Friday, July 30, 2004

I'm Slackware Linux

I was hoping to be a form of Linux. I may have to get a copy of Slackware since my personality is Slackware.

You are Slackware Linux. You are the brightest among your peers, but are often mistaken as insane.  Your elegant solutions to problems often take a little longer, but require much less effort to complete.
Which OS are You?

Thursday, July 29, 2004


We shut down our room with our internet connection in order to paint. My wife and daughters have worked hard. I've tried to help during the evenings. My book during the evening has been a book by a post-modern man who makes a religious pilgrimage. He walks on a ancient road to Santiago. He spends a lot of time explaining that he is not a religious sort of guy, but he is none the less, taking a pilgrimage.

One of the interesting points of the book is the fact that in the Middle Ages people on a pilgrimage had an international status. Pilgrims had special rights. They had special clothes which identified them as pilgrims. There were laws against impersonating a pilgrim. Today we take vacations, not pilgrimages. Vacations are about relaxation, pigrimages are about discovery and dedication. A book I read many years ago was Walk Across America. The author Peter Jenkins walked with a purpose of discovery. As he walked it was a discovery of his country. Peter Jenkins walked part of the Appalachian Trail on his walk. The Appalachian Trail of course is the great American unattainable hike. Most people don't make it. Bill Bryson's book, A Walk In The Woods actually was about walking just parts of the Appalachian Trail. Walking the whole Appalachian Trail was just too much really do.

I'm trying to plan my own sort of walk. I don't have a quest or a destination, but I know I want to do this. Any suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

My Life As A Technology Rebel

In 1987 I was facing a decision to become a student pastor at a country church or re-enlist in the U.S. Army. The decision was very tough since I really wanted to become a pastor, and still do, but I just felt led of God away from that particular ministry. So I re-enlisted, not knowing just exactly what to do. The Army gave me a little bonus money for that decision. Sort of a consolation prize to myself I decided to buy a computer with that money. I had been using an Apple II at the library. I did some research and asked around about what type of computer was best for education. The answer resoundingly was Apple. I was also taking a course on computing for my degree program. It was an introduction to computing. It was a computer course on the computer. There was a lab assistant there who ran the place. When he was not watching the computer lab, he taught computers. Everything pointed to the type of computer that I wanted was an Apple. This decision started me down that path. I did not know it at the time, I was becoming a computing rebel.

In the next few years, people would be buy computers like crazy and most of them would be asking a different question than I was. I was asking about the best design for a particular job. They were asking, what do I know already about computing. Come to think of it, one of the first computers I ever worked on at my job was an Apple. It was my introduction to this feild which has become so much a part of my life. So I went to my local post exchange (PX) and bought my first Apple II GS. I kept it running for much longer than I should have. My experince with computers was much different than the typical computer owner in the late 1980's, early 1990's. While everyone else was learning DOS and later Windows, I was learning how to program in BASIC and trying to figure out why I had fewer software choices than my Windows counterparts. I went to Apple User Groups a few times and bought a lot of magazines on Apple II. I really did not understand why everyone was attracted to computers which were built for business and less for home use. It seemed to me at the time that the market driving forces were simply wrong. Buy a computer built for your needs. However, I think computer education was driven for most user by their work environment. The key factor was not design and features, but how comfortable people felt about a system. They used computers at work and those are the systems they knew something about. If they had a problem at home, they could ask somebody at work about the issue. Instead of going to a user group, the water cooler became the de fato user group in the work place. Eventually all my friends were talking about reloading their system over and over again all the while I was espousing the philosophical merits of my system. My bottom line, pick the best designed system. The herd's bottom line, don't leave the herd, its safer that way. When I was not using a Apple II GS at home, I was often using a Unix system at work. Eventually I wanted to keep purchasing newer software and little was being made for the Apple II. So I decided to buy a new system. My friends who were having trouble with thier Windows 3.1 machines, I decided to buy an Apple Mac. It was a great machine. That is about the same time bulletin boards were maxing out their usefulness and ISP's were taking that nitche market. On-line communications were new and clunky. That is when people started sending me attachments. MS Word documents meant that I would spend a whole lot of time down-loading a friend's e-mail just to find out it was a Word document which would not be readable by my Claris Works word processor. That is when I became an advocate of cross plateform portability. Again I was stumbling onto technology that I liked but everyone else was doing something just a little different. My adoption of Windows into my home came in the form of a gift to my daughters. One of their relatives decided that he could give them his old machine. That was only the first step. The second step was a gift of a digital camera. There was a Windows machine in my home and a camera that would not work with it. In order to allow my daughter to use their camera, after a lot of frustration, I bought a Windows XP machine. It really is a good machine and I don't have crashes or other plagues that bothered it's ancestors. I no longer have any Apple machines running my home. I think their still cool so don't worry. But Window has finally won in a sense, but I just had to build a Linux machine so that I have not "given in to the dark side".

Things I have learned or values I have gained by my unorthodox journey.

1. Technology really stands on training and social relationships. The best tool is not always the one adopted.

2. The early adapters of a technology learn a lot more than those who wait, but then they become vested agents of the technology. Sort of like that unofficial Wendys guy.

