I Chronicles 18:9; I Chronicles 19:16; I Chronicles 19:18; I Chronicles 20:1; I Chronicles 21:2; I Chronicles 25:1; I Chronicles 26:26; I Chronicles 27:3; I Chronicles 27:4; I Chronicles 29:2; I Chronicles 29:11; II Chronicles 9:1; II Chronicles 13:3; II Chronicles 14:8; II Chronicles 14:9; II Chronicles 14:13; II Chronicles 16:4; II Chronicles 16:7; II Chronicles 16:8; II Chronicles 17:2; II Chronicles 17:14; II Chronicles 17:16; II Chronicles 17:17; II Chronicles 18:18; II Chronicles 20:21; II Chronicles 22:9; II Chronicles 23:14; II Chronicles 24:23; II Chronicles 24:24; II Chronicles 25:7; II Chronicles 25:9; II Chronicles 25:10; II Chronicles 25:13; II Chronicles 26:11; II Chronicles 26:13; II Chronicles 26:14; II Chronicles 28:9; II Chronicles 33:11; II Chronicles 33:14; II Chronicles 36:4; Ezra 2:69; Ezra 4:23; Ezra 8:22; Ezra 10:13; Nehemiah 1:10; Nehemiah 2:9; Nehemiah 4:2; Nehemiah 5:5; Nehemiah 11:6; Esther 2:18; Job 11:6; Job 12:13; Job 26:3; Job 28:11; Job 37:14; Job 39:19; Job 40:10; Job 40:16; Job 41:12; Job 41:22; Psalms 18:32; Psalms 18:39; Psalms 21:1; Psalms 21:13; Psalms 24:10; Psalms 30:7; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 33:16; Psalms 33:17; Psalms 44:9; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 46:7; Psalms 46:11; Psalms 48:8; Psalms 48:13; Psalms 49:6; Psalms 54:1; Psalms 59:5; Psalms 59:11; Psalms 59:16; Psalms 60:10; Psalms 60:12; Psalms 63:2; Psalms 66:3; Psalms 68:11; Psalms 68:12; Psalms 68:28; Psalms 68:33; Psalms 68:34; Psalms 68:35; Psalms 69:6; Psalms 74:13; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 80:4; Psalms 80:7; Psalms 80:14; Psalms 80:19; Psalms 84:1; Psalms 84:3; Psalms 84:7; Psalms 84:8; Psalms 84:12; Psalms 89:8; Psalms 89:10; Psalms 89:17; Psalms 93:1; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 108:11; Psalms 108:13; Psalms 110:2; Psalms 110:3; Psalms 118:15; Psalms 118:16; Psalms 122:7; Psalms 136:15; Psalms 138:3; Psalms 140:7; Psalms 145:4; Psalms 145:6; Psalms 148:2; Psalms 150:1; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ecclesiastes 9:16; Ecclesiastes 10:10; Ecclesiastes 10:17; Ecclesiastes 12:3; Song of Solomon 2:7; Song of Solomon 3:5; Song of Solomon 5:8; Song of Solomon 8:4; Isaiah 8:4; Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 36:22; Isaiah 42:13; Isaiah 60:11; Jeremiah 3:23; Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 16:21; Jeremiah 17:1; Jeremiah 17:2; Jeremiah 17:3; Jeremiah 17:4; Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 33:12; Jeremiah 34:7; Jeremiah 34:21; Jeremiah 35:11; Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:7; Jeremiah 37:10; Jeremiah 37:11; Jeremiah 38:3; Jeremiah 39:1; Jeremiah 40:7; Jeremiah 40:13; Jeremiah 41:11; Jeremiah 41:13; Jeremiah 41:16; Jeremiah 42:1; Jeremiah 42:8; Jeremiah 