Friday, June 20, 2008

Offending against Love or Christ? What we can safely tolerate.

"Doctrine is heaven, life is earth. In life there is sin, error, uncleanness, and misery, mixed, as the saying goes, 'with vinegar.' Here love should condone, tolerate, be deceived, trust, hope, and endure all things (1 Cor. 13:7); here the forgiveness of sins should have complete sway, provided that sin and error are not defended. But just as there is no error in doctrine, so there is no need for any forgiveness of sins. Therefore there is no comparison at all between doctrine and life. 'One dot' of doctrine is worth more than 'heaven and earth' (Matt. 5:18); therefore we do not permit the slightest offense against it. But we can be lenient toward errors of life. For we, too, err daily in our life and conduct; so do all the saints, as they earnestly confess in the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. But by the grace of God our doctrine is pure; we have all the articles of faith solidly established in Sacred Scripture. The devil would dearly love to corrupt and overthrow these; that is why he attacks us so cleaverly with this specious argument about not offending against love and the harmony among the churches."

- Martin Luther, Luther’s Works 27: 41-42

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google and your brain

Click on the title for the article. Let me know what you think.

Here's my response: TLDR

Reminder to those who allege reductionism

Since the California ruling on Same Sex Marriage, my inbox has been full of requests for money and activism to support traditional marriage. Some of the Christian organizations even ask me to pray. (Shame on the others!) There have been insightful commentaries and legal musings (can you say balkanization), along with the standard tripe. There's just a tremendous amount of energy going toward dealing with the issue.

Plenty of people on the other side say that the right is obsessed with homosex. Now that's like saying that during a flood, Iowans are obsessed with sandbags. But even if we do come off as a bit fixated, there's a reason beyond morbid obsession that the battles rage these days over sexuality:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
(Luther's Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81ƒ.)

In each age, we are asked to give allegiance to the powers of this world or to the Kingdom of God and His Christ. Everyday, we choose sides. The place where Christians must rush in to fill the gap is where the nay-sayers allege that Christ's Kingdom does not extend. If it is sexuality, we will speak of His Lordship there. If it is economics, we must contend for him there. If it is freedom of conscience, we will challenge those against it.

Right now, a tiny contingent of the population* is waging an enormous rhetorical (and now political) campaign against Christ's Lordship over human relationality & sexuality. It's a big deal, because Paul describes that sacred bond as a mystery illustrative of Christ and His Church. As stewards of the mysteries, our service to Christ cannot constitute an erosion of that union.

If nothing else, think of the children and the minorities.

*Less than 3% of men and 1.5% of women, according to Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, Robert T. Michael, John H. Gagnon, Edward O. Laumann, and Gina Kolata, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1994, p. 176.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Note to PCUSA GA Commissioners

Bob Davis is the go-to guy for issues surrounding the nFOG. I couldn't possibly add anything to his analysis of the multi-faceted problems presented in this tendentious reworking of an established and orderly process. However, I will say this:

Just because you can test something doesn't mean you should test something...especially if you haven't adequately considered the cost of the testing.

h/t Perry Bible Fellowship

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Compassion Fatigue

We're getting closer. When we misuse rhetoric to make someone's access to wedding photographers a HUMAN RIGHT, we lose sight of real rights (and our attendant responsibilities).


Because it's easy to get tripped up on minor stuff - especially when it's church meeting season.

Seriously...someone has a shoelace site? And I thought my hobbies were weird.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More on Makers and Takers

More on Pete Schweizer's Makers and Takers that explodes the myths of liberalism as the path to enlightened compassion.
Kengor: I suppose that of all the charges against liberals in the subtitle, the one that liberals will probably protest most vehemently is the point on materialism. And in their defense, Peter, I must say that I’ve seen some pretty darned materialistic conservatives.

Schweizer: Well remember, in all of this we are talking about tendencies. Not all conservatives are one way and not all liberals are the other. That said, the research really does indicate that liberals value money more than conservatives. After health, they are more likely to consider it the most important thing in their life. And they are more likely to say that there is no wrong way to make money. I think this actually makes sense when you look at modern liberalism. After all, what do liberals use as their measure of justice and equality? Income, or money! This is the reason I believe that modern liberals are also much more likely to be envious of other peoples’ success. They are constantly looking at the money yardstick.

This strikes me as consistent with my own experience. In seminary, we would do all of these consciousness exercises that were meant to exorcise our consciences of racism. It always focused on outcomes, with little attention being given to the complex of behaviors that served to synergize the admittedly bad hand given to many people. And it always seemed to come down to a "that's not fair" if equality of possessions were a Biblical value.

As a side note, while the libs were talking about racial justice, they never seemed to hang out with the black folks on campus. Sure...go to a rally,sign a petition, start an initiative, have a discussion, etc...but invite them over for dinner? My wife and I made it a point of our ministry to try to cook once for everyone who moved onto campus (and for many who never did). So many of the black single mothers were shocked that we would invite them to our homes - not only because my reputation preceded me, but also because no one had done this for them. They would tell me about how lonely they felt on campus because everyone seemed to be cheering them on from the bleachers, but no one got down to run beside them. A food pantry would be opened, monies would be set aside, but to actually sit down with them and eat - or listen to their struggles just seemed too much.

It is a shame that this should happen in any church setting - liberal or conservative. We've erected a barrier of professionalism that keeps us from getting our hands dirty. Then we abandon others through rhetoric of the self-determination and autonomy and anti-colonial / patronization need to leave them in squalor until some government comes along to give folks help they need. But I'll note this as well - at the more conservative (and thus, presumably, racist, bigoted, exclusionary, etc.) seminary across the street there was always a healthy interaction between racial ethnic groups. People sat together in the cafeteria with their Bibles open or played frisbee on the lawn. There were more per capita, as well. Funny how that "unity in Christ" thing trumps the pathetic results of group politics.

Kengor: How does the giving of Barack Obama measure up to, say, George W. Bush, or the nefarious Dick Cheney?

Schweizer: Obama, like John Kerry or Al Gore, has traditionally given a very small portion of his income to charity, approximately 1 percent. Bush gives 10 percent or more on a regular basis. In 2005, Dick Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity—and got criticized for it! I also went back and looked at the numbers for Ronald Reagan and FDR. Reagan gave nearly twice as much as FDR did during the height of the Great Depression.

Kengor: But doesn’t Obama care more than Dick Cheney?

Schweizer: Supposedly. At least that is what he tells us. And liberals tell us that in surveys, too. They are much more likely to say that they “feel close” to the poor. The problem is it kind of ends at the feeling part.

Again, backed up in my own experience - but I'm glad (if that's even the right word) to see that it generalizes to the larger population. I think James had something to say about this, as well... It looks like activism / advocacy without works (personal integration of this ideal) is also dead.

Read the whole interview here.