Thursday, June 30, 2005

More Education Innovation: Document Theological Knowledge

Often when we think of education we usually think of imparting knowledge, skills and behaviors. And that is the heart of education. However, education has another part, and that is the documentation of education experiences. That documentation takes the forms of diplomas, degrees and certificates.

In recent years the Information Technology (IT) field has attempted to keep pace with the changes in skill sets required for specific jobs through certifications. Some of those with tradition degrees have looked at certifications and wondered what these are all about. But certifications are extremely useful for two reasons. First if you have skills you obtained through hands on experience, a certification can help document that knowledge. Second is if someone has a degree from a decade or so back, a certification can show that the person has stayed current in their skills sets. But in the end, certification does not replace a traditional degree, it is a separate track for documenting learning. It really does not compete with a degree, but it can supplement a degree program.

Another way that documenting learning has been to take equivalence tests. Many colleges and universities will allow a student to take a test that is in place of taking a course. Sometimes it would satisfy a required course or give advanced standing.

In regards to theological education, someone should create equivalence tests for basic courses. This would extremely helpful for laymen who sense a call to the ministry late in life and begin preparing for the ministry. While a preaching course being replaced by a 150 multiple choice test is on the ridiculous side, introduction to Bible could be done through a test.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Transforming Sermons: Nuts and bolts: Effective PowerPointing

My blogging buddy over at Transforming Sermons, Milton Stanley, has linked to some tips on using MS PowerPoint. He mentions that he feels PowerPoint should not be a part of preaching. While I usually agree with Milton, I have to say I have been thinking preaching should include PowerPoint. Here are my reasons why.

1. The written word would re-enforce the spoken word.
2. Public reading of the word of God would be enhanced by a projection of the text on a screen. This would especially helpful when making cross-references. Preachers often face the decision, how much flipping from text to text creates confusion instead of clarity. With the passage projected on the screen you would not have repeat the reference time and again and wait for interested people to get there.
3. Asthetics are important, but projection of the words would keep the visuals content and word centric.
4. Maps, photographs and diagrams could be used, if done elegantly.
5. This would help me start my new business of writing preventing slides for pastors. (Just joking.)

By the way, to me the PowerPoint screens should not be in the center of the room. A large church over in Silver Spring, MD has screens on the left and right side of the sanctuary. This is best so that the emphasis is still on the pulpit ministry, not become entertainment via preventing.

Transforming Sermons: Nuts and bolts: Effective PowerPointing: "Work Smart offers Five Rules for Better preventing Presentations:

1. Don't give PowerPoint center stage.
2. Create a logical flow to your presentation.
3. Make your presentation readable.
4. Remember, less is more.
5. Distribute a handout.

That looks like pretty good advice to me. I don't care much for using PowerPoint in preaching, but in many cases I find it very helpful for teaching, especially if we follow rule number one (Hat tip: Smart Christian blog)."

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Guests At The House Helps Motivate Me To Organize My Stuff

I have guests over this week. Getting ready for them meant cleaning up some of my disorganized disasters. I guess I’m people driven so having guests actually helps get me organized.

Letting Theological Education Run Loose and Far

Yesterday I wrote a blog post on how we should focus on
deregulating education instead of backing a particular
system. (And for that matter, we should focus on
innovation in education rather than trying to get
three or four systems to get along.) Someone who has
the done some innovative thinking and doing in the
seminary education field is Richard Pratt at Third Millennium
. Dr. Pratt is a professor at Reformed
Theological Seminary (RTS) in Florida who is
developing curriculum for pastors in English, Spanish,
Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), and Russian. In order to
get a degree the materials must be used by an
institution, however, he is not trying to solve
everyone's problem everywhere by creating a new
perfect system, Third Millennium is trying to fill a

This is just one effort to see innovation in
education. We should develop others. Will someone
please be innovative when it comes to Bible education
for this generation of children.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Education: Deregulate it!