43:4; Jeremiah 43:5; Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 51:3; Jeremiah 52:4; Jeremiah 52:8; Jeremiah 52:14; Jeremiah 52:25; Ezekiel 17:17; Ezekiel 26:12; Ezekiel 27:10; Ezekiel 27:11; Ezekiel 27:18; Ezekiel 27:27; Ezekiel 28:4; Ezekiel 28:5; Ezekiel 29:18; Ezekiel 29:19; Ezekiel 32:24; Ezekiel 38:4; Ezekiel 38:15; Daniel 2:23; Daniel 4:35; Daniel 8:9; Daniel 8:10; Daniel 8:13; Daniel 10:1; Daniel 11:7; Daniel 11:10; Daniel 11:13; Daniel 11:25; Daniel 11:26; Hosea 10:13; Joel 2:11; Joel 2:25; Obadiah 1:11; Obadiah 1:13; Habakkuk 3:19; Zephaniah 1:13; Zephaniah 2:9; Haggai 2:22; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 7:4; Zechariah 9:4; Matthew 7:22; Matthew 11:20; Matthew 11:21; Matthew 11:23; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 13:58; Matthew 14:2; Matthew 22:29; Matthew 24:29; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 25:15; Matthew 26:64; Mark 5:30; Mark 6:2; Mark 6:5; Mark 6:14; Mark 9:1; Mark 9:39; Mark 12:24; Mark 13:25; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 1:17; Luke 1:35; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:36; Luke 5:17; Luke 6:19; Luke 8:46; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:13; Luke 10:19; Luke 19:37; Luke 21:26; Luke 21:27; Luke 22:69; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:22; Acts 3:12; Acts 4:7; Acts 4:33; Acts 6:8; Acts 8:10; Acts 8:13; Acts 10:38; Acts 19:11; Romans 1:4; Romans 1:16; Romans 1:20; Romans 8:38; Romans 9:17; Romans 15:13; Romans 15:19; I Corinthians 1:18; I Corinthians 1:24; I Corinthians 2:4; I Corinthians 2:5; I Corinthians 4:19; I Corinthians 4:20; I Corinthians 5:4; I Corinthians 6:14; I Corinthians 12:10; I Corinthians 12:28; I Corinthians 12:29; I Corinthians 14:11; I Corinthians 15:24; I Corinthians 15:43; I Corinthians 15:56; II Corinthians 1:8; II Corinthians 4:7; II Corinthians 6:7; II Corinthians 8:3; II Corinthians 12:9; II Corinthians 12:12; II Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 3:5; Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:7; Ephesians 3:16; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:11; Colossians 1:29; I Thessalonians 1:5; II Thessalonians 1:7; II Thessalonians 1:11; II Thessalonians 2:9; II Timothy 1:7; II Timothy 1:8; II Timothy 3:5; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:4; Hebrews 6:5; Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 11:11; Hebrews 11:34; I Peter 1:5; I Peter 3:22; II Peter 1:3; II Peter 1:16; II Peter 2:11; Revelation of John 1:16; Revelation of John 3:8; Revelation of John 4:11; Revelation of John 5:12; Revelation of John 7:12; Revelation of John 11:17; Revelation of John 12:10; Revelation of John 13:2; Revelation of John 15:8; Revelation of John 17:13; Revelation of John 18:3; Revelation of John 19:1

