Saturday, October 28, 2006

It's That Time Again

It’s time to change the clocks.

Rumor has it that Daylight Saving Time originated with an old Indian chief who cut one end off his blanket and sewed it on the other to make it longer.

Turns out, it was apparently Ben Franklin who came up with the idea.

Interestingly enough, this article points out that it is singular (as in Daylight Saving Time, rather than the oft-(mis)stated Daylight Savings Time. (Memo to self: Get it right from now on.)

I always used to marvel that while it was inevitable that the Spring time change would cause someone to show up an hour late for church, the Fall time change never caused anyone to show up early.

I say I “used” to marvel. I don’t anymore. About three years ago, someone showed up about 8:15 for church. I said, “Wow, you’re here early.” Their quizzical look which stemmed from my amazement along with the empty building and parking lot told me they missed the time change.

So enjoy that extra hour of sleep. Or just go to bed an hour later. Maybe watch the Tigers and Cardinals … Oh wait, nevermind.

Is There Anything More Unsettling ...

… than watching Sean Casey run the bases? The guy is a good hitter to be sure. But please, Sean, spend some time in the offseason taking some running lessons. Your style could use some work. I don’t normally get embarrassed for guys who make obscene amounts of money playing a game, but I almost made an exception for Sean.

Speaking of embarrassing, you would think that a pitcher who can hit a catcher’s mitt at ninety plus miles an hour could manage to throw the ball to first or third base to a target considerably larger than said catcher’s mitt. Go figure …

If you are going to win, you gotta do the little things well, little things like … say … not throwing the ball into the dugout ... or the stands ... or the outfield? The Tiger’s throwing errors went further than some of the Cardinals’ hits. You would think a few million dollars would buy you a throw to third base. I guess they forgot that clause in the pitching contracts.

But being the last loser in the MLB is a great step in the right direction.

Speaking of last, if you are younger than 16, the last time anyone other than the Braves won the National League East was before you were born. Will the Braves streak of fourteen straight division titles ever be matched? The Yankees are now at nine straight AL East titles. The Yankees won 15 of 18 between ’47 and ’64, but the most was five at time, which they did twice.

And speaking of streaks, Joe Torre is the longest serving manager of the Yankees since Casey Stengel left in 1960. Torre’s streak almost ended this year, and I wouldn’t put it past Steinbrenner to end it before February. (The inimitable Billy Martin once said he could tell when Steinbrenner was lying because his lips moved.) But for now, Torre is safe, looking ahead to managing what has to be considered a under-achieving team with a payroll north of $200 million dollars. Now, if only Bud Selig’s streak as commissioner would end.

But look at the bright side: Less than four months until pitchers and catchers report. And then spring will be on its way once again, and the boys of summer will back at it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Gospel and Parking Places

One blog that I read fairly regularly is a blog I read for several different reasons, one of which is to see what they will come up with next. It proclaims itself to be a discernment blog, trying to save the church from seeker-sensitive philosophies, emergent philosophies, and often I wonder if it is not about anything that does not cross their “T”s and dot their “I”s just as they do.

This morning I came across a statement that reminded me again that even “discernment bloggers” need discernment. Here is the statement:
One church growth guru suggested that churches pipe in "non-threatening" music in the "lobby". This way regular joes who hang out at sports bars won't feel like they're going to church. Another suggestion in that same book had to do with parking space angles. Apparently, angled parking is more seeker-friendly than non-angled parking. Then there was the bathroom thing. Reportedly, extremely nice restrooms are very important. Sizzling youth programs and facilities were big as was the childcare area which should, if at all possible, resemble Disneyland. Granger Community Church with its endless offerings of bread and circuses is a worst case scenario in man-centered church philosophy. Once you bow to man in the running of your church, you enter a ministry world where it takes ever greater money and entertainment savvy to create a "WOW!" It is a never ending treadmill that is powered by human ingenuity and cultural know-how that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.
Sounds great, right? What a courageous stand for truth in an age of compromise!!

Except when did angled parking and nice restrooms become a compromise of the “Gospel of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit?”

If your church has indoor plumbing and potable water, it is a “nice restroom,” compared to the world’s standards. And parking places are not a big deal to people who walk to church, or who ride their mules or horses. And why should we not have angled parking? Why should we not have nice restrooms?

Which brings me to my point. When people complain about stupid irrelevancies, they undermine legitimate concerns that they may voice. When we include a scraped knee from a boy learning to ride a bike with a brain tumor, we have proven ourselves to be unthinking, or at least uncritical. They are simply not the same.

Do not misunderstand me. There are legitimate concerns with the emergent movement and the seeker-sensitive movement. But angled parking places and nice bathrooms are not among them.

The problem is that a blogger such as this appears not to know the difference. They seemingly do not realize that angled parking places and nice bathrooms do not belong in the same conversation with a compromised gospel or a “do anything to get them in” philosophy. They apparently do not even recognize that they do not think properly about issues like this. It is the opposite of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps we could say that in trying to save the baby, they also save the bathwater.