The Jollyblogger has written a fairly extensive posting on Overture at the Presbyterian Church in America to encourage Christian parents to pull their children out of the public school. Rather than respond to what he has said, I would like to bring up an entirely different issue. That is that education is not done by institutions. Education as defined by Will Durant as the passing of culture from one generation to the next. That may not be the only relevant definition but it is a good one. Another definition might be the encouragement of the growth and development of the individual. And there are probably other definitions out there. In the end, they all point us to something that takes place in the mind, will and emotions of people. The assumption that education is something that takes place primarily in one of three systems of education really paints the idea of education much too small. (Those three systems being the public school, the Christian school, and the home school.) Oh by the way, we would be leaving out other systems, such as boarding schools, and military academies, not to say those tutoring services such as Sylvan who are doing a lot of educating. Then again, the church functions as an educational institution as does a library and a museum. I would say that some of my most important parts of my education are the things I taught myself. I sort of think I'm the exception to the rule on this though. It might be that I'm just too hard headed to benefit from schooling the same way others do. Usually I get the most out of a class when I teach myself the material and I go to class to bounce ideas of the teacher and fill in the gaps. I have attended lots of schools and found them very helpful. I am not against institutions of learning, I just realize that those institutions are just a part of the process.

Rather than view education as something an institution does for our children, we should understand that education is a natural part of being a human and there are a lot of factors that help us on that journey. We are continually learning and growing as people, whether we are in a school or not. Some of it is formal and other parts are informal. I love to point out that I have never seen a course in seminary for conducting funeral services or weddings. This is a very important function of a pastor, and yet we depend almost entirely on the informal education process to equip pastors to do this function. There are many parts of life that are entirely built on informal education settings besides funerals and weddings.

In a sense, backing a particular system for all Christians in a particular denomination shows a lack of depth in understanding the variety of situations in America. Does every town really have a Christian school? Is every family equipped to home school their children? Education takes financial resources, and are the normal people in all areas of the country financially able to pay Christian school tuition? As a dedicated home schooling family, we spend quite a bit on materials. Are we really prepared to help the low income families to make a Christian schooling a part of their lifestyle? In the end, the debate over how we should educate our children seems to be tied to an idealization of one choice of middle for the upper middle class. The rich will continue to send their children to private academies which will groom their children for their future lifestyle. The poor will continue to struggle to make ends meet and focus on other things besides this debate. If we are to encourage our parents to raise up a godly generation, we should look much broader than backing a particular system. Deregulation of the telecommunications industry has produced a myriad of informations services. Deregulation of the airlines industry has not brought the same types of competition. Service industries such as education and health care come with a bureaucracy that could continue to stifle any new competition or we could see something happen that would turn the whole thing up side down. Right now I do not have to pick one telecommunications provider, have one company for my land-line phone, another for my Internet service and yet another for my mobile phone. Then even on the Internet, I can have two or three e-mail addresses, two or three Instant messengers, a blog, a photo page, subscribe to music and get news sent to my pager. So why should education mean backing one institution? Backing one system is a sure way to cut down on competition, stifle creativity and make sure we are doing a poor job of educating our youth. Deregulation and change is not a panacea of good things. The airline industry by its nature requires lots of regulation for safety reasons. And while deregulation might be good in the health care industry, it seems that the creative end of the medical spectrum is also the wacky end. (Aroma therapy is not our best bet for beating obesity!) How do we get the same type of creativity and energy in education as we do in the Information Technology and Telecommunications industry? I think first we stop supporting one system fits all thinking and encourage educational services and products. A lot of educators have talked about creativity and change, but usually from within the system. Keep the system but allow for more systems to compete and develop. What should the church do about education?

1. Start after school tutoring for disadvantaged youth.
2. Start English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for immigrants.
3. Start health classes for the elderly.
4. Start engineering clubs and science clubs for children.
5. Sponsor tours of other countries for the purpose of educating the people about other cultures. (Not every trip has to be a missionary trip though those are fantastic too.)
6. More seminars on many more topics.
7. Start a coffee house and ask an author to come talk about their book.
8. Pay a full time staff to maintain a website, part of which would be educational. Sort of like MIT's Open Courseware project.
9. Do stuff that I am not creative enough to think of ....

Memorable Quotes from Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

While we are on the movie quotes kick, ya gotta like Dynamite!

Memorable Quotes from Napoleon Dynamite (2004): "Memorable Quotes from
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

[repeated line]
Napoleon Dynamite: Gosh!

Go to the site to read more and wonder, how did they ever convince someone to go withi this script.

Friday, June 24, 2005

D.C. has just the ticket to travel old rail lines - Washington Weekend - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

I read the Washington Post more often but someone left their Times on the table at work. After rideing the C and O Canal trail I was sort of wondering what my next step would be. The Times gave me several options. One of them, the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail I have already done. But I am looking forward to my next bicycle trip.