3. At a certain point, to maintain your technology outside the mainstream is painful. Some say that when 15% of the work force adopts a technology, like say broadband, others almost forced to follow. If they don't, the cost of not having the tool become painful to the non-adopter.

4. Technology gave promises of enhancing education. This is really still being worked out. Technology used to attempt to be a nice tool for drill. But drilling on a subject one has not knowledge of is pretty useless. Simulations are expensive to create. The real value of computers to education is that they are good for research and producing papers, graphics, presentations and other media.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I'm Owl

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

Hat Tip Rebecca Write

My wife is Pooh.

Why Churches Should Have Policy Against Having A Policy Manual

Of course my title in tongue in cheek, so don't take it literally. The leadership in my church is called a Session. As Presbyterians we have an elder form of church government. As a group of elders, what is our job? There are many models of leadership that people bring into the church. Occationally the coach model is brought into the church. Ususally the leadership model comes from our employement. Teachers I find tend to lead through schedule and procedure. Those who work for the government tend to work off a policy manual. There is nothing wrong with schedules, procedures and policy manuals inherently. Some people who are used to writing policy, when reach a position of leadership in the church want to use that as a means of good leadership. However, when I look at the Biblical model of eldership, I don't think a policy manual should be the main activity. The main thing church leaders should know is God and scripture. Good decisions, including those in a policy manual, should come from a deep prayer life and knowing God's Word. Dr. Powell says that a Session's job is to interpret the Bible not write law. He says that the Session is a church court, not a legislative body. While the term court has more legal connotations than I am comfortable with, I do agree, the job is to rightly apply the Word of God, not write policy. In providing leadership, one must actually make decisions, and what is the difference between that and policy? Well, policy is merely well thought out decisions. So to be totally consistent, one really cannot rule out making a policy manual as a part of maintaining good order, but my real issue is the mindset that church leadership takes. The main activity for church leadership is really applying the Word of God to the life of the congregation.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Friday Five: Museums

Here are five of my favorite museums. My wife and I really like museums.

1. Walters Art Gallery

2. Dumbarton Oaks

3. Museum of The Alphebet

4. Gutenberg Museum

5. The Louvre Museum

Dawn Treader's Posting on Three Great Questions

Check out the Dawn Treader's posting on Three Great Questions. He is collecting different ideas about what are the issues facing our culture. He would appreciate your assistance.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

"Christian" Nation

What is a nation? What is a country? What is the state? What is the government? People define these different ways. My good friend the Jollyblogger has written another great article regarding the religious right, "Is This Land Our Land?". In it he addresses several issues, one being can we have a Christian nation. Another is whether we had a Christian nation and some how it was stolen out from under us and now it has to be taken back.

Warrior Terminology

While I like a good, clean debate, I find myself more in agreement than disagreement with Jollyblogger's critic of those who want "to take back America". This type of rhetoric is used to inflame Christians who feel that they are in the minority. If Christians want to be salt and light in the culture, it is not because they are going to rule the culture but because Christians serve their fellow mankind.

History Of The Nation

I read several years ago The Light and the Glory -- by Peter Marshall, David Manuel. This book takes a fairly optimistic look at America's history and the thesis is that America had a Christian heritage. Those who have a secular worldview will find this book a trivial work which is the result of a bias on the part of the authors. The strength of the book is that the authors take at face value the evaluations of those who lived through our nation's history. They interpreted their own history. The founding fathers were not inerrant, nor even inspired in the sense of scriptural revelation. The weakness of the book is that it really is much too popular in its tone and composition to have an effect on anyone but the evangelical community in America. In a sense though, the great tide of interpretation of American history by secular historians has declared that America was evil and the powers that be are evil. The authors of The Light And The Glory are too optimistic about our nation's heritage, but their claims of God's providence in our history as Americans is not unfounded.

Francis A. Schaeffer

Francis A. Schaeffer talked about in his lectures and books about Christian culture vice a Christian individual. Christian culture is that which has developed in a Biblical worldview. In his book "How Should We Then Live?" he says...

"Not all individual men who laid down the foundation for the United States Constitution were Christians; some, in fact, were deists. But we should realize that the word Christian can legitimately be used two ways. The primary meaning is: an individual who has come to God through the work of Christ. The second meaning must be kept distinct but also has validity. It is possible for an individual to live within the circle of that which a Christian consensus brings forth, even though he himself is not a Christian in the first sense. This may be true in many areas - for example, in the arts or political thought. Some of the men who laid the foundation of the United States Constitution were not Christians in the first sense, and yet they built upon the basis of the Reformation either directly through the Lex Rex tradition or indirectly through Locke. To whatever degree a society allows teh teaching of the Bible to bring forth its natural conclusions, it is able to have form and freedom in society and government."

What is a Christian family?

A Christian home has at least one parent who is a beleiver.

