May 10, 2004

By the Way

I'm using FeedBurner now for syndication. If you want to keep track of the blog, and not have to actually surf here, you can point your news reader to this link. If you have any problems, let me know -- I'm kinda new to this syndication thing.

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May 09, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:35-39


Mark 1:35-39 ESV
(35) And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
(36) And Simon and those who were with him searched for him,
(37) and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is looking for you."
(3 And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."
(39) And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

In verse 35, Jesus is setting the example we are all to follow -- pray. Things are going GREAT for Him right now -- His popularity is increasing, He's making an impact on people, He's healing and casting out demons -- and He stops to pray.

Not like us. We don't pray until we hit a speed bump. People often wonder why bad things happen to Christians -- I think that many times, they happen because God wants us to talk to Him, and He knows the only time we'll pray is when something bad happens. I DON'T think that only good things happen to us when we're doing what God wants us to do -- the Bible teaches that Satan will be against us when we are doing what we're supposed to do -- but I DO think that we open ourselves up for more abuse, more bad things, when we don't pray.

The second thing I notice is Jesus' reaction to His popularity. Peter comes running to Him, saying "What are you DOING out here all alone?? Don't you realize there are people LOOKING for you? You are in demand!! We need to take advantage of this -- we can have this whole town behind us! Nothing could stop us!!".

Jesus looks up at him and says, "We're leaving. We've got more towns to preach in -- that's what I'm here for."

It would have been easy to just stay there. Jesus knew what was ahead; He knew what people were going to do to Him. He knew that the arguements with the Pharisees were coming. He knew that people would be calling for His death. He could have stuck around where people liked Him, and taken His time. But He didn't.

He knew God's timetable. He knew that the Father knew best. And maybe He knew that some of the people who were looking for him, who thought He was the best thing ever to happen to their town, were some of the people who would, in just three years, be calling for His death. He got back to business, no matter what.

How often are we content to stay where we are, rather than go where God wants us? I was pretty content three or four years ago -- decent job, decent benefits, teaching in a school district that was building new schools every day, so there was always a chance to get a better position, the works. Then God started telling me that I wasn't quite where He wanted me, and that I'd need to step out on faith and head off to school again. I didn't want to do it. I argued. He won. I start seminary this summer.

We like to have things our own way. We want God to work on our terms, rather than being willing to work on His. God's way isn't the easy way -- ask Christ. God's way isn't the popular way. But it IS the right way. We need to follow it.

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May 08, 2004

What a DAY!!!!!! (AND the Schedule!)

Phew.

We drove to Columbus last night, because my wife was judging the Ohio History Day Performance competition -- part of National History Day. So my daughter and I went Mothers Day shopping today while she was judging, then we took her out to dinner a day early (I'm cooking tomorrow -- don't yell at me! She's not doing ANY cooking on Mothers Day). So we JUST got home. I am exhausted, so I'll post more tomorrow.

Wanted to let everyone know that AS OF RIGHT NOW, the Mark Bible study is going to be updated on Mondays (though I plan on doing one tomorrow, since it's been a while), and the Today in Church History articles are going to be done on Wednesdays. I'm busiest those two days, so that will help me keep to my posting schedule -- I WANT to post something every day. So stay tuned!!

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May 06, 2004

Moore or Less ....

Ok, a rare political blog with no religious under or overtones. But there's a really good reason for this:

I can't stand Michael Moore.

Spinsanity has a great take on Moore -- and corrects his errors in fact rather well. But you don't have to go there for the latest outrage.

The Independent has an outstanding article about Moore and Disney. In spite of his outrage over having Disney refuse to distribute his movie at the last moment (he told his supporters that he only learned of the plan on Monday), it turns out that he knew a year or more ago.

Maybe Al Franken's next book about liars should include Moore. Or maybe Moore should admit that his documentaries are very short on fact, and long on staged events designed to gain him sympathy.

(Thanks to Joyfulchristian for the heads-up on this story).

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Fundamentalists and Evangelicals

A LOT of pixels have given their lives in this discussion. My own post of April 28 (though I doubt too many of the others writing about this have read that one), multiple posts at Back of the Envelope this week, and a post at Doc Rampage as well -- the discussion is getting interesting. All because of the Guardian, and their "fundagelical" article.