D.C. has just the ticket to travel old rail lines - Washington Weekend - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "D.C. has just the ticket to travel old rail lines

By Anne H. Oman
June 23, 2005

Clickety, click. Fast-turning wheels run lickety-split across a trestle some 70 feet above Rock Creek, hurtling toward Georgetown in a blur of motion.
From 1910 until 1985, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) trains crossed this trestle, hauling coal and building supplies from the main line to Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Georgetown. Today, derailleurs make the clicking sound, and the rolling stock on this popular rail trail consists of bicycles, inline skates, wheelchairs and baby carriages. " Click the link for more.

JOLLYBLOGGER: Paints a Picture of How to Encourage Your Pastor

Excellent posting.

JOLLYBLOGGER: How to Encourage Your Pastor: "I'll begin with a big thanks to Curt for doing this. It is a big encouragement to me just to see him doing something like this. And beyond that, here are a few thoughts on how to encourage your pastor.

1. Take your own spiritual growth seriously.

"Nice sermon pastor" and "you're a good pastor" are wonderful to hear but what we really want to hear is that you are growing in your walk with Christ. This is why we are in ministry, we want to see people come to Christ and grow in Christ. We take your spiritual growth seriously and one of the greatest encouragments to us is to see you taking it as seriously as we do.

I was involved in a church plant one time and a group of us were doing some painting in a rented facility. The pastor joined me in the room I was working in and made the comment that he really enjoyed doing this painting because he could see the results of his work immediately.

Click the link to read the rest.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Book Of Church Order Download

If you belong to or are interested in the Presbyterian Church of America, this post is for you. If you are interested in people producing content without much prospect for gain, this is also for you. John Owen Butler, Pastor-Teacher at Beal Heights Presbyterian Church (PCA) has made eReader for PCA Book of Church Order for Palm eReader and a Pocket PC too.

As a service to the PCA, Pastor Butler and his church have produced a Palm eReader version of the Book of Church Order. It is updated with the changes enacted by the 33rd General Assembly (June, 2005). You may download the file for use with any Palm OS (version 2.5 or higher) handheld. It also works with Pocket PC OS PDAs with Palm eReader. Palm eReader is available for free download.

The free Palm OS version is available here

The free Pocket PC version is available here

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

notes from the front lines: AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes

notes from the front lines has his own quote from a movie. My favorite is from Back To The Future. Dr. Emmett Brown says, "Don't worry! As long as you hit that wire with the connecting hook at precisely eighty-eight miles per hour the instant the lightning strikes the tower ... everything will be fine!

notes from the front lines: AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes: "So the American Film Institute has picked its top 100 movie quotes of all time, which were broadcast tonight on CBS. No. 1, which is hard to argue with, was Clark Gable's famous 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.' Lamentably, but not surprisingly, a jarring omission from the list was one of my all-time favorites -- Dean Wormer's immortal line from 'Animal House': 'Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.'

Oh well, they didn't ask me, anyway."

Monday, June 20, 2005

One Step At A Time

I don’t think I’m ready to do the whole thing, but I could be ready to do the Virginia, Maryland or West Virginia sections. Having done just a little bit of the trail inspired me to do more. The small section my wife, daughters and I got me motivated to do more.

tomatoes are evil: Tomatoes Shooting Gallery

If you are in a silly mood or have a desire to shoot tomatoes that you really can't explain, follow the link.

Tomatoes Are EvilTomatoes Shooting Gallery: "

Tomatoes Shooting Gallery

NPR is Unbiased In Its Reporting: Hear All About It

On my way to work I listen to NPR, WETA which broadcasts out of D.C. I have about eight news websites I pick up regularly. One of those is NPR. I think they have high quality of journalism and really interesting stories. However, I have heard many stories in recent months from NPR saying how objective and unbiased they are. I can't help but laugh at the thought. These stories are running because U.S. House actions to cut funding to NPR. A lot of phrases are being used to characterize this, but often this story is put in terms of political power using the budget to stop accountability. I'm not sure I can ever call NPR objective, nor can I tell where accountability for conservatives ends and opposition against conservatives begins. If there is a difference between these, why come so close to the line so that the poor uneducated masses can't tell which side of the line you are on. (end of sarcasim)

It's complex to classify my views but simplistically, I'm a conservative on Christian theology and moral issues. Middle of the road on fiscal issues. Support innovation and change on a lot of other issues. I just have a hard time seeing how NPR can say with a straight face that they are not liberal leaning in their positions. They attempt but fail in presenting a conservative view of a story. I enjoy listening to NPR and will continue, but a fight for survival is no excuse to fabricate stories about unbias reporting.