"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
I Corinthians 7:14

We pass the covenant from one generation to the next. It is a inherintly sloppy process to pass the covenant from one generation to another. Some children do not place their faith in Christ; some men and women turn from the faith they once embraced in their youth. Some have attempted to clean this situation up and it really makes each generation stand alone without intergenerational connections. The God of the Bible is the God of Abraham, Isacc and Jacob. The God of the grandfather, father and son. He has revealed himself as an intergenerational God. But not all of Abraham are truely children of faith. But a family which does not have an ideal state, Christian father, Christian mother, and Christian children, does not mean that the family is not Christian.

What is a Christian nation?

If we say the nation is the people, not the government as an institution, then a Christian nation is one which has Biblical thinking and values as the worldview of that society. Again, a lot of sloppy things happening when this does exist.

How would we get a Christian nation? Not through politics that is for sure. That is a sure path away from a Christian nation. To get there, we need to preach the gospel. That's it. Yeah, I know, it is difficult to engage the culture and all that, but a winsome preaching of the gospel is the core activity of the church.

New Blogger: Reading List

Check out the new blogger on the block and her reading list, Big Red 5

Sunday, July 18, 2004

New Spiderman Review

Yesterday I gave a mini reveiw of the new Spiderman 2 movie. Today I have to say that the Lego version of Spiderman is extremely funny. It is probably funnier if you have seen the live action movie before viewing the Lego version. For a little video clip, I give it 5 stars out of 5. It gets that for making me laugh aloud. The recreation of scenes from the movie is really what cracked me up. Hat Tip: Rebecca Writes.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Movie Review: Spiderman 2

My lovely bride gave 4 out of 5 stars to Spiderman 2 . I gave 4 stars also. The special effects are great and so is the character development. Well, great character development for a super hero movie at least. One of the themes is that Spiderman can not seem to get it right because he does not have a great sense of his purpose and who he is. While there is something to understanding one's purpose, not everyone has to have a high sense of purpose. It has taken a while for me to figure this out, some people are driven by their calling and other people are faithful to thier calling. I for one am more of a driven by my calling. It has taken a while for me to understand those who are less driven.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Joe Missionary: What Is A Missionary

Joe Missionary has some interesting thoughts on the definition of a missionary. In the end he says that both home and foreign missionaries are good. He emphasizes that we should not put missionaries up on pedestal. I like his post and agree, especially on the issue that we should not create layered system of a Christian, a saved-n-sanctified Christian, a wholly sanctified, ....., ta-dah; THE MISSIONARY! This is true, however, the mandate to "make disciples of all nations" must not become usurped by an over summarization of what he said. While there is no difference in the individual soul of someone overseas and someone on the home mission field, there a sense when God is especially glorified when His gospel is spread through out the world. He is especially glorified when His name is spoken by every tribe, tongue and nation. This is not a more important ministry, but it is obedience to the specific call and will of God as expressed in the scripture. It is like the glory given to God when one generation praises His name to another. It's that His glory transcends time, social barriers and geography.

I'm An Evil Genuis - (Well, I Don't Hope So But That Is What They Said!)

I took this demented personality test. I think it was called the Jenny Turpish Slapped Me personality test.

It said I was....

Wackiness: 0/100
Rationality: 0/100
Constructiveness: 40/100
Leadership: 0/100

You are an SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Christian Carnival Coming

Hat Tip: Rebecca Writes

This coming Wednesday (7-14) is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted at From the Anchor Hold. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

To enter is simple. First, you post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature from a Christian point of view. Secondly please send only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival. (7-7 or after) Then, do the following:

email Karen Marie at

Please put "Christian Carnival submission" in the subject line --- I don't have a good spam filter and don't want to lose any of you to mass spam deletion!

And provide the following:

Title of your Blog
URL of your Blog
Title of your post
URL linking to that post
Description of the post

Cut off date is Tuesday 13 July at 9 p.m. Central Daylight (Chicago time)

Anachronisms, Depression And Interpersonal Conflict

The following is a Sunday School lesson I wrote. The College aged audience wanted to study depression. Their topic, not mine. Polling the group, the most troubling issues they faced was relationships. So King Saul meets Judas the betrayer in this tongue in cheek play.

Scripture Lesson:
Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16; 27:1-10
1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-10

Main Idea: Some of the most poignant conflicts in life are from those who are supposed to be on our side; both those who we are supposed to be supported by or to whom we are giving our support.

A Reader's Theater About Depression

(Two patients at a mental hospital, Judas and Saul, go out under the tree to smoke. They strike up a casual conversation to pass the time as they puff on their cigarettes.)

Saul: Hello. I am Saul.

Judas: How's it goin'? I'm Judas. ... (mutters to himself.) Why do they have to put this smoke area all the way out here? (Looking into his cigarette pack he sees that the thing is empty. He ensures he is visibly disappointed.) Man! I'm out and they don't sell my brand here.

Saul: I can perhaps help you. Here you go. (Flips a cigarette so Judas can pull one from the pack. Judas takes one up.)

Judas: Thanks man. I'll pay you back.

Saul: Don't mention it. Nice day out.

Judas: Better since my boss left.

Saul: Your boss visited you here, at this place?

Judas: Yeah, he drives me crazy.

Saul: How so?

