Friday, January 30, 2004

I raised the questions on my last post because I believe they are germane to the topic I have been following. Oh, and I used the word servant in my last posting without giving it a proper introduction. Let me deal with that first and then come back to old vs. new world views.

The context of Philippians 2:3 is an admonishment to live with the same mental attitude of Jesus Christ. (Note verse 5 in the same passage) Jesus was clear on what His mission to earth was. Consider His words in Mark chapter 10.

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 (Son of Man was a title Jesus took for Himself)

What a statement for God to make. He came to be of service, not to claim the service we rightly owe Him. I am often amazed at how much deference is paid celebrities and political leaders by people who consider the same respect being paid God an irrational act. Honor God with the same devotion as one who carries water for a dishonest politician and you are a fanatic while the former is not. WOW! At least the one honoring God does not have to swallow principle to do so.

So, how does this play out for the believer who thinks himself a servant of Christ? Acts chapter 6 inspires me on this topic. Stephen was a brilliant teacher as none could refute His arguments for the deity of Christ, not even Paul (who was in opposition at the time). Yet, this man was not asked to teach by His church, but to wait tables for elderly widows. Rather than hold out for a teaching position, he jumped at the chance to serve food. I am not sure I will ever approach being anything like Christ in this life, but I could happily settle for a good imitation of Stephen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Speaking of elevating things, I recently asked a group of people about the meaning of Philippians 2:3 as it relates to interactions within a given circle of friends. If you are not familiar with the passage it reads as follows:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philip. 2:3 NIV)

The NASB translates "better" as “more important.” I believe this more closely captures the idea. The interesting thing to me was that most in the group were not sure how to answer my question. It may be they were trying to determine what I was looking for and were reluctant to offer their own opinions, but the result was silence when I was looking for an exchange of ideas.

Elevating others to higher importance than me is the required mental posturing of a servant. It is clear what is instructed in the passage, however the practice is, if observation is any indication, not. So what does it mean to place higher importance on people I encounter? Does a servant have the right to reciprocal expectations? Can I elevate others without assuming risks for myself? I hear Spock in the background: Fascinating.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Since there is a tension between what is old and the new, each one of us must decide how we are going to deal with it. Paul tells us to not regard ourselves as more important that others (Philippians 2:3b), but does that apply in matters of worship styles and personal conduct? Paul seems to think it is a blanket statement since he uses Christ’s incarnation as his example. You can’t get a bigger shift in styles than that!

So what is the deal with the methods (or as some have called them, traditions) we employee in the advancement of the Gospel today? How do we properly assess their value? If any are going to hold they are important enough to risk alienation of a segment of believers (or seekers) then you don’t want your house standing on a pile of sand.

My take on the matter is this. Unless scripture speaks in specifics about a practice, it can only really be judged subjectively. Subjective judgment is insufficient grounds to over rule the basic commandment of Christ that we love each other as He loves us. (John 13: 34) If you want to elevate methods (traditions) to equality with Biblical doctrinal, you do so at great peril. Pardon me if I move over here a bit, wouldn’t want to stand too close.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Questions of methodology and receptiveness of the established (or emergent) church are reasonable to pose, in fact should be raised often. We should always be willing to examine ourselves critically and be willing to act on what we learn. Actually, I (myself) am not too concerned with methods as these are usually cultural templates through which we layout the expression of our faith. They provide a comfortable setting for the Body to function in. This is what I would call the personality or context of any particular church

That is a significant part of the point I wanted to make in my last posting. There is risk in assigning too much value to our rituals (methods) for then we see them as doctrinal based necessities that need to be guarded from change. Enter the Pharisee. The emergent church may take umbrage with practices in the established church while being guilty of the same error in reverse. Both may be saying our way is the only (read that best) way.

God can be worshipped in any context because true worship springs from the Spirit within the framework of truth. I suspect the worship teams at my church are sometimes engaging in performance art, but that does not mean the rest of us are not worshipping God. On the other hand, the team up front may be totally into worshipping the Father while I am passively being entertained in the 10th row aisle seat.