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Body life: What it means to be a member

Membership is a hotly debated topic in the Christian realm these days.

From the dwindling numbers being posted by all denominations to the lack of apparent commitment being demonstrated by “church members” to their local congregations, it seems everyone is seeking a remedy to the central question of “How do we fix it?”

While these are certainly issues worth exploring, I would like us to step back and examine what it really means to be a member of something. Whether it be our family, the church, or a state/nation, we can’t escape the reality that we live and function as members of entities that are larger than ourselves with others we often don’t see eye-to-eye with which inevitably produces friction, hurt feelings, and strife.

Having strong opinions and a penchant for debating and arguing1 and because of that I am often presented with passages such as Titus 3:9-11 and 1 Peter 3:8 by those who want to make the case that I am being divisive and harming the unity of the body of Christ. However I don’t think that these differences in points of view that naturally arise since we are each finite, mortal, broken creatures is the real heart of the problem.

While it is a common stance to view argument and debate, indeed anything that upsets the applecart of an organization such as a local institutional church, I think the greater problem lies not with the division that may be caused by arguments and debate but by our attitudes and assumptions about what it really means to be a member of the body of Christ.

First our assumptions

When we think of “church membership” what immediately comes to mind? For most, what immediate comes to mind is the vague and often ill-defined “membership” they hold in a local organization that often contains “Church” somewhere in it’s name. Unfortunately, this often leads to an us to the erroneous conclusion that the preservation of the organization/institution is the highest good and that, by extension, unity ought to be preserved at all costs.

I’ve heard many pastors preach on unity and how the lack of unity is an indication of a lack of love and/or the presence of God in a congregation. Demonizing anyone who disagrees with anything the leadership decides.

Sadly, there are many congregations (both secular and Christian) that are wholly unified and loving but who lack one fundamental characteristic: Truth.

Truth is worth fighting for

If we stop and ask ourselves which is more desirable, truth without unity or unity without truth, most of us would come to the obvious conclusion that unity devoid of truth is not real unity but rather a sham. It is this reason that moral relativism is not very attractive once the covers are pulled off. It is also why many congregations are unified, but doomed to perpetual infancy in their faith.

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that there is a friend who is closer than a brother. If brothers fight, then I imagine the friend who is closer is willing to fight even harder to make sure we don’t stray from the truth. Remember, it’s the man who has many companions (who don’t value the truth enough to confront their friend) who goes to ruin.

The truth is worth fighting for because it is the only means to a unity that’s worth anything.

Love is messy

If a body is to survive, let alone grow and thrive, it has to account for the differences between it’s members without sacrificing a fundamental commitment to truth. This is far more easily said than done. The reality is that there will be fights, disagreements, and hard feelings.

We are foolish if we think we can avoid such pitfalls of intimacy. However without such risks we have no hope of surviving, much less growing. Our love each other is shown in how we put up with each other, how much we forgive and move on. We judge a biological family to be dysfunctional if it’s members can’t resolve their issues and manage to love each other, at times, in spite of one another. Why would we apply different metrics to any other body?

Love requires truth and truth requires communication. Some times, this communication involves arguments, debates, etc. Instead of fearing them, a healthy body embraces them and manages to work through them.

Healthy bodies don’t run from conflict, they embrace it.

Healthy bodies are stronger for it too.

  1. While I realize that this word often has negative connotations, I don’t believe that the mere act of arguing is inherently wrong but rather the manner in which one goes about arguing and what information (or lack thereof) one uses when arguing. The fact is, arguments are really the only way ideas are communicated. However if this word still disturbs you, I invite you to mentally substitute ‘persuade’ wherever you see argue. []
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Defeat abortion arguments easily

A recent poll shows that public support for abortion is starting to shift and while this is laudable, there is still much work to be done.

Specifically we each need to be equipped to share with our neighbors why abortion is wrong in a way they will understand without relying on the Bible which even a growing number of Christians don’t holding in very high regard anymore.

To help with this task of defending the sanctity of human life in such a manner I want to mention two approaches that will help you easily defeat abortion arguments and, hopefully, help convince others of the evil of abortion.

  1. Scott Klusendorf has an excellent method involving an easy-to-remember acronym, SLED, that covers the four basic objections most advocates of abortion uphold and try to use when debating this issue:
    1. Size – It’s just a collection of cells until it develops past a certain point.
    2. Location – It’s not a baby until the fetus is out of the womb.
    3. Environment – It’s better to abort a child than have them grow up in an abusive or unloving environment.
    4. Degree of dependency – Until it can live on it’s own it is really merely a parasite living off the mother.
  2. Serrin Foster is a  devoted feminist who makes an excellent case against abortion based upon the premise that, far from being a feminist issue of granting women more choice and control over their bodies, it actually harms them and sets back feminist advancements in society.

There are many other arguments that can be made against abortion but I think the shortest and simplest ones are often the most effective because they are the easiest to remember and make in the short amounts of time we often get to spend with most people.

