December 10, 2004

Laughing At Ourselves

I love reading LarkNews. I enjoy The Holy Observer. I'll probably (when I actually have money and a job again) support both of these websites. In short, I have a sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at myself. Especially, I see some value in satirizing religious practices (though I don't find Landover Baptist especially funny anymore; they've gone more than a bit over the top, and it seems they're not quite as relevant as they once were).

So I would be in opposition to the law in Britain that would potentially outlaw religious satire, claiming that it fosters religious hatred. And I hope I'm not alone.

I've said my piece about people ridiculing religious ideas. There is a difference between ridicule and satire -- though it is a fine line. I think that it's ironic that England is doing this -- England has largely abandoned any real religious practice in favor of ceremony, it seems to me. I would have expected this to come from the "tools of the Religious Right(tm)" who are running the US right now. Maybe I just missed the meeting when we discussed that, I don't know. You'd think they'd have sent me a memo or something -- after all, my dues ARE paid up.

Satire is a valuable tool, and I think of myself as rather satirical at times (though I haven't done much of that on this blog yet). And the ability to laugh at ourselves is important to a sane outlook on life. The line that we walk, though, is when it stops being satire and starts being mean-spirited, or ridiculing. That's when I stop laughing and start getting offended.

But government shouldn't decide where that line is. Good taste should. And if I don't like what someone says on TV or in print, I can always ignore them. Or work to try to change their mind -- which is what the Christian mission is.

{edit}And, in case anyone was wondering, I thought the nativity at Tussauds was pretty funny.

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December 09, 2004

Shameless

Ok, I'm competing in the King of Blogs tournament again -- yeah, I know I got my behind whomped the last time, but this time will be different! How do I know? I'm kissing up this time, that's how I know.

I've added the judges to my blogroll. Of course, News From the Great Beyond was already there. She's been a wonderful Queen of the Blogs, and I'm sure that as a judge she will be even better. I'm ashamed that Bad Example wasn't on the blogroll before -- how could I expect to win without having a link to this exceptional blog on my blogroll? No wonder I got stomped. AND he's competing in the 2004 Weblog Awards (which he should win with no problem, of course -- go vote for him right now!!). And then there's The Smarter Cop. What an appropriate name! Just read a few of Pietro's posts and you'll see just why he was chosen to be a judge for this tournament. This quality blog is a great addition to any blogroll, and mine looks even more intelligent than it already was just for having it there. In fact, I feel smarter just having read it.

And I'll be asking for YOUR support later on. My faithful readers. My wonderful, intelligent, faithful readers. You guys rock, you know that?

Really.

You do.

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December 08, 2004

Why Political Activism is NOT the Answer

I've said it a few times before -- I think Christians need to pay attention to politics, we need to vote according to our beliefs, and we need to encourage others to do the same. But politics is not going to make America "God's Country" -- and it shouldn't be our focus to change the US into some sort of 21st Century Christendom.

Christian principles are to take care of the poor without obligating them to anything, to forgive people who have done things to us WITHOUT thought to whether they deserve our forgiveness. Government can't do this all the time -- when it's been tried, it has failed. It is not the job of government to take care of the poor. It is not the government's job to decide right and wrong -- the government decides what is legal and what is illegal. It is the church's duty to be the arbiter of morality, and to strictly enforce those standards on it's members. If we can't even get THAT right, how can we expect to be able to run a country?

But society can not, and should not, expect Christians, or anybody of any faith at all, to set their beliefs aside when the time comes for important decisions like who to elect to the highest office in the land. It is insulting when I read that Christians need to leace the religion stuff at church -- as if my faith should have absolutely no effect on who I am today. (I always thought of that song when I heard John Kerry campaigning this past year.)

There are a whole host of articles about this topic wandering about on the internet. Here are a couple that peeked my interest:

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Christaphobiacs Annonymous

{Hat tip to Christianity Today's Weblog}

The Vatican is pressing for the UN to recognize hatred of Christians as "an evil equal to hatred of Jews and Muslims," and some Christians think it's a bad idea.