Judas: Well, he is always doing things, you know. I mean if you’re in charge you gotta take the bull by the horns sometimes. I was hoping we could complete this acquisition of another software company. He let it pass without so much as even trying to put in a bid.

Saul: So you are in here because you are disappointed that your boss did not take advantage of an opportunity to purchase one of your competitors?

Judas: No, I'm in here cause I tried testing out the harakiri thing. The cops frown on that, especially if you do it in a public area. They want you to do it all private like.

Saul: I see why they brought you here, but I'm a little lacking as to the reason that you are all up set with a failed business opportunity.

Judas: It's kinda complex. I have this 401K and a little nest egg. The stock in this software firm, CosmicLogos, was bottoming out like. I saw that it would be dirt-cheap. So I took all my 401K, my nest egg and even some of the assets of my company and bought up almost 40% of their stock. I knew it was a sweet deal. I showed my boss that with just a little more cash, we could own the whole kit and caboodle. My boss new I had risked every thing, but he was unsympathetic. Something about not our business line. Anyway, I lost seven years of savings when no one bought controlling interest in the firm. Instead of being a great opportunity, I lost everything.

Saul: Let me get this straight. You used your company's money with out talking to the boss.

Judas: Yeah, I was allowed to make purchases up to $100,000.00. That was sweet. I had 96 grand of my own. But the thing was, the obvious choice was for him to kick in an extra 80 grand and we would have had controlling interest in that dinky outfit. If only he would take a little risk. This guy!

Saul: Sounds like decent fellow if he is visiting you here.

Judas: I wish he would just quit all this nice guy stuff. You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders. How did you get in here?

Saul: Well,...I had an altercation with one of my employees.

Judas: Come again...?

Saul: I was having a bad day. I was really concerned about the new composition of the board of directors. David comes in. He is an intern. He starts telling me how nice my office looked, and kept going on about my Bose stereo. This guy wants my office I tell you.

Judas: What's this guy do for you?

Saul: Like I said he is an intern from one of the MBA programs. He does a little of everything. He gets me coffee, but he also has typed several proposals for me. To tell you the truth, he wrote a better proposal for the board of directors than I could ever have hoped. He seems to have a lot of natural talent. I could see how he wants my office in the executive suite. The water cooler talk is all about his red hair and fantastic leadership abilities.

Judas: So what does altercation mean exactly?

Saul: I had a decorative sword on the mantle, a Samurai sword given to me by a Japanese customer. He said he was trying to cheer me up. I just could not listen any more to his lusting after my office. I took the sword and thrust it his way. Security came, I was taken into custody on assault charges, and the judge could see that I was an upstanding citizen so he and my lawyer came to an agreement.

Judas: Who was trying to cheer you up? The Japanese customer or this David dude?

Saul: David.

Judas: So you came after this kid because......

Saul: Yes, it seems quite trivial now. He is so young, not nearly a man of my stature but to be frank and honest, I'm fretfully jealous of him.

Judas: It seems we both are having people problems; you with David and me with Mr. Nice guy. And they say we have an illness. I would say we have both been injured. Where is the hospital for those nursing their pain? Let’s blow this joint and go there?

(Both men laugh.)