I hope these arguments help you articulate the pro-life position and help give you greater courage and confidence as you stand up for the truly defenseless.

Happy debating!

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Favorite preachers and teachers

In a recent conversation a few friends of mine were talking about their favorite preachers/teachers so we all compiled a list of (mostly)1 contemporary preachers and teachers we liked and admired. Here’s my reply:

While I won’t dare to compile an exhaustive list, I will take my cue from Jeff and list a few favorite sermons by some guys I greatly admire (some of whom are pastors). Sorry, these guys aren’t as dynamic and energetic in most cases as Jeff’s list2 😉 but I’m sure yall will enjoy them all the same.

First, some one-hit-wonders3:

John Brandon

Excellent lecture titled “Telling the Truth in the Business World” where he describes, among other things, standing up for Christ in the world of corporate America. He has been/is the CEO of some pretty major corporations (like Adobe) and his stories are pretty inspiring as well as challenging.

Mary Poplin

Excellent lecture titled “Radical Marxist, Radical Womanist, Radical Love: What Mother Teresa Taught Me about Social Justice” where she describes her radical transformation from an extremely liberal worldview to a conservative Christian all while maintaining a strong focus and commitment to issues of social justice. Her testimony is absolutely amazing.

Scott Klusendorf

Has an excellent method of defending the lives of the unborn against abortion via a handy mnemonic device that uses the acronym of SLED.

As a bonus you should also listen to the agnostic Serrin Foster‘s lecture on the feminist case against abortion.

Bruce Little

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr Little when he came to our church in North Augusta for a conference on “God, Evil, and Suffering”. His teaching on such a touchy subject was extremely insightful. Since it’s something everyone in this world deals with, and the biggest objection to a Christian God, I think everyone should take time to explore this subject.

Now for some people you might just want to bookmark:

Os Guiness

Os is a member of the beer-making family of the same name (which alone makes him worthy of note in my book) and a student of Francis Schaeffer (another awesome pastor). He has worked extensively in the academic and political communities and has

William Lane Craig

Dr. Craig actually lives here in Atlanta4 but speaks all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is known widely as the bane of atheists and in his many debates (literally hundreds) they (that is, the atheists themselves) only credit his opponents with a handful of marginal victories. One of his best lectures is entitled “Religious Epistemology” and while it is a bit heavy it is extremely useful in combating common “God of the gaps” and “religion is merely wish fulfillment” and “you can’t claim to actually know anything of a religious nature”

Greg Koukl

Greg’s lessons on tactics to defend the faith and never read a verse are things I wish every Christian would take to heart. He also co-authored a book with Francis Beckwith (another great Christian) titled “Relativism: Feet firmly planted in mid-air” which gives a great description and prescription for the current age and climate of our culture.

Peter Kreeft

A Catholic philosopher who has a great lesson on ecumenism without compromise (even though I disagree, obviously, with his assertion about the Roman Catholic Church, his approach and focus on healing the body of Christ is, I think, spot-on). He also has many excellent lessons on CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (particularly the Lord of the Rings saga). One of the best things he’s produced in my opinion, however, is a mock dialog he has with Socrates5.

Gary Habermas

Habermas can almost be compared to a broken record. All of his messages are about the resurrection and it’s historicity and even though that may sound dull and boring, he brings a considerable amount of scholarship to bear on the subject and manges to make it extremely interesting at the same time. Because of his narrow subject matter he manages to cut right to the chase and has been instrumental in convincing hardened skeptics like Anthony Flew that there is indeed truth to what the Bible (and we) proclaim.

Alvin Planginga

One of the foremost Christian philosophers alive today. His material is extremely dense (just ask Beth) but it is also very useful in debate and edifying if you have any questions in the realm of “how do I know what I know” and “can anyone really know anything spiritual?” His series on “Warrant and Proper Function” is absolutely foundational to any study on epistemology.