"Obviously we have seen many countries where Christian minorities are in danger, but we don't think this is the appropriate way to really ensure protection," said Alessandra Aula of Franciscans International, a Catholic pressure group.
"What we fear is that this is the way to start eroding universal human rights," she said from her office in Geneva. "You will then have Sikhs and Buddhists and all the others coming and claiming rights. Where does it end?"
Haven't heard of the term before? Not surprised.
This campaign has been so discreet that the term was hardly known until the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, said last Friday that the Holy See had insisted the U.N. list it along with anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
"It should be recognised that the war against terrorism, even though necessary, had as one of its side-effects the spread of 'Christianophobia' in vast areas of the globe," he told a U.S.-organised conference on religious freedom in Rome.
I've thought about starting a list of Christophobic blogs that are out there. I've run into a couple through BlogExplosion (including one who was offended at my "Would be nice if you had a clue" comment), but I really don't think that anyone cares about hatred of Christians.

For the record: I hate nobody based on their actions or behavior. I don't hate homosexuals (even though I wish they would stop trying to impose their morality on me, and expect me to approve of their lifestyle). I don't hate Muslims (had a good friend in Georgia who converted from Christianity to Islam. Never stopped liking the guy). I don't even hate hypocritical Christians (there are a few out there). I hate what people do. Heck, I hate people drinking too much, but some of my best friends partied their way through a few years of high school. They knew I didn't do that, and didn't bug me to go drinking with them (that much), and knew who to call if they needed a ride home (though they never called me). There are a few Christians who carry the stupid "God Hates Fags" signs, but they're rejected by most Christians -- even my ultra-fundamentalist friends at the FFF think they're disgusting and an embarassment to real Christians. But if you read some of the media, and a few blogs, we're all alike.

Maybe someone should start Christaphobics Annonymous. But I doubt anyone would come, because there aren't that many people who think it's a problem.

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December 07, 2004

Today in Church History

{This should have gone up yesterday, but I goofed. Sorry.}

I've done one of these this week, but I have a couple more. Some important things happened, and we need to think about the implications.

December 6, 1273.

Throughout his life, Thomas Aquinas had fought to be able to express his beliefs. He was called a "dumb ox" by his fellow students. His wealthy family didn't want him to become a monk -- going so far as to hire a prostitute to seduce him.

Thomas prevailed, and the church has been indebted to him ever since. Without his writings and philosophy, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church would be very different. His Summa Theologica is regarded as one of the most important writings of the Middle Ages. He is widely regarded as being one of the greatest thinkers in all of Christendom.

On this date, he received a vision. When he was asked to tell of his vision, he simply said "Such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now I await the end of my life."

What did Thomas see? Nobody knows. I think that it's clear that whatever he saw, it was enough to show him that, in the long run, disputations and debate are meaningless. Aquinas' theology, and that of most of the medieval Scholastics, taught that reason alone was enough to get to a saving knowledge of God. Centuries later, Martin Luther realized that the endless string of "ergo" {therefore} was leading people nowhere. He realized that you can 'ergo' straight to Hell -- the key to saving faith is in the word "Nevertheless."

God is omnipotent
Jesus is God
Ergo Jesus is omnipotent
Ergo Jesus could have defeated the Roman soldiers and established His kingdom on earth.
NEVERTHELESS, He dies willingly for our sins.

God is holy
We are not holy
Ergo there is a separation between God and Man
NEVERTHELESS, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.

That one word makes the difference.

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December 05, 2004

In the Holiday Spirit ...

I've decided to set up my Amazon donation page to collect donations to sponsor a World Vision child for one year. Everything I get in that account between now and January 6 will be donated to World Vision, but my goal is to raise the $360 that it will take to sponsor a child for one full year.