Monday, January 19, 2004

If Jesus was willing to work within the structures of Judaism during the 1st century it would seem that we could do the same today. The student is not greater than the teacher, so why not bow to the teacher’s wisdom? There is value in the associations of the whole assembly.

35 years ago, the movement was called home church or some variation on that title. Breaking away from established (call them old) churches, the new paradigm was the small group that was not saddled with conventions that were holding back the traditional houses of worship. We did not see it as rebellion as much as we were leading the way in recapturing the true purpose of the church. The danger was in the lack of doctrinal tension that God has used in the established churches to preserve orthodoxy.

Some came to realize the benefit of this tension in maintaining the health of the whole body. Others continued as breakaways. Several things happened. First, most home churches died off and were reunited with the established church. Second, a couple evolved into cults that plagued many Christian families for the next two decades. Paul warned of giving leadership to the novice.

The emerging church needs to heed the advice of Solomon if it wants to escape the traps of the past. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The Absolutists are not without their own internal detractors. The fact is some are mean spirited and narrow minded, but they are so in variance to the teachings of Christ. We who claim to be followers of Christ should be careful to actually do so. Jesus Christ is truth personified yet He is always patient and loving in His dealings with people. I must be clear on this point. During His time on earth, He never condoned error; rather, He confronted it constructively and without heavy handed judgment. His love was displayed by an active desire to set things right.

Amazingly, many who claim the name of Christ want to attack and tear down the old. Unlike Jesus who worked within the system, flawed as it was, they separate from the assembly of believers. Judaism as practiced in the 1st century was a far cry from the intent and spirit of the Law handed down to Moses and yet Jesus worked within that framework and encouraged others to do the same.

Matt. 23:2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."

Even though it was a flawed man directed distortion of God’s original design, Jesus stayed with it. Judaism was His ordained institution for the spread of His truth. The church is that instrument today.

Sherry, how is this one?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The divide separating those I have called absolutists from those who hold to relative truth is their world view. It is not science, logic, education or intelligence, rather these are tools used to structure the belief system. The world view is the foundation to which these tools are applied and it is the foundation that will determine the quality of what is built.

Most of our western culture is built on the assumptions (foundation) of a naturalist world view. That is, everything we can observe is derived from the workings of chance. Naturalism is also anti-supernatural; nothing exists beyond what we can observe or measure. Our education and legal systems are currently shifted heavily towards naturalism and dissent is not tolerated.

Amazingly, despite the energy invested in defending this materialist world view, the proponents seem unwilling to accept the consequences. We teach our children there is no hope or meaning in life beyond what they choose to make of it and when they act out accordingly we are shocked. Instinctively we look for someone to blame, but in doing so we expose our own distrust (unbelief) in what we teach. Naturalism has closed that door for there is no one to blame, no one to turn to for answers. Chance is a cold, deaf, heartless and unforgiving god.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

OK, having mentioned absolutes I need to address the shibboleths of the relativity proponents. Most of the criticisms are straw men. Personally, I believe the real resistance to truth (I am using the term as a synonym for absolutes) is derived from a desire to escape accountability. C.S. Lewis pointed out that for him the attraction of atheism was that death ended all. What frightened him about Christianity was the lack of a door marked exit. I would not be surprised that if we peeled away the veneer of intellectuality we would find most in the relativity camp harbor similar views.

None of which is a reason to discount their objections. These can be dealt with on a case by case basis. Holding to a belief in the existence of universal truths does not close the mind. In fact it appears just the opposite is true. The preachers of tolerance consistently prove to be intolerant of dissent; conformity to their ideal remains the cover charge for inclusion in the club.

I would also add that followers of the absolutist theory are not all hateful (though I did see one get mad once), uneducated and republican. So what are they like? Later.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

The direction I want to go with this line of thought is this:
Christianity is consistent with reality and is therefore rational. It is based on true knowledge (absolutes) that is relevant to all of time and all cultures. While many will contend there are few, if any, absolutes, observation of the real world clearly shows there are enough consistencies in cause and effect relationships to counter their claims. The scriptures admonish the believer to lead with the intellect, not emotion. Therefore; I maintain that absolute truths do exist.