Theological Positions Of Postmodernism Lack Examination

Recent History Of Religious Strife In America
In the early half of the 1900s, the church in America had a number of denominations. The ideas of liberal Christianity were in many if not most mainline denominations. Labels to describe those inside and outside the movement developed. The more liberal camp(s) were called modernist, liberal or later neo-orthodox. Those in the more conservative camps are divided into the fundamentalists or evangelicals. At the risk of oversimplification, this posting will NOT attempt to distinguish too much between all the variants but generalize into two segments; liberal and conservative. By conservative I do not mean political conservatives, but those who would attempt to retain the basics of the faith. In the early part of the 20th century the liberal type of Christianity did not attempt to establish new denominations or congregations, but mostly grew within the mainline denominations. The ensuing debate between liberal Christianity with more conservative Christianity was over the basics of the faith and it was the conservatives who instigated the debate by and large. Those who were a part of liberal Christianity were careful to not express their ideas directly to the wrong crowd so as to keep their employment and were content to patiently teach their doctrines from within the church. It is not that they did not teach their doctrines, it is that they kept their cards close to their chest so as to be able to play the best hand. Bold moves were made when the risk was low, more moderate positions were expressed when risk was higher. The conservatives were the ones framing the debate and attempting to bring out the issues, often in strident tones that disenfranchised people with a disposition that embraced politeness and civility. The debate was about the basics of the faith; the authority of scripture, the deity of Christ, the existence of hell, and the origins of the human race. The result was that the conservatives by and large left the existing institutions to the liberal competitors and formed their own conservative denominations, conservative seminaries, conservative mission agencies and conservative congregations. While these debates developed over a number of years, conservatives eventually felt forced to draw attention to the issues and act. Few today are debating whether liberal Christianity is right or wrong, for the most part; liberals are kept in their corner and conservatives in theirs. However, in conservative denominations there developed an examination at the beginning of a pastor's ministry to ensure the candidate for ministry adhered to the basics of the faith. Apparently, prior to the liberal versus conservative debate the examination for the ministry focused on an internal sense of call. Both liberal and conservative leaning candidates for ministry could express a sense of call.
In a separate story line, small groups of Christians arose who had no denominational affiliation. These groups were sometimes evangelical and at other times fundamentalists, but they wanted to follow God. Strong leaders who had no accountability to an outside denomination usually led these groups. The idea was to not get sucked into a denomination. In the seventies, any small splinter groups that were controlling or had doctrinal error were labeled a cult. Apologists who specialized in examining a splinter group's teaching and exposing their draconian practices arose to counter the many small sects. By and large the method of countering their teaching was to focus on the basics of the faith like the deity of Christ and the Trinity. (This also was used against larger sects like the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses who did not stick to the basics of the faith.) In essence there was an unofficial list of those who were a part of some other broad umbrella label and those who were not. There are/were a number of broad umbrella labels used; the evangelical church, orthodox Christianity, or historic Christianity.
Recent Nullification Of The Means of Accountability
The Emerging Church is an outgrowth of a wide variety of churches. If the ministry is the result of splintering, it is often an issue of style or an issue regarding power. But the most of the time, splinter would be an overstatement. A quiet leaving for a different venue is the most common description of the event . Many in the Emerging Church, like the web site Vintage Faith ( affirm the traditional theology while expressing it through new media, thus the name “Vintage Faith”. They seem to be an intentional church plant with the blessing of their sending church. Again, we are taking into account the wide spectrum of ministries under the heading of Emerging Church. The web site The Ooze (, established by Spencer Burke, purports to “affirm traditional teachers and new artists”. Spencer seems to be of the quiet leaving type. Others are quite quick to affirm the Apostle's Creed.
In contrast with the previous debate over the basics of the faith in liberal versus conservative brands of Christianity, those in the Emerging Church want to affirm the basics so they can move on and address issues of life. To discuss doctrine is to be too up tight; to share your own story is to be authentic. The Emerging Church as a whole avoids the trap of not affirming the basics of the faith. After a cursory affirmation, they move on to the more important issues of life. To say that the movement has no doctrinal position is exactly what they would like to say, however, doctrine simply means teaching and they do have teachings. Attempting to pin down a unified position of the movement is exactly what they want to avoid. Their attempt seems to be to transcend doctrinal issues with authentic life. While the liberals of the past avoided stating their true beliefs if the environment was not welcoming, the Emerging Church seems to quickly agree with their would be opponents on issues of the authority of the Bible, the deity of Christ, etc.. and move quickly to new, more important issues like a persons struggles with doubt. The mechanisms conservatives developed to counter the liberal infiltration are ineffective in holding individuals from the Emerging Church accountable. By and large it is not an infiltration of existing structures. In fact, the technique of building a separate institutional infrastructure used by the conservative Christian community is also the means for the rise of the Emerging Church. The new congregations, or should I say communities, which are being developed are affirming the basics of the faith, thus avoiding being put on the unofficial list. They are also avoiding accountability and debate. Note: I'm NOT calling the Emerging Church a cult, however it is clear that the plain examination which holds a group accountable to the larger body of Christ is missing. In order to address the issues pertaining to the Emerging Church, one must examine issues that they raise. Just because someone affirms The Apostle's Creed does not mean that his or her other teachings are okay. Throughout the ages of the church, creeds were developed to respond to movements, individuals and teachings. So creeds addressed different issues in different periods of history. While it is good we can agree that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, it is also important to discern what is meant by that statement. On an Evangelism Explosion visit my wife met a couple that had visited our church. The wife was a believer who had just given birth to twins. The husband was an officer in the Coast Guard. The husband expressed and interest in becoming a Christian. When the team started to clarify the commitment, the wife started to clarify for the team what her husband meant. He believed religion was merely a social institution that aided society in passing down morals. He did not want to actually accept Christ; he wanted to become a Christian so that his wife did not have an “unbelieving spouse”. In other words, he wanted to be nice to his wife and become a Christian for her sake, though he thought the whole issue of accepting Christ was a non-issue. If assent to a belief becomes something other than what everyone understands it to be, clarification must be made. Assent to The Apostle's Creed, or any other Creed, if it is the test of accountability to a larger Christian community, must not be usurped by a different understanding of the nature of truth. The issues of style and form that are by and large the identity markers of the movement, those are matters of preference. Often style is merely a matter of artistic form, but where it is transformed to become an actual part of the theology, it must be examined on its merits as theology.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Political Activism

Years ago I read the book Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. They talked about in one chapter that liberals are those who have new ideas and conservatives are those who stand for the old ideas and test the new ones. In a sense, both are necessary. So an innovator is a liberal, for instance Newt Gingrich is an innovator, though he be right wing in his political persuasion. Also, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell are actually innovators, not conservatives. In the 1980's when the conservative Christian community started getting involved in politics, they were innovators. (Politically conservative that is.) Especially in the fundamentalists circles, Jerry Falwell was a real liberal. He was actually trying to be a part of the process in America. With his Fundamentalist style, he thought he would become a part of the solution. America said no by and large. His innovation was by and large a failure.