If you think NPR is unbiased I would like to hear you comments as to why. If you agree with me I would like to hear that too.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Joe Missionary: Theology Thursday: Big Fat Sinning Slobs

As America is gaining weight as a total society Joe Missionary has some personal reflections and spiritual insights which are helpful. I struggle with weight control myself and find his commentary helpful. You can't read the whole enchilada here so follow the links.

Joe Missionary: Theology Thursday: Big Fat Sinning Slobs: "Theology Thursday: Big Fat Sinning Slobs

I find it interesting that there seems to be a hierarchy of sins. I think it's natural. In fact, while acknowledging that a sin is a sin in the sight of God, I would suggest that there are two classes of sins; those that affect other people directly and those that affect the sinner directly. Those that affect others directly, such as murder, adultery and the like, tend to be thought of as 'bigger' sins than the self-impacting sins of pride, covetousness, etc.

One sin in the latter category that, in my opinion, most Christians don't even want to discuss is the sin of gluttony. The American Heritage Dictionary defines gluttony as 'Excess in eating or drinking.'"

Saturday, June 18, 2005

In Need Of A Strategy

I love missions because it combines the study of cultures of the world, linguistics, preaching the Word of God, mercy ministry and strategy. Of course the foundation of missions is not my affection for study but God's command. I think the idea of a strategy for missions was foundational to Paul's thinking on missions but he never calls it that. He says he preaches to the Gentiles so that the Jews will be jealous to hear the message. He plans which churches he needs to visit. He plans to visit Rome way before he gets there. He plans to go on to Spain some time, but I don't think he ever got there. He seeks to use needs such as the famine in Jerusalem to bind the Gentile and Jewish members of the church together. Paul was a strategiest.

Business planning, investing, games and sports are areas that people of that people use their gift (or lack there of) in order to create and use strategy. I don't have a business, I don't have the comprehensive organizational skills. My investment strategies are simple and merger. I just don't have the income to through a lot into investing. So I'm happy to my my home my biggest investment. Sports offer a dilima for me. I'm not good at most sports and when I play, I have a hard time implimenting any sort of a strategy. So I gravitate toward sports which are more participatory, such as cycling and running.

I question what kind of a strategy I should impliment in my ministry. Should I minister here in the US or overseas? Should I pastor a small church or get on staff with a larger church as an associate? Urban or rural?

Having found the limits of my abilities in recent years through some failure, I'm sort of paralized in my vision. I'm hesitant to embrace a vision to even pray about. Without vision there is no strategy.



I want to serve you. I do not want to give up. Give me the strength to stand alone when others oppose the vision you give. Give me the winsomeness to explain the vision you give me to others. Help me to use the talents and gifts you have given me to expand your kingdom here on earth.


Friday, June 17, 2005

ESV Bible Blog » Blog Archive » Ask the Translators #1 Answers Contest

It is interesting to me that Adrian Warnock has gotten this going. I encourage you to go over and check it out. I wish I had thought of it.

ESV Bible Blog » Blog Archive » Ask the Translators #1 Answers Contest: "For the next seventeen weekdays (starting tomorrow, June 15, 2005), we’ll be featuring answers to the questions asked by blogger Adrian Warnock of the ESV translators. Most answers feature a video of a member of the Translation Oversight Committee answering the question, as well as a transcript of the answer. The answers will also appear on Adrian’s site along with his commentary.

We have seventeen answers for ten questions because some questions have multiple parts, and in other cases different TOC members address the questions a little differently.

We won’t be taking comments on our posts, but we do want to encourage discussion of the answers. Therefore, if you leave a comment or trackback on one (or more) of Adrian’s posts that discusses the answers, you’ll be eligible to win any ESV Bible published by Crossway that has a list price of US$99.99 or less."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The PCA General Assembly Blog

Redirect! If you are looking for the Jollyblogger he is bloggin' on the The PCA General Assembly Blog!

The PCA General Assembly Blog: "Jim Bland - Report on Mission to North America
Rev. David Wayne

Jim Bland, chairman of Mission to North America, began the report by telling us that by God's good providence the nations have come to us. There is a net gain of one new person in America every 11 seconds through birth and immigration.

1 in 7 people in America is of Hispanic origin in the US. Follow the link to read the rest....


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Calculated Speech or Authentic Speech

Luke 6:45

45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

I had a young man ask in Sunday School how could it be true that "out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" when often times people do not say what is on their heart. Often times people say what would gain the right response from someone else. In other words, the speaker a certain response from a listener then seeks to calculate what would be the best way to get that response.