As I said before, there are seven things that, if you believe in them, you are a fundamentalist. Pre-tribulational eschatology didn't make the list 100 years ago, and it doesn't make my list now. If it makes yours, you aren't defining fundamentalism in anything close to an historic manner. The way I see it, the people who coined the term fundamentalist should be the authority in defining what it actually is.

Inerrancy of Scripture does make that list. I haven't met very many evangelicals who deny the inerrancy of Scripture, although some confine that to the original autographs. The Second Coming (tm) of Christ does make the list, also, though no specifications exist about when He's coming back. As I mentioned, most of the people who wrote the book had disagreements about eschatlogy, as do many today.

Maybe the problem is my definition of evangelical. I'd define them in the context of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and it's statements of faith. If you prefer, you can look at the National Association of Evangelicals' statement.

There are many areas where evangelicals and fundamentalists differ -- especially if you look at modern, rather than historic, fundamentalists. Modern fundamentalism had become a haven for legalism and anti-intellectualism. Modern fundamentalists typically hold very dogmatically to a rather rigid set of beliefs, and often pride themselves in who they have 'separated from' -- carrying the Biblical injunction to separate from heresey to degrees never envisioned in Scripture.

The differences between evangelicals and historic fundamentalists are slight. The differences between modern fundamentalists and evangelicals are huge, and getting bigger every day. As modern Fundamentalism has slipped into KJVOnlyism, second, third, and fourth degree separation, and other such doctrinal abberations, the gulf will grow even bigger. This is the reason I stopped calling myself a fundamentalist -- I don't like what the name has come to represent. I am, and always will be, an historic fundamentalist.

AND an evangelical, too.

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May 05, 2004

Another find in the Blogosphere

Most of you have probably already seen this, since Instapundit linked to it, but I figured I'd post a link here anyway, since it ties in to what I was talking about last week -- fundamentalists and evangelicals. I think Donald's definition of evangelical is probably a little bit wider than mine, and his definition of fundamentalist might be a little narrower, but he hits the nail firmly on the head. I guess it's the Southern Baptist thing -- we must think a little alike.

I haven't tried to post anything extensive today, simply because of modem problems here. I've tried to post on a few message boards that I read frequently, only to have my cable modem lose connection before I could post. It's working now (of course -- a tech is coming tomorrow afternoon), so I'm putting a few things up tonight, but the Mark study will have to wait until tomorrow.

I'm trying to set up a schedule for the Mark study and the Today in Church History postings, since a lot of people seem to really enjoy them. When I work something out, I will let you know. It may end up being TiCH on Mondays (golf league night), and Mark study on Wednesday (church night), but I WILL let everyone know when I figure anything out for sure.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't stop by every day! You never know what I might rant about......

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The Will of God

I was going to write something about God's will, what it is, and what it isn't, in response to a LOT of blogging about the subject -- especially of knowing God's will.

THEN I read Rebecca's article, and I figured it would be a lot easier to just tell you go read that -- she's done an outstanding job with the whole issue. Maybe someday, I'll write one, but I think she's got the issue summed up well.

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Christian Carnival


The Christian Carnival is up over at Parablemania. My first article about The Jesus Factor is included, along with some outstanding entries from all over the blogosphere. Check it out!

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May 04, 2004

Those Clever Lefties

The British paper, The Guardian, has coined a new term for us -- fundagelicals. Fundagelism, it says, "oppose ... Gay marriage, abortion, gun control, taxes, the UN (and the currently top-rated candidate for anti-Christ, Kofi Annan), withdrawal from Iraq, Michael Moore, Janet Jackson's left breast". We believe in "Christian values and the future as foretold in the Book of Revelation".

Wow. I didn't realize that we were so simplistic. Never mind that there are, at last count, at LEAST six different interpretations of Revelation among American evangelical Christians, and that even Fundamentalists (in the historic sense of the word) don't even totally agree. Never mind that to many who call themselves fundamentalist, the term 'evangelical' is an abomination, akin to calling an Ohio State supporter a Wolverine.

I'm always amused at the simplistic ways that outsiders try to categorize Christian beliefs. I guess if you can find one segment of the population and exaggerate their beliefs to the point of absurdity, you don't really have to deal with their opposition to you in any rational form at all. Funny, I always thought that was what Christians were accused of doing.