They have been confronted on this in the past, sometimes by arrogant and profane speech, but often by people who simply pointed out that they were mistaken, or misleading on some issues. They have made these kinds of statements before, and no doubt will make them again. And in so doing, they will show that they do not grasp what the gospel is actually about.

And perhaps what is the most glaring show of insular unthinking, they have closed their blog to comments. Now, they can pontificate all they want with no accountability, no openness to correction (not that it was ever there to begin with).

One of the greatest tragedies is people who do not think. But an even greater tragedy is Christians who do not think Christianly. It happens from both sides. The conservative traditionalists are as much guilty of non-critical thinking as the emergent/seeker/liberal/whatever.

When you argue against something, argue against the real issues. Do not compromise the gospel of Christ by including angled parking places in the equation.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Not Making This Up

I was in one our institutions of public education today, helping to gather children for a release time Bible class that is hosted at our church monthly. I ran into a fellow that has attended the church here some, and had a good conversation. Then I turned to look at a plaque on the wall.

It had about six or seven annual awards (which meant that it wasn't a new plaque). And it was titled:

Green Piece Environmental Patrons.

I did a double take, and then a triple. I racked my brain to see if I perhaps I was missing something. But to the best of my knowledge (and Google's as well), I am not. The organization in mind is surely Green Peace.

But how can you expect educators to recognize homonyms??

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jesus Died For What?

My recent posts on sin and worldview remains on my mind. Someone (who, if I am correct, is very dear to me even though I missed the call last week, and a birthday in September … which is pretty common, isn’t it???? Did I tell you I saw an old mutual friend this summer after thirteen years??) commented that Jesus did not die for a worldview, but for sin.

While I understand the point being made, I wonder if that does not actually underline the whole reason that sparks my thinking on this matter.

It seems to me that we are so prone to focus on the actions of sin that we often fail to address what causes those actions. Because of that, we miss the real problem.

It is far easier to deal with actions than with the underlying worldviews that justify those actions. After all, actions are quantifiable. They are easy to see, and we can offer the time-tested advice, “Stop it.” We can resort to measuring spiritual growth by whether or not we see the action. We can resort to daily accountability: “Did you do it?”

Addressing worldviews is far different. It is much harder because worldviews are sneaky. The reason we hold them in the first place is because they make sense to us. They justify the way that we desire to live. They comfort us. And because they make sense to us, it is much harder to change them.

So a drug addict exchanges his drug habit for a church habit. He is growing spiritually right? If we take an action-oriented view of sin, we conclude “Yes.” And we point to him in our congregation as a great example of God’s transforming grace. But if we have not explored and addressed the worldview that allowed him to think drugs were okay, we have not actually addressed the problem. Perhaps all we have done is exchange the satisfaction of an old way of life (drugs) for the satisfaction of a new way of life (religion). Perhaps the underlying worldview has never changed.

We must understand that all sin springs from a similar worldview. It is a worldview that causes us to think our minds are qualified to assess the rightness or wrongness of a particular action or thought. So the drug addiction of a drug user springs from the same worldview as the self addiction of a narcissist. The sin starts in the mind, and expresses itself in the actions.

All of that to say this: Worldviews are as much as a sin issue as actions are. Jesus died for our unbiblical worldview, just as much as for the actions and thoughts that spring from it.

Real change will come when we bring the way that we think (our worldview) into conformity with Christ as revealed to us in Scripture.

We need to view sin and life in the big picture. Everything we do is ultimately a statement of theology, from the arguments that we have (and the way that we have them), to the very deepest hidden compartments that we hope no one sees. It extends from the public life in the assembly of believers to the private life in the solitude of the mind. Everything in our lives is ultimately saying something about what we believe about God.

So we cannot relegate it simply to the realm of actions. They are simply the expressions of the way that we view life.

The first necessity is regeneration. Regeneration is the implantation of spiritual life into the spiritually dead. It is ultimately a work of God on the mind, by which the formerly rejected truth of God is made attractive and sensible to the mind formerly darkened by sin, ignorant, and hardened (Eph 4:17-19).

Sanctification must continue with the work of God on the mind, by which we daily renew our minds by the truth of God as found in Scripture (cf. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22-24).

If we separate the way we think from the problems of sin, we will find it difficult to find real change. We will take a hard job and make it virtually impossible. We will teach others to live a life of joyless conformation, rather than joyful transformation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sin and Worldviews - Part 2

Recently, I posted on the issue that worldview plays in choices to sin. Several people responded, (and I appreciate each of you thinking through the matter). Allow me to further my thoughts on this.

First, let us define a worldview. A worldview is the framework through which we interpret and participate in the world around us. It is a set of values or principles, driven by a combination of internal factors (personality and sin) and external factors (family, education, friends, media, etc.). At the heart of every worldview is a theology—a set of beliefs about God, whether true or false, that ultimately determines the worldview that we hold.

Also related to worldview is our nature. “Nature,” used theologically, refers to the complex of attributes that makes up a person. Everybody has a sin nature. That sin nature dominates the worldview for unbelievers. With salvation comes a new nature that competes with the old nature for a place in the worldview. Believers can still at times live under the influence of a sinful worldview.

