Monthly Archives: June 2009

Heads of Household Membership & Male-Only Voting in the Church

Increasingly, I have been made aware of an idea and practice floating around in Reformed circles of the need for heads of household membership in a church, with its sometimes attendant practice of “male-heads-of-household voting.” What follows are my thoughts on the practice.

Read the rest at Church Issues.  Let me know what you think.  I haven’t reviewed this in quite some time.

Thinking about the climax of Season 5 of BtVS and Human Nature

In her study of Roman gladiatorial combat and arenas (Blood in the Arena: The Spectacle of Roman Power) Alison Futrell describes the Phoenician practice of human sacrifice transplanted to Carthage: “The young victim was placed in the arms of the bronze image of Ba’al Hammon, arms that sloped downward toward a pit or large brazier filled with burning embers. Once the child had been cremated, the ashes were removed and placed in an urn, which in turn was placed in a pit, sometimes lined with cobbles, and then covered over. A burial marker, a cippus or stela, was often placed above the urn.”

Carthage belies the theory that cultures outgrow this barbarism as they become more educated and sophisticated: “At Carthage . . . expansion of political hegemony, cultural sophistication, and child sacrifice simultaneously peaked, in the fourth and third centuries B.C.” When Syracuse invaded in the early fourth century, “the nobles of Carthage sacrificed some two hundred of their children.”

via Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Carthaginian Tophet.

I watch or read atheists make statements about human nature that look to me for all the world like blind faith.  Are we going to claim that “religion” made otherwise good people burn their children to death?  But that just pushes the question back further.  Why not say, “Screw you, gods. We’re keeping our children no matter what you do to us or don’t do for us.”  I mean, we have these people’s myths.  There’s no way these people had respect for these gods beyond hoping for gifts and fearing curses.  So why not choose to live or die with one’s children

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a really (ne0)pagan show in many ways, but Buffy’s insistence that even if a god was going to eventually kill her sister, at least that last thing she would see was Buffy fighting to protect her, was nothing like these Phoenicians (or many others).

Happy Father’s Day, Mark

In addition to a couple of balloons (one decorated with tools I don’t use), I got two objects for Father’s day, one of which I am consuming and the other I am using as a tool to aid in that consumption.

Objects are standing on Bible and history textbook of Western Civilization to be near my face.  Yes, very appropriate, but they were the books I had on hand.

Objects are standing on Bible and history textbook of Western Civilization to be near my face. Yes, very appropriate, but they were the books I had on hand.

Now Guiness and stein are held up near my mouth by my own hand.

Now Guiness and stein are held up near my mouth by my own hand.

Because this blog can never say enough good regarding Against Christianity

I just finished reading Against Christianity by Peter Leithart. In this book, Dr. Leithart contrasts compares and contrasts “Christianity” and “Christendom.” Christianity is defined as “a set of doctrines or a system of ideas.” Unfortunately, as the good doctor points out, “The Bible gives no hint that a Christian ‘belief system’ might be isolated from the life of the Church, subjected to a scientific or logical analysis, and have its truth compared with competing ‘belief systems.'” Jesus didn’t come to propose a new philosophy, but rather to establish a new society, the Church. And the Church is not only a new society, but a new humanity, the beginning of the eschatological state of the human race. As Leithart writes, “…the Church presented herself not as another ‘sect’ or cult that existed under the umbrella of the polis; she was an alternative governing body for the city and the beginning of a new city.”

Read the rest at: The Flying Inn: Against Christianity.

Ideology really is almost entirely beside the point

The time to tell a person that dogs can make great pets, are man’s best friend, and need not always be hated merely because the Bible regards them on the level of rats, is not while his face is being chewed off by a [insert name of hated breed here, I don’t want to contribute to prejudice against Pit Bulls or Dobermans, etc].

So I’m really really unimpressed by Christian commentors who feel the need to assure us that anti-government sentiment is unwise and that we must learn the Bible provides a “role” for the civil government.

I think the Bible provide for rule by sheiks, ad hoc tribal leadership, kings, and emperors.  I think that the Mediterranean can provide for much more prosperity if it is under the power of a single pirate army (Alexander the Great) rather than being infested with a dozen independent pirate crews.

But I don’t think that Christian missionaries were under any obligation to tell the Medieval Icelanders that they had to repent and establish a “state”–a tax-supported office with a monopoly on whatever one tends to stuff into the duties of a civil magistrate.  The certainly prospered better under that system, than they have done recently under parliamentary democracy and it’s inevitable end, financially corrupt oligarchy.

Paul tells Christians to submit to the authorities.  I know a missionary for whom this means he, within the bounds of conscience, must stay on good terms with the local crime lord.  I’m sure there is more than one pastor in Chicago who must follow a similar strategy.