All you have to do is click on the box, and donate. You can donate as little as a dollar, or as much as you want. Everything goes to World Vision, and I'm NOT taking any tax writeoff for myself. If we get enough to sponsor a child, I will post all the information I get about that child, so that everyone will be informed.

If you've ever wanted to sponsor a WV child, but haven't had the resources to do it yourself, this is a great opportunity. So go over there on the right side, and click the button.

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AH, Tolerance!

Just when I thought that I would never have to talk about something like this again. Just when I thought that Kristof's articles were starting to get through (the two I have agreed with so far, I mean).

The Philly Inquirer reported that a WHYY reported called the offices of a conservative group and left the following message (emphases added)

"Hi, my name is Rachel, and my telephone number is... I wanted to tell you that you're evil, horrible people. You're awful people. You represent horrible ideas. God hates you and he wants to kill your children. You should all burn in hell. Bye."
She apologized later, saying that it was a "personal matter that was turned into a public issue." Yeah, I guess saying that over 150,000 people (the subscribers to laptoplobbyist's newsletter) AND their children should go to hell is a personal matter.

There's a difference here between Christians and this garbage, by the way. Christians are trying to get people to NOT go to hell. Maybe we go oer the top sometimes, but the goal is to get people out of hell. We all deserve it -- that's what God's justice is about. We don't have to get what we deserve -- that's called grace. That's what the Christian message is -- or should be, at any rate. And, in case you're interested, God doesn't want to kill your children, or mine. Just thought I'd clear that up.

But I'm the intolerant one. Yeah, right.


{Almost forgot -- tip o' the hat to James at the PCCBoard Forums

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December 04, 2004

Overwhelmed

Well, this is my first day on BlogExplosion, and I'm shocked and impressed. So far, 70 hits just from BE. My total page loads is over 100 for the first time since I started writing.

If you're stopping by from BE, stick around and read a bit. Some of what is here might challenge a stereotype or two that you might have, but don't be afraid. I've been told that that could be a good thing -- usually by people who refuse to understand anyone with any faith whatsoever, but especially those pesky evangelical Christians. If you've ever wondered what's up with "those people," then stick around. You might also want to read this post on just that subject -- "those people" I mean.

So bookmark this page, and check back by every so often -- you might learn something. A few regular features that you can count on (though the schedule I once had is WAY off right now -- I'm hoping to get back to one in January): This Week in Church History is a regular, as well as the ongoing Bible study in Mark's Gospel. The study is NOT an overly scholarly study -- in fact, it's usually rather devotional, but that's OK too. I think it's important to apply the Bible, not just to know all about it -- though I do think Biblical illiteracy is a big problem in the church today.

I also started a "regular" thing about the little guys in the Bible, but I've only done one of those so far. I should probably revisit that soon.

So anyway, welcome to all the Blog Explosion visitors. Stop by often! ANd you regulars -- you can always say "I knew that blog when it only got 5 readers a day! Now he's all the way up to 50."

LOL

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This Week in Church History

December 5, 633.

A church council was convened in Seville, Spain, ordered by Archbishop Isidore of Seville. The council ruled on a anumber of important issues -- some of which we should pay attention to today. They affirmed the unity of God, while also affirming the Trinity. The ruled that Christians should not force Jews to convert. They also ruled that once a person became a monk, it was for life. They even got a little political, backing the newly-crowned King Sisenand even thogh he had deposed the old king. In exchange for their support, the King freed the clergy from any mandatory state service, and made the Church tax-exempt.

They also ruled on a controversial new form of music -- hymns. Prior to this time, most of the songs sung in church were Biblical passages set to music, but recently some Christians were writing their own praises to God. This caused a huge stir in the church, as people wondered whether these works of mere men were suitable for use in the church of God.