I have been slowly listening to the book, How the Irish Saved Civilization by by Thomas Cahill. One of the chapters is on Augustine. One the ideas he puts forth is that Augustine is the first writers to say "I" and mean what we mean today by that word. He speaks from the heart. Writers and orators before Augustine calculated and then used the art of rhetoric to sway their listeners. In fact he says in the anceint Greek world, it was the obligation of each man to contribute to the democratic process.

Many people do seek to calculate much more than be authentic. But even so, a wise person can read their tone and selection of words to determine whether they are sincere. A speaker usually feels compelled at some level to be genuine even when they seek to sway instead of share.

Monday, June 13, 2005

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I went to Amazon to see if I could sell my set of The Annals of America. Instead I found a great short film on the life and death of Rachel Scott called "Rachel's Challenge". "Reviewer: Pruitt Communications I felt they captured the idea that she had premonition well but did not stretch them beyond reality. Good message but probably not stylistically appealing to the highly sophisticated film buffs but is more of a genre that appeals to those who are looking for genuine stories of faith."

ARRLWeb: ARISS Seeks School Involvement in "SuitSat" Project

A lot of space technology from decades past has been up for sale to collectors, now someone is trying to put it to a useful purpose. Check out this story.

ARRLWeb: ARISS Seeks School Involvement in "SuitSat" Project: "NEWINGTON, CT, Jun 3, 2005--Plans are on the fast track to deploy a surplus Russian Orlan spacesuit this fall as a non-traditional satellite. Dubbed 'SuitSat,' the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project could become the most unusual Amateur Radio satellite ever orbited."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Emerging Evangelism » All About Relationships (?)

So most evanglism in the so called real world is via relationships and so it is via the virtual world too. As always click on the link to read the whole story.

Hat Tip: Strategic Digital Outreach

Emerging Evangelism » All About Relationships (?): "All About Relationships (?)

Evangelism is all about relationships, because Christianity is all about relationships. Remove relationship from any attempt at evangelism, and it will fail 99% of the time.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Section Hike

I’m doing a section hike. For a lot of people, since I’m not carrying 50 pounds of gear and hiking a week straight, I’m on a stroll. Well, we can’t all be uber hikers. I want to enjoy this with my family.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dignan's 75 Year Plan

Check out Dignan's 75 Year Plan post on Emergent.

Dignan's 75 Year Plan: "What IS Emergent?
On Thursday, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Andrew Jones, Chris Seay penned a post at emergent-us called Our Response to Critics of Emergent.

This article generated about 50 posts in a Yahoo Group composed of my posse here in Atlanta. I have been one of those critics in the past. I wrote two posts that were quite critical of Emergent here and here.

Yet I find myself wanting to continue the 'conversation'. As much as I am cautiously skeptical about Emergent, I am repulsed by the vitriol that is cast on those who identify as Emergent. I have seen this up close as my pastor has been accused of heresy because he has referenced various Emergent authors and is therefore 'guilty by association'.

I'm not mocking anyone when I ask 'what is Emergent?'. I am sincere in the question and have yet to have anyone answer it. I'm wondering if Emergent is simply about asking questions without providing any answers. I know that is a crude summation, but I don't necessarily have a problem with that." Click on the link to read the whole thing. - Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Everything

This looks interesting. Caught this on Wired of course. A Wiki on how to, in contrast with Wikipedia which focuses on what to know. I've written for Wikipedia, but will I.... - Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Everything: "Clear Instructions on How To Do (just about) Everything "

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Life Time Accomplishment

I got the ultimate spam. It is not that I really liked what was written in the e-mail but the address list was impressive. Some of 256 names were unfamilar to me, but the institution domain names were impressive.

Given that some really well known people were on the spam list, I'm assuming that many of these others who were not recognizable to me were none the less, heavy hitters. But those I did know are as follows:

Alister McGrath
Douglas J. Moo
G.I. Williamson
RC Sproul Jr
RC Sproul
John W. Macarthur
John Piper
Richard L. Pratt
Phillip R. Johnson

Since I got grouped with these greats on the spam list, I guess I should be flattered to get such spam.

NPR : The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges

I grew up in a family with mental illness so such stories are always of interest to me. (By the way, I'm not sure I always want to call these malidies illnesses but I have to talk in terms that people are using.) It is a refreshing thought to say that the so called negative emotions can actually be quite benificial.

NPR : The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges: "I believe that curiosity, wonder and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do." .... Follow the link to read the rest of the story.

Go Vote Now at Stronger Church

Here is the real start of the chain. I encourage you pastors go over and vote on what you believe is your most effective books (tools in my case) for sermon preparation.