Ken Myers

Ken is a former NPR reporter who runs a ministry named “Mars Hill Audio”. He recently gave a great lecture at SEBTS on the comprehensive character of Christian discipleship (part 2) where he argues that we, as Christians, need to be more culturally aware and able to, as Isiah says, “understand the age”.

I think I’ll break it here and add more later, enjoy!

  1. I say mostly because there is an age gap in our group so some of the people listed I don’t really consider contemporary anymore 😛 but I digress… []
  2. Since Jeff’s a bit of a charismatic, his list included some pretty lively characters. []
  3. Not that these people haven’t done much, I simply call them one-hit-wonders because I haven’t found a lot from them. What I have found, though, makes me  wish I could. So if you know of any more material from these people, by all means, let me know! []
  4. In fact, he teaches a Sunday School class (The Defenders) at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Sadly, people don’t bust down the doors to get into his Sunday School classroom like they do Jimmy Carter. []
  5. That I’m currently unable to find a link to for some reason… []
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Movie review: Where the Wild Things Are

Where_The_Wild_Things_AreOne of the most misunderstood movies this year is bound to be “Where the Wild Things Are1.

According to many reviews this movie has no plot, structure, and could be considered valuable for it’s artistic value if it weren’t for the ugly things it portrays and the fact the wild things speak in regular human voices.

The sad reality is that this movie will be misunderstood and hated, not because it lacks anything, but because the large majority of it’s viewers do.

Here are several things required to understand the themes in the movie:

1. Humans are fundamentally broken from birth.

I think the hardest thing for most modern people to understand is that, contrary to the pervasive and culturally accepted presupposition of humanism, or the belief that we are all basically good; the sad reality is that we aren’t.

Most adults know and understand that they are broken but would like to pretend that children are innocent, unmarred by the broken and tumultuous world around us. In a word, whole. In stark contrast to this notion, however, from the very beginning of the movie (as with the first page of the book) we learn that Max is not whole.

He’s profoundly broken.

He is also not unique as some would like to suppose, as if Max were some sort of deranged lunatic. You know, the one in a million kid who ends up becoming a serial killer later on in life.

No, Max is completely normal in his brokenness. And therein lies one of the fundamental disconnects most modern people will have with this movie.

We think that people become broken over time. We think Max became by something his mother did. Or father, sister, sister’s friends, school, society, etc. (fill in your own existential cause of choice). While those things certainly don’t help, they also aren’t the source of our inner turmoil either. We are.

Until we recognize this fundamental fact, neither the movie nor the book will make much sense to us.

Some things don’t get broken, they come that way.

Wherethewildthingsareposter2. Don’t expect others to be any less broken than you are

We like to think we are alone in our brokenness and naturally gravitate to others to fix our problems. Max looked to his sister and his mother while the wild things looked for a king. We all long for someone to fix our brokenness and we are all afraid, like Max, to admit what we know deep down. The fixing we need requires more than other broken people can provide. Put simply,

Broken things can’t fix broken things.

3. Humility is absolutely required if broken people are going to live together

Towards the end of the movie Max and his wild counterpart, Carol, are faced with the reality that their own worst enemies are themselves and that they have inflicted a lot of pain on those around them, whether they deserved it or not. They are faced with the simple truth.

They are out of control.

They’ve made a mess of things and there are only two things they can do. Either they can ignore the mounting body count caused by their selfish and destructive rages. Or they can accept the fact that they are often the enemy that others need saving from.

Instead of being the knight that rides in with shining armor, they must face the reality that armor is tarnished and their motives are far from selfless and pure. The truth is, while we may not plan to eat anyone, we end up biting and devouring everyone around us at some point.

4. Forgiveness is required if broken people are going to life together without destroying one another

Behind the modern movement that attempts to redefine tolerance as mere acceptance of other’s thoughts and actions there is an understanding of a simple truth: Since we are all broken we must learn to forgive the brokenness we find in other if we are to survive.