Compare this with the post moderns ideologically driven world-view. Reality does not determine what is true, but rather what I want reality to be. Lacking an objective standard, there is no need for consistency in belief structures. Rather than being guided by great truths the post mod is driven by profound doubts. The result is an anchorless existence and lack of meaning.

I realize that I have greatly simplified both positions, however the descriptions still fit. The Post Mod has dipped below Schaeffer’s line of despair, evidenced by the discontent we see in the most catered to society in history. So what do we offer them? May I suggest two things, the absolute truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the comfort of the fellowship of believers we call the Church.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Another strong influence in the old vs. new tension has to be acknowledged. I hate using the word, in fact have spent some time trying to think of a way to avoid it, but here it is, post-modernism. The new world view built on ideology and not on observation. If you are not sure what that means I’ll explain. It is irrational rather than rational. Factual evidence that might contradict this world view is ignored; something I believe Mr. Spock would find “fascinating.”

This makes it very convenient to play with the world since you don’t have to prove anything. All that is needed is an opinion and of those there is no end. There in lies the problem, no one has yet proven that personal opinions or beliefs have any effect on reality. (Bummer.) Countless experiments have ended in failure even though the researcher wanted them to succeed very badly. Charlie Brown wants the little red headed girl to notice him more than anything, but to no avail.

It has been noted that the Church is more than doctrine and ritual. True enough, but without the foundation of Biblical doctrine it is not the Church. The Christian may believe many things that are not true, but must believe one true thing to be a Christian. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same today as it was when He first proclaimed it. There is no relationship without that one true doctrine.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Consider the difficulties in contemplating the infinite. The physicist seeks a unified theory for the universe even though she/he knows they are not capable of grasping the whole. We will probably only be able to nibble at portions of such an equation. So why would one expect to be able to grasp the knowledge of God (the creator of this universe we struggle to know) with less effort.

The anti-super naturalist is more honest than the author of the book my friend inquired about. That is the one about becoming a new kind of Christian. Rather than honestly facing the gap between the finite and infinite, let us just make God in our image. That makes Him safe to deal with and easy to understand. I am not sure a belief structured around a God who just a bigger edition of me is something worth following. Count me out on that one; I would rather join the materialistic naturalist.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Congratulations NASA on putting another Lander on Mars, this time without slide rules! A very good blend of new and old ideas, air bags coupled with parachutes and rockets will get your Lander down. I want to say Yahoo, but worry about copyright laws. Oh, and how about those retro 1950’s 3-D pictures?

Oh well, back to other matters. As difficult as it is to put a Lander on Mars, it pales in comparison to the task of being honest with ones self. My previous entry mentioned my interest in the idea of redefining what it means to be a Christian. This was prompted by a friend asking me about a book on that subject. I submit the following:

Scripture indicates that living a Christ like life is impossible without the assistance of God Himself. Galatians 2:20 makes that point as does Galatians 5:16 where Paul clearly states the Holy Spirit is our only defense against our natural self serving instincts. Attempting to rise above that on our own will only lead to frustration (Romans 7:15 ff).
Could the internal tension Paul describes in Romans 7:15 be the driving force behind the desire to reformulate the definition of a Christian? Following a form of Godliness, but at the same time denying His true nature, one might in frustration decide the problem is the goal and redirect his energy. The scriptures indicate the issue is with man and not God nor His definition of what it means to follow Him.

I also wonder if that same type of logic drives some to seek alternatives to the Church. Not a particular brand name denomination or branch such as the Roman Church, rather the assembly of believers that God calls His body. Is it me or is it the assembly? Honestly?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

As part of my first posting, I want to welcome any who care to visit. I will try and not waste your time.

One thing that strikes me as odd is the proclivity of many in our 21st century U.S. culture to view anything that is old as something to be discarded. New is always better, that is the order of the day. (Not being all that young anymore I find that worrisome.) While it may prove to be true for electronics I am not so sure it translates over into world views or education. I have not forgotten that engineers with slide rules put men on the moon and several landers on Mars. The computer age has not improved on that performance.

Within the community of people who call themselves Christian I have also noticed a move towards redefining what it means to be a Christian. How we "do" church is also being reinvented. These are some things I want to explore in my blog. More later.

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