Stronger Church: "Call for A New Vote

This has purpose to it beyond another poll. I'd be interested, fellow Pastors, in how you woud answer this question:

You are allowed to take any 5 books from your library and the rest are going away somewhere. Which books would you keep to help you in your preparation to preach and teach most effectively?"

Monday, June 06, 2005

JOLLYBLOGGER: 5 Books for Sermon Preparation

Milton Stanley at Transforming Sermons has started a chain where preachers (and in my case want-to-be preachers) are listing their five favorite resources for preparing for preaching. I'm glad Joel Olsteen was listed by the Jollyblogger since I have not read him yet. But Stanley here are mine.

Ideally I like to translate the passage from the original languages and I use a variety of Greek and Hebrew resources.

1. The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament By John R. Kohlenberger III
2. The RSV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament By The Reverend Alfred Marshall. (Gift from a friend).
3. I also use Bible software - right now I'm using the Sword project on my Linux box so I've been using BibleTime for KDE. I'm not really impressed with their interface so I'm in the process of experimenting with Bible Desktop.
4. I use a commentary. One of the series I'm buying one at a time is Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (IVF). Since when I'm preaching, I'm preaching through 1 Samuel I'm using Joyce G. Baldwin. (That's right a woman. Her commentary on Daniel is good too.)
5. English Standard Version
5 plus one - Addam Clark's Commentary An elderly preacher in Missouri gave me his copies before he passed away. Though they are old, their great.
5 plus two - Treasure in Scripture - The most extensive cross reference list I know of.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Where Is The Religious News?

What is it with religious news? (You need a Jerry Seinfeld tone with that.) People just don't know how to cover religious news. I'm not sure I know how either. But basically there several types of stories that are repeated over and over, and in my humble opinion, it just ain't news.

The first type of story is poll which does not talk about anything new. We find out people are religious but not too religious. People have conflicting belief patterns, for instance those who are trusting in Christ for their salvation but think there is no hell. What exactly are they saved from? (I know sin but still...) Polls are center on man, not the work of God. The assumption behind a poll is that you are documenting social phenomena. This fits well with the assumption that religion is a social construct that helps individuals and society give transcendent explanations. Polls also emphasize American individualism and also emphasize the function of the church as an institution to serve individuals as opposed to please God. Mind you, I'm a 40 something year old guy who enjoys trendy music and contemporary worship which is connected to the best music and practice from the history of the church. But it really is not about me is it.

The second type of religious news is that of scandal. Preachers who steal money from the church, have an affair or a fight of some sort. Of course in a sense this about the lack of religion not true religion.

The third type of story is legitimizing of some off the wall theory held by some group of so called scholars. The Jesus Seminar has receive some press as has the best selling book The Da Vinci Code. I see this a more news than the prior two but only accentuates on the esoteric.

I think journalists need a formula for writing this sort of news. Twenty years ago who would have believed that there would be a specialized market for software news or health news. Both of these are easy to find and follow. I would like to hear what others think my be a good way to actually cover religion without it being a story on politics and religion. Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sons of Belial

1 Samuel 2:12-16

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.
18 Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. 19 And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the Lord.” So then they would return to their home.
21 Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.
22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
26 Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.

This passage is a story and yet meant to explain truth. The central idea is that Hannah though a woman without position and Samuel though a child are faithful in carrying out their callings while those with authority abuse their position. In fact, Eli's sons are called sons of Belial. The ESV explains it as worthless men. However, worthless is term we usually use to talk about someone who lacks ambition to earn a living (or lacks common sense to be able to earn a living). But these men were worthless because the simply because they practiced the religion of Israel without any respect or regard for propriety.

This practice of boiling the sacrifice normally is not seen as a command in the books of Moses. Ezekiel 46 talks about the boiled sacrifice but I'm not convinced that the roasting of the meat was all that wrong. It was the contempt for the offering that is disturbing. So today we there are preachers who do not believe the Word of God, that would be a similar practice. In fact I see this passage primarily addressing the lack of piety by religious leaders. If you spend most of your Bible reading in the New Testament you might get the idea that Jesus criticizing the Scribes and Pharisees was something new. Actually there was plenty of prophets in the Old Testament who addressed false religion by way of having hard heart. In other words, it is possible to have a false religion not through a lack of orthodox teaching, but by having a disregard for true religion of the scriptures. You and I might find that we have orthodox system of theology, fairly orthodox praxis, and yet be worthless unless we have been transformed by God.