In the end, it wasn't much of a conflict. The council ruled that the hymns written by holy men, such as bishops Ambrose and Hilary, could be considered fit for use in holy services. When we read some of these hymns, it's clear that the content of the songs are scriptural, the music was the same style as had been used before, and the character of the writer was unquestioned. The music was fit for use in the Church.

We face a similar "controversy" today -- the feud over "praise music" and "contemporary worship" in churches. The songs are the same, the message is the same, but the fight is over the style. Can "modern music" praise God?

It always has in the past. God doesn't give us a formula in Scripture about what kind of music He likes, and what kind He doesn't. Christians are commanded to "do all for the glory of God" -- that includes our music, no matter what we listen to. I'm amused at the ammount of time we spend fighting about this issue -- a church can have a growing ministry, a tremendous outreach, and fantastic expository preaching, but if they have a praise band and play CCM, we want to lump them in with the apostates who deny the Gospel, the Bible, and every teaching of Scripture! This is self-defeating. We have more important work before us, and we should be worrying about that, not what style of music God likes.

We need to remember that this fight has always gone on, and has always been regarded later in history as a petty debate. We need to get over it, and get about more important work.

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I'm on the Bandwagon

I have joined Blog Explosion. I figured it would be an interesting experiment, so I followed Challies.com, Patriot Paradox, Spare Change, and several others in the blogroll into the explosion.

I've gotten a few visits from it, but no reviews yet. I figure it will take a little while, so I'm being patient. This service has been beneficial to a LOT of people out there, so who knows?

If you want to join up too, just click on the banner below, or the link on the left hand side of the page (what I've started calling my NASCAR panel, for obvious reasons).

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December 03, 2004

A News Cruise

I'm having a hard time coming up with something insightful, witty, or new to say, so I decided to cruise through the blog at Christianity Today, and add my own pithy comments on the news. Unlike CT, though, I've already registered with all the "registration required" sites, remember? Username: either piewview or piewview@yahoo.com, password is blogger42. It's that easy! (If this doesn't work on any newspaper sites you find, let me know, and I'll fix it.)

  • The UMC has defrocked their resident lesbian priest -- first time since 1987. Is it just me, or does the term 'defrocked' just seem a bit awkward in this context? I can honestly say that the Southern Baptist Convention has never had to do anything about a lesbian minister -- not allowing women as pastors kinda eliminates that problem, doesn't it?
  • The UCC (to continue the acronymical insanity) has a new commercial. Maybe you've heard about it. ABC, CBS, and NBC won't air it. Now, I don't like what they're saying -- I know of no evangelical church that would turn people away because of their sexual orientation. Now, if they wanted to be married in the church, join the church, or minister in the church, there may be problems. See, Jesus said something like "Go, and sin no more" once, if I recall correctly. We don't condemn sinners -- the One without sin has the only authority to do that. But we can not condone their sin -- that is also clear from Scripture. I think maybe part of the problem is that people identify themselves too much with what they do, rather than who they are. AND, I think that the Church often doesn't do enough about sin in it's own ranks. I remember Jesus saying something about a beam in the eye, too.
  • I really wish this story would go away. I think it's a stupid idea, and I think the Convention is overstepping their bounds by expecting people to pull their kids out of public education. Maybe we should be training people to go into the schools and be a positive influence. Maybe our youth ministers should focus more on discipleship and less on pizza parties (and yes, I know there are awesome youth ministers out there -- I know several of them from Southern). I salute parents who choose private schools. I salute parents who homeschool. I salute parents who are involved in their kids' public education. The key is to be involved, folks. There, I think I've beat that horse enough.
  • One sample of the many "Holiday Controversy" type stories. I agree with Pseudo-Polymath on this topic, I think. Let them have their "secular holiday" (now THERE'S an oxymoron!) in December. But they have to stop calling it Christmas, and leave us alone to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I end up stressed at this time of year, over what to get people, if I've gotten them enough, and all that garbage. It's easy to lose focus on what's important. Maybe it's time to reclaim Christmas as our own -- they don't really get it anyway. I think our Jewish brethren have the right idea -- how much Chanuka-related marketing do you see? Very little in many parts of the country. THAT would be refreshing.
  • And as we're fighting our own culture wars, our brethren in Europe have seemingly been pushed too far. Unfortunately, they may have been snoozing too long. Check out this Guardian story, and think about how close we have come, and how close we still may come, to a society just like this. Cultural engagement can help avert this; of course, if the left was really tolerant, they'd never have attacked us for our religious beliefs in the first place.
  • In case you were wondering why all of us evangelical-type peole got so politically active this election, Alan Boraas at the Anchorage Daily News has the answer. It's not concern for our rights as citizens. It's not a desire to make the country a better place. It's not even because we're all brainwashed. It's all because of the rapture. Read the article, and think about how sad it is that a professor of anthropology has absolutely no clue about the topic he's writing about. NOTHING WE DO CAN MAKE THE RAPTURE HAPPEN ANY FASTER!!!!!!! A good majority of evangelical Christians don't believe in the rapture anyway -- what motivates them????? No answers, because that line of questioning tends to defeat stereotypes of Christians. Too bad, the article had a little promise. And I hold out little hope that anything will change people's minds. Don't confuse them with facts, their minds are made up. And they say we're anti-intellectual.