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Today in Church History

Taking a Stand.

On this day in 1873, a Catholic priest known simply as Father Damien purposed in his heart that he would not take the easy way out -- he would, almost literally, enter hell to witness to the people there.

Father Damien was a missionary to Hawaii. I met some missionaries to Hawaii while in college; I expected lots of pictures of people on the beach, accounts of Christian luaus, the works. What I saw shamed me. Poverty, disease, things that the tourist board doesn't want people to know about. And above all, lost souls hungering for Christ.

Father Damien faced similar conditions in Hawaii, specifically in the leper colonies that he went to. Leperous men attacked young girls whose condition had not yet deteriorated. Living conditions that rival the worst third-world nation today, huts filled with filth -- this is what Father Damien faced as he began his ministry to the lepers.

He was given opportunities to give up and leave, but he refused. He managed to get fresh water to the settlement. He taught the people there how to farm, and helped set up many farms there. He helped build new houses, tearing down the hovels that were there.

He made a difference in the lives of people. He showed that he cared, and the people saw Christ in him. His evangelism efforts saw much fruit. The authorities on the island tried to get him to leave, even making up stories about him. He stayed, until he finally became one of the lepers that he was ministering to. He was dead four years after contracting the disease.

But his testimony lives on, an example for us to follow.

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Spirituality and Real Life

One thing that The Jesus Factor has done is prompt a discussion about spirituality, and how much impact it has, and should have, on daily life. Over at The Corpus Callosum, there's been an ongoing discussion of the show -- I linked to one post there before.

Today's post, a response in part to mine, gave me a lot of food for thought, and I think that the main point of the discussion, or what the main point should be, was summed up in this quote:


Let's get back to the main point, that of the question: should spirituality strictly determine any aspect of a person's life? An important variant of this is the question: If the fundamental source of knowledge in a spiritual system is incomplete, or at least cannot be proven to be complete; if the translations are debatable; and if the ethical question at hand did not even exist when the source material was written, is it valid for a person to direct or judge the actions of another person, relying only on those ancient writings?

I'm not sure how debatable the translations of the Bible are -- we have existant texts that extend back into the third century AD, and external references to most of the Bible from patristic writings as well. Textual criticism, however, is an ongoing process (at least until we find those original autographs that everyone is dying to see), so I'm willing to concede part of the point. Most Christians believe that the Bible is reliable, and have really been given little reason to believe otherwise.

I do think, though, that even if the ethical question in particular was not in existance at the time of the text in question (whether the Bible or any other writing), there are guidelines that indicate "ethical behavior" contained in the text. To continue the stem cell illustration -- the Bible teaches that life has value. If someone believes that life begins at conception, they must logically believe that it is wrong to take that life. For them not to take this into account in a debate about harvesting stem cells would be inconsistant to their beliefs. The issue at hand in this case is when, exactly, does life begin. Here is where there is debate begins, and there are good Christians on both sides of the debate.


I would argue that it is not proper to do so. I would say that people are free to consider those writings, and perhaps even consider them to be the best source of inspiration on the subject at hand. But part of morality involves a careful consideration of all sources of information, prior to making an important decision. Different source of information can be given different relative weights, depending on the authority of the source. Taking only one source, such as one's spiritual belief, is to discard relevant information. That is not what morality is about. No matter what the book says, no matter what your spiritual leader says, if you have an important decision to make, it is up to you to gather the necessary information, process it thoughtfully, consult with others if you can, and make your own decision.


I agree with just about all of this. I always try to take all available resources into consideration when making a decision -- I'm especially careful about this when studying history, since all history is written from a biased perspective. And I wish more Christians were willing to study the issues and make therir own decisions, rather than parrot what is said to them on Sunday mornings. The bottom line has to be, though, that you accept the authority of the most reliable resource. In questions of ethics and morality, Christians will always turn to the Bible for this authority -- sometimes unconsciously.