So a worldview, as I use it here, is the set of values and principles driven by our understanding of God that provides justification for our thoughts and actions.

It can be seen in completing the sentence, “I did that because …,” or in completing the sentence, “All I wanted was …” Ultimately, the completion of those sentences (or similar ones) is a statement of theology, a statement of worldview, a statement of the values and principles that drive a person to do what they do.

Second, let us examine the origin of sin. James 1:14 teaches us that sin begins with a desire in the heart. That desire leads us to engage a particular action or thought. But how is that sinful act or thought justified? It is justified by the set of values and principles driven by our understanding of God. Every sin is ultimately an act of faith or belief. If we believed something different about God, we would act differently.

The sinful action cannot be separated from the sinful heart. While some want to make a distinction between the heart and the mind, I cannot, as of now, find a biblical reason to do such. The heart is the mind, the thoughts; and that is the worldview. The actions we see ultimately come out of a worldview (set of values and principles driven by our understanding of God).

Now, here is my contention. If we only address the actions, we never address the root cause, the worldview. In order to bring about real and lasting change, we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Eph 4:23). Transformation comes by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). If we hope to lead people to biblical change, we must start at the root level—their view of God and the world they live in, otherwise known as the worldview.

Asserting that the worldview is the ultimate cause does not undermine the problem of sin. It underlines the root causes behind sinful actions.

Addressing sin without addressing worldview is like weeding the garden with a lawnmower. It makes it look better, but doesn’t solve the issue that caused the problem to begin with.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So You Thought You Knew About Love

Warning: Some technical language and Greek words. I could explain them all better, but you likely would not read that much, and you can get the book and read it all for yourself.

Many pastors and teachers have, at some time in their teaching, ridden fairly hard on the horse of distinguishing between the Greek words for love used in the New Testament. I must admit that at earlier times in my life I too have ridden that horse a little too hard. Yet in recent years, my study of Scripture has led me to conclude that such an approach should be almost abandoned. However, I have never sat down to formalize my reasons for that.

Due to the work of D. A. Carson, I do not have to. In his second article on “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” in Bibliotheca Sacra (Vol 156, May-June 99, pp. 132-134, which later became The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God), Carson lays out seven reasons for not tying God’s love exclusively to the agapao word group. I have summarized them here to five main ideas.

1. “Careful diachronic work” has shown that “homonymic clashes” (basically, words that sound the same) led to the rise of alternative words, such as “phileo” in place of “kuneo” (to kiss) because “kuneo” sounded a lot like “kuno” (and in some forms such as the aorist were identical). While “kissing” and “impregnating” gave opportunity for many “salacious puns,” kuneo became almost obsolete in favor of phileo. And so Judas betrayed Jesus with a “phileo.” Or to put it simply, there is a linguistic explanation for the rise of certain words, rather than a theological one.

2. The Septuagint does not consistently use the agapao word group for the higher love. In 2 Samuel 13, both phileo and agapao are used to describe Amnon’s attitude towards his half-sister, Tamar, whom he raped.

3. The Father’s love for the Son is described as both agapao (John 3:35) and phileo (John 5:20), with no apparent distinction in meaning. “Surely,” Carson says, “it is not that God is more emotional in the second instance than in the first.” In addition, Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10, loved the present world (agapao), something seemingly incongruent is agapao always means a “willed self-denial for the sake of the other.”

4. The fact that phileo can mean “to kiss,” does not require that it always means “to kiss.” Semantic overhang, or what is called illegitimate totality transfer (importing the entire semantic domain onto an individual usage) is, well, illegitimate. Words must be defined in context, and they only have one meaning in a given context. They do not mean two or three things, and they do not mean everything in the definition. So while a lexicon might give two or more meanings for a given word, in a particular context, we must select one meaning to apply. The use of the English word “love” provides a good example of the wide ranges involved in the Greek words. “Love” can mean “sexual intercourse, platonic love, emotional love, the love of God, and more.” The context must speak to the specific connotation.

5. 1 Corinthians 13 “cannot be reduced to will altruism.” The fact that a person might “give their body to be burned” or “give all that they have to feed the poor” does not necessarily show love. A person may do such an act of “willed self-denial for the sake of others” without love.

All of that to say this: Be careful when you harp on the meaning of original language words in Scripture (particularly if you use Strong’s or Vine’s to build your case). You might be riding a horse that turns up too weak to finish the ride.

Your Worst Problem Is Not Your Sin

Your worst problem is not your sin. The worst problem is the worldview you have adopted that allows you to think your sinful choice was an appropriate response to the situation at hand.

We too often focus on the acts of sin, which are bad, disgraceful, shameful, and without excuse. But those wicked acts do not exist in a vacuum. They are the product of a worldview that we have adopted.

Addressing the acts alone is like weeding the garden with a lawn mower. It may make it look a little better, but it will not solve the problem.

If we will solve the sin problems of life, we must address them at the root level of our worldview.