But he doesn’t say that Christians must find rationalizations for political systems that are nothing more than slow methods of mass suicide (just to revisit parliamentary democracy).  As far as I’m concerned, a Christian man or woman is even free to run for office in such systems (insert shout out to Ron Paul here).  Christians are free to judge their situations and decide, rightly or wrongly based on the accuracy of their knowledge of their situation, that a society might be better off if every Federal, State, and Local political office holder were suddenly Raptured.

God did not give up His Son in order to snarl at you

If a misguided father, in the interests of preventing pride from taking root in his children, offered criticism after criticism, the results would not be what he anticipated. Instead of rearing humble children, he would bring up neurotic and jumpy children. “What is it now?” would be their constant internal question. But another father who praised, honored, accepted, delighted in, and rejoiced over his children would be bringing up secure children, children who are able to forget themselves in the interests of others.

via BLOG and MABLOG: Quiet Your Fears.

I think I know people who get this way because of the way they interpret how providence has dealt with them.  For most people, Job doesn’t need three friends.  They are already in his head.

So how do you tell these people to deal?  How do you tell them to heal?

One solution is worship accompanied by the kind of excellent exhortation that Doug gives.  But I think I need to think about more ways and means.

Does the English translation “make disciples” hinder our understanding of the Great Commission?

First the ESV:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Now, with a change:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

I suggest this change because I can’t figure out why this passage is so connected in the minds of so many so exclusively with evangelism and conversion.  But there is nothing in this passage with that emphasis.  The Great Commission does include the idea of winning converts.  It envisions nations that have not been discipled and are recruited to be discipled.  It include baptism which is a ritual of entry into discipleship.

But it doesn’t stop there or even emphasize that part of discipleship.  It moves on: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Which of these activities is included in the Great Commission:

  • You share your faith with an unbeliever and he trusts in Christ for the first time.
  • You lead a Bible study with people who have been Christians since childhood.
  • You teach your children about Christian doctrine.
  • You read the Bible in the morning and learn something new.

Answer: All of these things are included in the Great Commission.  Anything from the point that one is baptized, that involves learning to observe what Jesus has commanded, is part of the Great Commission.

I’m doing it by blogging right now.

I suspect that the (mis?)translation “make disciples” leads people to think that Jesus is referring exclusively to winning converts–“Make people into disciples who are not now disciples.”  But if we understand it simply commands us to disciple people, then we will not restrict the commission beyond what God intended.

The Reformed lead, sadly

One of my major premises in the writing I’m doing these days is that evangelicals have become a movement actually destroying itself.

At no point does that seem more obvious than in the recent evolution of worship within evangelicalism.

Does anyone- I mean, really, seriously- have any idea what is actually happening within the worship culture of evangelicals?

We have, within a matter of 50 years, completely changed the entire concept of what is a worship service. We’ve adopted an approach that demands ridiculous levels of musical, technical and financial commitment and resources.

We have tied ourselves to the Christian music industry and its endless appetite for change and profit. We have accepted that all of our worship leaders are going to be very, very young people. Traditional worship – a la Tenth Presbyterian in Philly- is on the verge of becoming a museum piece.

The reformed- of all people- have led the way in this revolution. I attended a seminar last week where a room full of reformed were instructed in why the optimum worship leadership option was “the band.” Not the choir, the worship team, etc. But “the band.” Does anyone realize what that means for public worship?

Read the rest: » Blog Archive » The Big Worship Goof.

Some things I loved about the movie Fireproof

I have two “deep” criticisms of fireproof that I want to make on this blog at some point.  So first I thought I would say how much I liked it.  Before anything else, if you haven’t read Doug’s post, you should.

My own thoughts:

First off, I thought the tie between boats and pornography was amazingly insightful (I’m not making a general association here; if you saw the movie you know what I mean and if you haven’t then nothing is spoiled for you).  And the vivid way the husband repented was great too.  While self-control is essential, finding satisfaction in what one has so that one isn’t as restless is incredibly important as well.  I was really impressed with the way the movie portrayed this.

Secondly (and more importantly, so these are not really in any order), I understand the movie was made in Albany by a church there.  Well, I have some small but reliable knowledge of what Albany was like during the sixties, and that means that the race relations portrayed exemplified in that movie, and I assume present among the actors and film crew, are more of a miracle than the marital reconciliation portrayed in the movie.  The Obama Administration (assuming for the sake of argument it even aims to go in the same direction) has nothing on the churches of Albany, Georgia.

Third, the excitement and peril was quite riveting.  Nothing surprising but it genuinely had me on the edge of my seat (I was there literally too, if you must know).

Fourth, I thought the way the group participated in saving the person in the car was an amazing rebuke to the husband’s arrogance that he could take care of himself.  But I don’t know if that was intentional or not.

Fifth (and sixth) portrayals of stupid blind husband and grudge-holding, idiot wife were both painfully perfect.

Seventh, the comedy was outstanding.  No grim moralists here.

OK, lovefest over.  Next post(s) on this topic will be scathing attack.  So at least you can be assured that I am really the one writing this stuff.