Another segment of the conservative Christian political movement in the 80's, the pro-life movement, decided that it should adopt the same techniques as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil disobedience. This adaptation of Ghandi and Dr. Kings techniques also failed by and large. The civil disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr. was not blessed because he was such a skilled leader, because he used the right techniques. He may have been a great leader, but the righteousness of his cause was really what made his role in history so important in the civil rights movement. God did NOT bless his efforts because he protested the right way, but because the African-American community was (is) oppressed. Civil leaders in our US government were not totally impressed with his techniques, but his cause. They knew several power issues were at stake. They could have attempted to continue to surprise the cause. Instead they choose to quit opposing the civil rights movement. When the Christian-Fundamentalist community looked for roles after which to model their own community involvement, they could not look to anyone who was a part of the system. The pro-lifers were by and large Fundametalists and Pentecostals were outsiders to the political process. Martin Luther King could be pointed to as a successful outsider. So they adopted his model as their model for enacting social change. But the civil leaders in the 80's were not duped by the use of civil disobedience. Pointing to Dr. King and being willing to suffer just did not cut it. The debate about abortion was still on going. (I'm fully pro-life, however, I see the issue is indeed complex.) The pro-life movement lost their innovation of using political activism. Losing the period of Christian activism in the 80's also showed the sovereignty of God. His hand of providence did not falling short.

What can we say we learned by the failure of Christian activism in the 80's?

1. We need the grace of God, not activisim techniques which show the strength of man.
2. God limits our power.
3. God does not work on our schedule.
4. Most political leaders expect people to make the system work.
5. Most people expect people to make the system work.
6. Strident tones in discussion gives people indigestion.
7. The opponents of righteousness will attempt to dress up their cause as righteous too.

Comments welcome.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Magazines and Image

Have you ever read one magazine for about 15-16 months to find that it is repeating itself? I love to read magazines. Okay, sometimes I'm ashamed, I go off and buy a secret issue of, you guessed it; Linux Journal. Some of the articles are a little over my head, but cool, I'm in there with the real geeks.....or am I? While there are many exceptions to what I'm about to say, I think people often buy magazines for the sake of bolstering their image to themselves. Sort of like driving a SUV to say that your a big outdoor type of guy, even though you have not been camping, fishing, boating or off the Interstate High way in a significant way in a couple of years. The expense and being seen in the rugged vehicle tells not only the world who the guy behind the wheele is, but also is pretty convincing to one's self. In regard to magazines, I see people reading magazines that does not quite fit what they do. Guys who don't work out reading exercise magazines, gals who don't take care of themselves reading Glamour, guys who drive heaps of junk reading Road and Track seems to be more than a common occurance. Since the content is repeated every few months, and the photographs are variations on the same thing every month, and the main thing that really changes is the date of publication what is really sold to the consumer. I think it is image. Image that the kind of person who reads this magazine is the kind of person I'm hoping to become. So instead of reading a new issue of Linux Journal perhaps I should finish that database project using PHP and MySQL. Instead of checking out the latest issue of Backpacker magazine, perhaps I should plan a hike with my five daughters. Instead of borrowing an old issue of Christianity Today from a co-worker, I should actually do something to help someone who is struggling financially so that I am living out my faith in both the public and private sector. Maybe the real answer here is that someone needs to put out a magazine about people who transcend image and actually are the type of people they would like to be.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Women Teachers

In my own family, my grandma Beulah is the kindest, most gentle, nicests, and godly matriarch. She is the example of a Christian to me. In fact, women were the real leaders in my church growing up.

A few years ago the church Session on which I sit had to make a decision. Do we allow women to teach Sunday School? Our former pastor took the position that the teaching excluded by 1 Tim 2:11-15 was that of the pulpit ministry. Anything else like Sunday School teacher or small group leaders was okay in his opinion. He felt that those positions did not have the same authority as the pulpit. A situation came about that a woman started leading a video series as a Sunday School lesson. That is when we got a letter from one of the godly elderly women of our congregation. She explained kindly and gently that we should not be allowing this. The Session started discussing what we believed was the Biblical position. I read on my own the following books:

Women in Ministry: Four Views by Bonnidell Clouse, Robert G. Clouse

Clouse and Clouse did not really give a convincing conclusion. I really wanted to be convinced that women should be in ministry. Even though Clouse and Clouse sound scholarly, I was never quite settled. It really did not answer the Sunday School teacher question.

The Role Relationship of Men and Women: New Testament Teaching by George W. Knight

Knight was good too, but there was no answer to the Sunday School question.

Women In The Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott

Kostenberger and crew took the high road in exegesis; linguistics, archeology, context of the passage, etc... In the end, no answer to the Sunday School question. The real issue addressed was women in pulpit ministry. This was the most convincing work about the women in the pulpit issue. I highly recommend it.

Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

This book does not address women in ministry directly but is an excellent book. The issues addressed help me come to my final position.

After a long study we came to the conclusion that those who teach Sunday School to men should be men.