Many times, I find myself wishing that President Bush would pay more attention to what the Bible actually teaches about some things. I grow tired of him justifying actions that are politically expedient by appealing to his faith. I sometimes wonder how convenient his faith was -- whether he is sincere, or simply using the Religious Right to gain and stay in office. I, and many other Christians, are uncomfortable with some of his expressions of faith -- many times, they seem out of place. As far as the "God wants me to be president" quote, I'd remind my fellow Christians on both sides of the political spectrum that the Bible teaches that all of our leaders are ordained by God. So it's true -- if God didn't want him in office, he wouldn't be there.

Just remember, Bill Clinton was in office for 8 years. God put him there, too.

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May 02, 2004

Check the Blogroll!!

I've added a few blogs to the Blogroll over on the right side of the page.


Leithart.com is an interesting blog. I don't always agree, but I always come away with something to think about, which is why I read it.

I've been reading Ian's Messy Desk for a little while, and I've finally gotten around to putting it in my Blogroll. I like the Quote of the Day especially.

Challies.com is another thought-provoking blog. Tim also shares my love of Christian music -- he has a lot of news and opinion over there!

The Gray Monk gives me a bit of British perspective on many issues -- and I've found some awesome pictures over there!!

Check these out, and cruise through the rest of the 'roll, too! You won't be disappointed!

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Frontline and The Jesus Factor

I have to start off by saying that I missed this one. I'm feeding off the reactions I have read elsewhere in the blogosphere, so I'm not really addressing the show -- I'm addressing what others have had to say.

The overwhelming opinion seems to be that the President's religious beliefs shouldn't have anything to do with his political decisions, or anything outside his spiritual life. Personally, I find this rather amusing, and it shows a total lack of understanding about spirituality. True spirituality, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, or what, will effect every part of an adherant's life.

My Christianity is not a suit I put on Sunday morning, then take off when I interact with anyone else. It is more like my body, and the things I do every day are the clothing. You may see more of my bodyy when I wear some clothing than you do when I wear other clothing (a bathing suit vs. a ski outfit, for example), but the way my body looks has an impact on what the clothes look like -- my body would NOT look very good in Speedos, I promise you. In the same way, my faith may not always be the most obvious thing about me (more obvious in church, less obvious at a hockey game, for example), but it still influences what I do, and the way I act when I am doing different activities. It also influences the activities I do, and those I stay away from -- just like my body determines what I will wear or won't wear. I cannot stop being a Christian just because I am at work. If President Bush's faith is sincere, he cannot stop being a Christian simply because he is in public office.

I find the arguements that the President is trying to usher in the End of the World (tm) comical. I'm not sure of the Methodist Church's stand on eschatology, but from what I remember, it's NOT a pre-tribulational one. And a slight majority of evangelical Christians do NOT hold to the theology of the Left Behind books, so to characterize all of us as radical nutcases who are trying to get Jesus to come faster is incredibly naive, and offensive. Anyone who has studied pre-trib eschatology knows that one of the key elements is that nobody knows when it's going to happen. In ther words, we can't make it happen faster. Nothing we do will change the day that Christ returns -- Christians are simply commanded to be ready. Besides, real pre-trib Christians don't believe that we'll be around for Armageddon, anyway, so Bush isn't trying to bring that battle on. That happens when Christ returns physically to earth.

In short, the arguements that the President's policy in Iraq is fueled by his evangelical faith are incredibly misinformed, at best. They show an ignorance of Christian eschatology and the President's beliefs, and are highly offensive to most Christians, evangelical or not. If you disagree with President Bush, fine. There are better reasons to do that than by perpetuating the myth that he is in the pocket of the "Christian Right". Besides, many conservative Christians are pretty upset with him, as well. (note -- I simply provide this link as a resource. I find myself in disagreement with a lot of what they have to say, and am honestly VERY concerned with several of the party's platform planks. I won't be voting Constitutional this election.)

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May 01, 2004

I'm Still Here!!

Just a quick note to let everyone know I haven't vanished off the face of the earth!

Spent Friday and Saturday in Beckley, WV, playing golf and generally having fun. Didn't realize until too late that my Internet connection wouldn't work at the motel, so I didn't get anything posted. And NOW, I'm tired. So tomorrow afternoon/evening, I'll be posting. Promise.

BTW, if you ever make it to Beckley, you have to check out this course. I had a blast, and didn't even play that well!!! Be sure and take your camera -- it's a beautiful course!

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