Not that we should ignore the destruction and failings, we certainly should strive to hold each other accountable in an effort to grow and become less broken than we were. But the truth is that intimacy is like two objects rubbing against each other, and relationships between broken things is akin to two rough surfaces rubbing against each other. Sparks fly, heat is generated, sometimes one piece breaks in ways never intended by the other piece, and sometimes both pieces wonder if such friction is really worth it. As one of the wild things quips,

It’s hard being a family.

And as hard as it is, the movie begs us to explore the question of whether lonliness or “the pile” will win out as the most important. Ultimately the question boils down to whether those around us are worth the effort. worth the sweat, tears, and the occasional lost limb. Are the scars worth it?

Do we dare to love that much?

So in conclusion,

The message of the movie is really not hard to figure out.2

It’s all about the human soul or, as my wife pointed out, “the tortured soul of a child”3. However, without the proper categories of thought outlined above the movie will appear incoherent and without structure. Not because it lacks structure, but because it doesn’t fit the extropian philosophical structure held by most modern people.

Many will miss the deep themes explored in this film. However some will get it. The difference will lie whether we dare to take an honest look in the mirror or whether we will allow our demons, our wild things, to hinder us in our quest for truth, our quest for wholeness.

  1. Here’s the trailer in case you want to get a feel for the movie. []
  2. The movie poster pictured above actually spells out the entire plot in one succinct line. []
  3. A tortured child that happens to live in all of us. []
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Questioning the sermon

One of the greatest myths in modern Christianity, particularly in the South1, is that any attempts to discuss the sermon amounts to disapproval of either the pastor or his message, or both.

Quite often those who dare to raise the question “What did you think about the sermon?” expecting anything other than the pat and unhelpful response of “I thought it was great!” are seen as gossips spreading discord and division.

Unfortunately this has the effect of stunting too many Christians’ spiritual growth by blocking off what can otherwise be a very fruitful avenue of discourse and discovery. As much as a pastor would like, they simply can’t exhaust the subject (whatever it may be) in one hour on Sunday morning, or three if you grant him Sunday and Wednesday evenings.

A large part of real discipleship is asking questions, and since many sermons are forgotten the moment we walk out the doors, discussion and debate would at the very least serve as a memory aid to help us keep the message fresh in our minds.

Try taking a poll sometime of who remembers last week, or this morning’s, sermon. If they do remember the general topic, press them for what they specifically learned or about details. For kicks, ask them afterwards where they ate and with whom afterwards. My hunch is that many people will be able to tell you what their conversations were about during lunch more than they could tell you about the content of the sermon they heard only a few hours earlier.

But there’s more to it than that.

We are told in Scripture that the Bereans, among others, searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was accurate or not2. While I’ve heard many pastors encourage this practice, I’ve heard fewer who also encourage real cross examination. Rather, most rush to add to their exhortation to search the Scriptures regarding their sermons to only ask them questions in private. However if we are to learn, examine, and grow we must be willing to talk publicly about what we’ve been taught. After all, if the pastor has slipped up, he should expect and encourage the correction of observant and loving brethren rather than, for the sake of false unity and a misguided and misapplied sense of authority, wish such falterings to remain in the dark.

I believe many churches would be radically transformed if the people in them would simply have the courage and conviction to question the sermons they hear in a loving and respectful manner.

  1. Ironically the south is also commonly referred to as the Bible belt. []
  2. Acts 17:10-12 []
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On discipleship

Recently I was reminded of the importance of discipleship by a pastor in a small, rural church. While preaching on discipleship he made the observation that much of it (that is, discipleship) is done outside the walls of the Church building and accordingly, it is up to us, the congregation/body of Christ, to figure out and then live out what is commonly considered the great commission. Most think the great commission hinges on going and evangelizing. While these are indeed important, the text in Matthew 28:16-20 indicates that it is discipleship that is to be the primary mission and focus of God’s people. This makes sense, since evangelizing is only the beginning where as discipleship is a lengthy, ongoing process designed to be an integral part in our sanctification.

We readily recognize the importance of discipleship, but we often overlook the most common methods used throughout Scripture to actually accomplish what is otherwise a quite elusive and mysterious task.