A few weeks ago I informed my class of college and career Sunday School students that the women of the class could not lead. My 19 year old daughter was the only one present. One of the young men of the class came to her defense. She told him that she actually agreed with the Session's position.

A new blog recommended by Rebecca Writes addresses women teachers. I also highly recommend Sober Minded's article on Madame Teacher. I think for this issue to be settled, women of the church will have to take a stand. I have a stand, but of course being a guy is a problem. When I read the scripture, people think I'm prejudiced. Neither Rebecca nor Sober Minded have my blight. So write on Sober Minded.

European Christians, Debate and Manners

Again, my good friend and pal the Jollyblogger is discussing Christian strategy for influence in the Western culture in his posting What We've Lost. I agree with almost everything in his posting. Two exceptions I would take.

1.) I'm not sure the European common man can not be won. Having lived in Europe, it is a strange mixed bag. Europe is not necessarily its academic institutions. Europeans as a whole have a better liberal arts tradition. Their is an amazing amount of good, Bible beleiving Christians there. The institutions are as you say, lacking in a Christian worldveiw. (Oh by the way, Sweden has an offical state church. We may disdain it, pun intended, but there is a tie between church and state.) But back on topic, it will take a supernatural work of God, but Europe is not a lost cause. With God all things are possible. Having said all that, Os is right about the state of the Western civilization as a whole; the common man in America is the last bastion of Christian influence in the West.

2.) Protesting is not necessarily bad. I guess by protesting one means someone is being obnoxious, that's a sin. I think I have committed that sin a couple of times. If it merely means speaking against something publically, is blogging a form of protesting when it includes that element? Of course, formal debate is something that can be cordial or obnoxious too. Just because someone is polite does not mean that they are neccessarily nice. (Of course, again, I think of myself again.) Making all Christians stop protesting, or protesting against protestors will really not make them nice people either. There is a character issue at stake.

In our tribalistic society, it is easy to turn on our fellow Christian. It is easy to distance ourselves from our brothers in Christ, because we are not a part of them. We are the other kind. It is easy to put them in a category of Christian that does not merit a hearing. Of course, they may be impolite but right. The same principles should apply to obnoxious Christians as apply to the nice ones. Assume, for the most part, they have a point. Assume at the begining that they are not contradicting themselves. Understand their message from their point of view. Attack the issue not the person. In other words, teach them how to debate in a cordial manner by example.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Called 1-800-A-Family

By the way, I just called Focus On The Family. I let them know that publishing Mr. Moore's home address might actually cause people to harrass him or do more. They simply said that was not their intent. They gave a well formed answer but did not back down from their position, which is what I expected.

The Lack Of Weapons For Warfare

My good friend and pal the Jollyblogger has written an insightful piece on the recent Focus On The Family newsletter which encouraged a grassroots effort against the recent Michael Moore movie, Fahrenheit 9/11.

Some food for thought:

1. Political activism seemed to be a panacea for Christians in the 1980's to solve the irrelevance that the church felt. In a sense, we did not know how to be a part of public dialogs. (By the way blogging is a part of public dialog.) We were sloppy at it. When we lost we did not know how to be a gentleman or a lady and loose graciously. Without the ability to loose graciously we are left with tyranny, even if its done by the "good guys". However, I'm not against political activism, but its not the job of the church. The job of the church in context of the nation is lead it in the spiritual formation of the people, individual and corporate. In other terminology, disciple the nation. But as citizens of our nation, Christians should be activists, but ones who show love and are competent in discussing issues without slinging mud.

2. Focus On The Family is not a congregation, a denomination, or a mission agency. I'm not sure I see how their only sphere of influence is to go on the defensive if Christians are being persecuted. I'm not sure that is the role of church leaders in general. I'm frankly confused by that line of thinking, I think the idea is that if it was the case that Michael Moore was attacking Christians for the cause of Christ, then we would love him as someone made in the image of God. Since he is merely attacking a politician, we should ...

3. I have to say that I disagree with Focus On The Family's publishing of a personal mailing address is irresponsible. If they wanted to get this information to Michael Moore they can do so without putting him at risk.

4. Michael Moore is not playing fair. That does not mean we need to stoop to his level. Where is the technically competent, artistically excellent film which gives a balanced account of the war on terrorism and the Bush administrations handling of it. I know they are not perfect.

5. I understand that the left would like to take the tax exempt status of select conservative non-profit institutions. From my understanding of history and strategy this is not an attempt at making a level playing field but a power play.

6. We have to be careful as Christians that we don't fall into the strategy. For instance they want to say religion is the sphere of the personal. Politics is the sphere of the public and never shall the twain meet. Religion and politics are both public and personal. My behavior in my own home is not outside the sphere of the law. Nor is public policy outside the transcending law of God. (Note to all who see these, I'm not in favor of a theocracy.)

So in summary, the role of the Christian in public debate and politics is complex. Simple solutions will usually cause us to get cornered by our adversaries. A thinking Christian who is also virtuous is what is in demand. Let our hearts be affectionate for truth, justice and liberty. Not a mere motto, but real ideas that can make the nation great.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Christian Carnival

Thanks to Rebecca Writes who clued me into the Christian Carnival hosted by Messy Christian. I had read about the Christian Carnival but not really understood what it was all about. Oh by the way, Messy Christian claims to be disorganized, I think she is just comfortable with loose ends. She also has a great blog.