Now I'm going to head over to GetReligion, and see what I should have said about all these articles.

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December 01, 2004

Free Will, part 2

I've talked about the various types of free will before. In this post, I'm going to discuss the different perspectives on how free will and divine sovereignty coincide.

Some people think they don't. If we have free will, then God really cannot know what the future holds, whether ten years from now, or ten minutes. God rolls the dice and takes a chance. He's got a better chance at being right than we do, but He still only has a chance. He could be wrong, he could be surprised. He is often disappointed. But He's still God.

That, in a nutshell, is open theism. God makes mistakes, and learns from us. We control our destiny, and God is just along for the ride. I'm working on a post where I look at the various Scripture passages that open theises typically use to support their view, and I'll post that later on. For right now, I'll say that I really don't think that this is the omnipotent, omniscient God that the Bible shows us.

If we hold to libertarian free will, though, open theism is not that big of a stretch, philosophically. We can always do things differently, so our actions influence God's knowledge and planning. Some people have adopted a different view, which is called Molinism.

Molinism essentially teaches that God has 'middle knowledge' -- that He knows things based on His creative action (free knoweldge), based on 'the way things have to be' (natural knowledge, things that are necessarilly true and not dependant on anything), and based on His absolute knowledge of all possible actions that His created beings can take (middle knowledge). This is a very complex system (I just finished writing a 15 page paper on it for philosophy, which I will post somewhere later on) -- suffice it to say that it involves God knowing absolutely everything that we could possibly do, not just what we actually do. His knowledge of the future is tied to this middle knowledge.

I am a compatibilist: I think that our freedom is based in God's will and our character/personality. We are therefore free, but not absolutely free. In His sovereignty, God knows what choices we will make -- based on either the situation we are in, or His understanding of how we will react to a situation, or simply because He knows how He will act in the situation and thus knows its outcome. This is similar to middle knowledge, but is based ultimately in God's creative act -- either in His creation of us and our personalities, His shaping of the situation around us, or His special act in creation. (This ended up being the thesis of the paper I just mentioned -- that the idea of middle knoweldge is correct, but it is not separate from God's free knowledge -- what He knows because of His actions. Here is an article by someone who agrees with me. There is an excellent one in the recent Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that says essentially the same thing).

Sovereignty and free will is not an issue for compatibilists. Our free will is always exercised under the supervision of God, and He works through our actions. Because His will is always accomplished, He is in control of the circumstances, even though we are exercising our freedom. Libertarian free will implies a God who is always having to guess to stay one step ahead of HIs creation, or at the very least a God who really doesn't know everything.

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