Discussion, debate, and reflection, are often seen as negative within the body of Christ. Unfortunately there has certainly been much discussion and debate that has been very harmful to all parties involved (not to mention to the truth and unity that should otherwise characterize the body of Christ). However I think we too often overlook the importance such  otherwise potentially divisive concepts have had placed on them by none other than Jesus himself.

We are told in many places where Jesus discussed what he had just preached with his disciples. We are also told how he readily debated anyone who came to him with an honest1 question. Jesus himself often used provocative questions and comments in order to teach his disciples.

I think we do ourselves a disservice and severely stunt our growth if we shy away from the admittedly difficult task of asking and answering and wrestling with questions and topics.  I think our tendency2 to mishandle sensitive topics, which generally in turn devolve into shouting matches and damaged feelings and relationships, speaks more about us than it does the subjects we still, at the end of the day, need to deal with.

My prayer for the body of Christ is that we will come back to a clearer understanding of the importance and function of debate and discussion. There are far too many questions and far too much accumulated wisdom for us to, in the name of “unity”3 avoid the difficult questions and tasks (such as the often messy process of intimacy) required for true discipleship.

  1. I add the qualifier here of an honest question because it is clear that Jesus had no qualms about diffusing and deflecting questions whose clear intention was entrapment rather than enlightenment. []
  2. Notice I use the plural form of the first person here to indicate myself as well, I don’t think anyone is immune to these pitfalls nor has anyone that I am aware of outside of Christ “arrived” at a state of perfection when it comes to handling dicey issues. []
  3. Unity at the expense of truth and growth is not real Biblical unity. []
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The unbiblical clergy/laity division

Daniel,
Thanks for taking the time to ask to clairify my words from earlier, and I trust that you understand that because my statement was made to the general clergy/laity split it was not directed at you personally. At the outset I want to acknowledge that there are clergy like yourself and Christ Wyatt who
There are three main reasons why I say that a clergy/laity split is unbiblical and harmful to the body of Christ.
1.) Jesus told his Disciples (the apostles) in Matthew 20:25 not to be like the rulers of this world and lord their positions over others. Even if clergy are very careful and use all the right self-deprecating language, I don’t see how they can escape the holier-than-thou impression. I also think the constant “we will be judged more harshly than you” is a misnomer because it doesn’t acknowledge the “unordained” masses of SS teachers, “parachurch” teachers, etc. that are all, well, teachers.
In short, the clergy/laity split inherently violates the “do not Lord it over” mentality taught by Jesus and followed by the Disciples. You might object by citing their leadership status but I would point out that their method of leading was not a top-down approach practiced by clergy today but a bottom-up serving which didn’t result in their being seen very much. Clergy are not like that at all.
2.) We are all priests according to the new covenant according to I Peter 2:9. What does this mean, if not that there is to be no more priest/commoner distinction? Was it a meaningless statement? In most prodestant churches we give lip service to this doctrine but rarely live it out. I think the reason for the suppression of this doctrine is the clergy/laity split in a manner not unlike the Roman Catholic Church’s desire to maintain control over it’s “subjects”.
You mentioned there were some who were paid for their ministry and that is true. However there were many, like Paul, who made a big deal of not accepting money from those they ministered to. Combined with the Jewish idea that rabbi’s ought to maintain a marketable skill and what you end up with are bi-vocational pastors at best.
No where do you see the modern pastor, that is a man who has all the responsibilities and duties expected of a modern pastor, described in the text. I believe that is because of…
3.) (I’m hurrying because I need to get going for work.) Every Christiain is said to be a member of the body of Christ and every member is said to be of equal value (except the head, which of course is Christ). How can every member be equal or function properly if there is a clergy/laity distinction in place?
How can we avoid the favoritism James preached against if we claim that missionaries (as wonderful as they are), clergy, children’s teachers, etc. are exalted as somehow more special than everyone else?
How can we avoid the command to not cause divisions (sects, parties, etc.) within the body if we exalt an entire group of people?
In short, every member ought to function as it was designed and ought to be respected and revered as much as all the other members without either thinking itself special or more lowly. The clergy/laity split fundamentally undermines this, placing unnatural burdon on one member (the clergy) and not expecting anything of other members (presumably because they are too stupid or unreliable or untrained).
There is much more to say on this subject, and I fully hope we have time to explore it even more. However I feel it necessary to close my letter on another note by saying that I hope you don’t take my words as a personal attack. I love you and respect the sacrifices you’ve made and the commitment you have to our Lord. I’m not sure what an amicable resolution would be to our present dilemma but I do hope you bear in mind the fact that we are brothers under the same Lord regardless of our ecclesiological differences.