Home Improvements

Nothing about the ceiling fan here, instead I wanted to highlight the addition of the Beltway Bloggers and The Truth Laid Bear (TTLB).

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

How Am I Defined?

Looking at the Emerging Church, often what I see is that the Emerging Church is both an expression of identity and resistance to an over simplified identity. What is a person? At our essence, are we merely genetic material? Are we the product of our own choices? Can we really choose to be anything we want to be? Can I choose to be an eighteenth century traveling Dutch minstrels who sings German songs in the Italian countryside? (No, primarily because I have a hard time carrying a tune without some accompaniment. The German language thing I could work on. And time travel does not seem to be working out either.) In reality my context does dictate some of my identity and I have choices on how to play the proverbial cards I have been dealt. It seems to me that the Emerging Church have become quite competent at being creative at not being normal. In other words, normally they attempt to not be normal. Demographic segment has become a major issue that those associated with the Emerging Church at the same time emphasis and despise. So there is an emphasis on pointing out the collage that makes up one's life. I think most people could as a matter of form describe themselves in terms of disjointed things thrown together. One writer for the Emerging Church describe herself as "a female Lutheran teaching theology at a Catholic college". And that would be accurate. I could also describe myself in colliding terms. I'm grew up in a rural community which valued working with your hands but I love the study of foreign languages and philosophy. I spend most of my time in meetings and behind a computer. I grew up in a family which ultimately valued the practical, but I love the abstract. In one sense, the emphasis on demographics is actually tipping the hat to modern thought on marketing studies, where marketing specialists define a market segment. What could be more suburban and modern than to classify one's self in these terms. By reacting to a demographic category, the reaction actually agrees with the modern definition that we are our demographic sector. They agree with the assumptions of the category and attempt to somehow transcend it in small victories of apparent category contradiction. But even with the conundrums, the person is really being influenced by the definition of the category. (Note, we must also recognize that many people want to transcend their demographic group but face the prejudice of others that truly holds them back. This is quite different than emphasizing a certain style of worship, or music in worship.)

Sure Jesus was a Galilean, but did he really want to advertise himself as a single, 30 something male of Hebraic Jewish origins with a working class education. Enjoys quite strolls along the beach at sunrise, etc... However, as people made in the image of God, the demographic category need not be the controlling feature of our existence. I'm suggesting that our demographic category should have less, not more emphasis, in the church. The church should be from every nation, tribe and tongue. The church crosses generational lines so that one generation shall praise his works to another.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Tangier Island

Just got back from vacation. On vacation I visited Tangier Island, VA. To get there we took the ferry from Crisfield, MD. On the way back from the Island one couple noted how neat and clean the homes and yards were. The couple had visited Smith Island and said there were a lot of junk cars and things. I suppose disposal of items would be problematic with no land fill. But the couple attributed the cleanness of Tangier to the religious nature of the community. The idea that a people's Christian morals could make a difference visibly in a community intrigued me.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Urban Ministry - Communicating Contextually

I one time asked someone if they had a book on urban ministry. I was taking a course on urban ministry and was required to read a certain number of pages. It was funny that the person thought I was using the phrase as a euphemism for Afro-American ministry. Perhaps he was thinking of Tony Evans' radio show, the Urban Alternative, which by the way I recommend. But what I really meant was a book about ministry in the city. The city is where most people live today, but we are resistant to embrace the city. New Yorkers are probably the only people I see saying they love their city. Movies like "You've Got Mail" can idealize New York, but Dallas is idealized by living several miles away on a big ranch. By the way, a lot of people have contrasted the suburban and urban experience. I've come to the conclusion that there is no need to do so. America has a romance with the outdoors, but really lives in the city. Our lives are disconnected from our idealized life we wish we had. The suburbs are an attempt at a meaningful middle ground, city and rural. If a pastor today is going to embrace the city, they do so to embrace the people. Isn't that what cities are all about, people?

The lectures by Glenn Smith were formative in my own ideas about urban ministry. He works in a ministry, Christian Direction Inc., Montreal, Quebec. The "big take away" from the course was that we need to understand our context by studying it. Then pray and adjust our strategy for ministry on the community needs. I have come to discern a slight error in how the call from ministry as I understood it growing up. Growing up we talked a great deal about a sense of call from God. There is another part to the call that is important, a sense of need to do God's work, regardless of talent, and the need in the community. I'm not discounting that subjective experience totally, but subordinating it to the need for people to hear from God.

The city is a place where there is a mixture of many messages and needs. To adequately address the needs in the church needs a clear understanding of the message and plan how to get that message out. We need to counter the false messages that are going out which actually put people in bondage. Referring to yesterdays posting here, we need a full spectrum communication: mercy ministry, apologetics, personal proclamation, media and the arts. This strategy must never try to replace preaching, but all should re-enforce the preaching of the Word.