Recently, I was asked by a friend of mine about my position on the common practice of dividing the body of Christ between two distinct classes (castes?) of members, namely the clergy and the laity1. Since this is one of the most notable differences between a simple church and a legacy church I felt it worthy of a somewhat detailed treatment here.

There are three main reasons why I say that a clergy/laity split is unbiblical and harmful to the body of Christ.

1.) Jesus told his Disciples (the apostles) in Matthew 20:25 not to be like the rulers of this world and lord their positions over others. Even if clergy are very careful and use all the right self-deprecating language, I don’t see how they can escape the holier-than-thou impression. I also think the constant “we will be judged more harshly than you” is a misnomer because it doesn’t acknowledge the “unordained” masses of SS teachers, “parachurch” teachers, etc. that are all, well, teachers.

In short, the clergy/laity split inherently violates the “do not Lord it over” mentality taught by Jesus and followed by the Disciples. You might object by citing their leadership status but I would point out that their method of leading was not a top-down approach practiced by clergy today but a bottom-up serving which didn’t result in their being seen very much. Clergy are not like that at all.

2.) We are all priests according to the new covenant according to I Peter 2:9. What does this mean, if not that there is to be no more priest/commoner distinction? Was it a meaningless statement? In most prodestant churches we give lip service to this doctrine but rarely live it out. I think the reason for the suppression of this doctrine is the clergy/laity split in a manner not unlike the Roman Catholic Church’s desire to maintain control over it’s “subjects”.

You mentioned there were some who were paid for their ministry and that is true. However there were many, like Paul, who made a big deal of not accepting money from those they ministered to. Combined with the Jewish idea that rabbi’s ought to maintain a marketable skill and what you end up with are bi-vocational pastors at best.

No where do you see the modern pastor, that is a man who has all the responsibilities and duties expected of a modern pastor, described in the text. I believe that is because of…

3.) Every Christiain is said to be a member of the body of Christ and every member is said to be of equal value (except the head, which of course is Christ). How can every member be equal or function properly if there is a clergy/laity distinction in place?

How can we avoid the favoritism James preached against if we claim that missionaries (as wonderful as they are), clergy, children’s teachers, etc. are exalted as somehow more special than everyone else?

How can we avoid the command to not cause divisions (sects, parties, etc.) within the body if we exalt an entire group of people?

In short, every member ought to function as it was designed and ought to be respected and revered as much as all the other members without either thinking itself special or more lowly. The clergy/laity split fundamentally undermines this, placing unnatural burdon on one member (the clergy) and not expecting anything of other members (presumably because they are too stupid or unreliable or untrained).

There is much more to say on this subject, and I fully hope we have time to explore it even more. However I feel it necessary to close this post on another note by saying that I hope pastors don’t take my words as a personal attack. I love you and respect the sacrifices you’ve made and the commitment you have to our Lord. I’m not sure what an amicable resolution would be to our present dilemma but I do hope you bear in mind the fact that we are brothers under the same Lord regardless of our ecclesiological differences.

For anyone seeking a more in-depth treatment of this subject I highly recommend and of Frank Viola‘s works, particularly Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church. Also, if you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to leave them below!

  1. Helpfully defined by Wikipedia as “anyone who is not in the clergy“ []
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