Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Welcome 2009!

Finally! I celebrate with a song.

The Damsel wishes everyone a Happy New Year. May the world see how time itself belongs to a loving God and Savior. May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meet My New Favorite Theologian

"...Christian scholarship has an obligation to truth, that is, to God. Only by the careful pursuit and acquisition of truth can we begin to execute our calling faithfully and effectively. Theologians and their students must shun the naive ferocity of those who hold to opinions that cannot stand up to careful scrutiny. Do not mistake their vicious passion for intellectual virtue or courage. It is not. It is the anguished outrage of those who have been unfaithful to their commission as apostles for truth, a commission that requires fidelity to things as they are, not to things as we would like them to be. Like Nero, those theologians spend their time fiddling with the evidence while the real world, and its questions and concerns, burns down around them. But, they themselves do not worry because they believe their asbestos dogmatism will protect them, even if it does not protect the world. In truth, however, it will protect neither. That is because Christian theologizing is, or ought to be, a 'reality game.' The morality of scholarship demands a willingness to face the truth, even when it says that some of our most cherished beliefs are raw fiction. Without courage to face the truth and the freedom to do so, neither Christian scholars nor the students they instruct will ever stand in the vanguard of academic pursuit. They lack the intellectual virtue and wherewithal to do so."—Michael Bauman, "Peer Pressure, Confessionalism and the Corruption of Judgment: Why Theologians Can't Think Straight"

I like this quote, even though it is a generalization. "...those who hold to opinions that cannot stand up to careful scrutiny" can apply to anyone, even myself. I believe it was the physicist Richard Feynman who said, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Although we cannot verify theological statements by laboratory experiment, the same principle applies. The difference between good theology and bad theology is known by testing against the background of history and logical coherence (just to name two criteria). I should hope that all theologians would hold truth above their pet theologies and accept whatever correction they need.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dirt Doesn't Lie...or does it?

This is a couple of clips from an online discussion from my church's website about young earth creationism.
"S" said:
My personal favorite view of geologic age versus young earth theory is something I first read in a Josh McDowell book. It is called apparent age theory. I am going to butcher it here. Basically if God was going to create a bottle of wine from nothing then he would create a (red wine of course probably pinot nor) bottle of wine that was aged perfectly. Since God created all the natural forces we see at work currently then God created the earth at the exact age it needed to be (with corresponding fossil record) to foster the life we see today.

"C" said also:
Just because science proves that the earth is billions of years old doesn't mean that God didn't create it 10,000 years ago. He didn't create embryo Adam and Eve-They were created as adults-working, talking, walking, etc. He didn't just plant a bunch of seeds and wait around-The Bible said he created vegetation and trees in one day. So, to me, it stands to reason that he created mountains and craters and all of those things as is. People take a good 18 years or so to mature, trees at least a year, so a couple billion years for mountains or whatnot doesn't really seem that different if you see it that way-that they were all created in a day. Also, the entire earth covered in water during Noah's flood would have accounted for some of the mysteries as well.

I've never understood why "apparent age theory" is so popular with some Christians, because it seems to cause more problems than it 'apparently' solves for believers wanting to see how the Bible's creation account matches up with scientific obervation.

My reply was not directly to "S," but I addressed the content of his comment as follows:
Let me first say something that is foundational to the matter. I mentioned in my previous post that Christians have always valued the pursuit of Truth. Underlying this is the long-held notion that Truth exists, and Truth is knowable. So...

The first thing I would question is why we are pitting "science" against God. God is the Creator of the universe who chose to reveal His character in the Bible. If we study His creation, we should find that He is the Creator. If we study His word, we should find that He is our Redeemer. The two seem compatible and are not opposed to each other. What we are really saying is that atheistic scientists are trying to argue against God's existence using aspects of His creation as evidence. Silly thing to do, because if God is the Creator, then we would find evidence for His existence, not the opposite, right? (Incidentally, most, if not all, Christian philosophers say that this is an illegitimate philosophical move for scientists to make anyway.) So as Christians, we shouldn't make the same philosophical blunder as they.

This brings us to the "appearance of age" issue, which you both have brought up. Let's reframe it a little by recalling what Christians use to argue for God's intentional creation of everything: the Design Argument. The human eye is a classic and longstanding example of Christian apologetic for a Creator God. We point out the intricacy, the specificity, and the complexity of the eye's design as evidence of God and for God. Recently, Intelligent Design theory has injected even more emphasis on design by, in effect, negating the chances that some things could have evolved from simpler forms. We make this claim of design, taking for granted that how we reached this conclusion is through the scientific study of things like the eye. Please stay with me here, because this is the part that gets interesting: in spite of the strength of the Design Argument, Darwinian evolutionists dismiss evidence for design by insisting that what we see is only an "appearance of design,"--what we see is not the truth.

Now, as a matter of logic, the "appearance of age" claim of YEC is identical to the "appearance of design" dismissal from evolutionists. It tracks the same pattern of reasoning, and, in the end, suffers the same losses. It violates our underpinnings of Truth by claiming that Truth does not exist (in what we can readily study, like the human eye) and that Truth is unknowable (mountains do not reveal their true age).

I realize that I've been running around in the philosophical realm mostly and not the theological realm, so let me return to it. For the Christian, what the "appearance of age" claim does is erode our confidence in God as the God of Truth, or at least it should. Without the knowable design and consistency of the natural world to rely on, how would we function at all, theologically or otherwise? How would we know the true origin of creation? How can we be confident in the evidence for design? How can we have confidence in Jesus' miraculous conception if we only know how babies appear to be made? How can we be sure Jesus is divine, or did he only appear to be? How can we be confident in the transmission of scripture or does it only appear to be reliable in its origin? Was anything a miracle or just an appearance of a miracle? This line of thinking makes it hard to tell.

From my above reply, you can see I have great misgivings about the Young Earth explanation of the natural world, both rationally and theologically. I'm not getting into the other issues I find promblematic about YEC in this post, but I see problems with principles of Bible interpretation, a promotion of a type of cognitive dissonance with regard to scientific inquiry, and a shift away from responsible theology toward superstition. While ultimately I don't find YEC harmful to any one Christian's life, faith, or eternal destination (you can believe it if you want to), YEC has been a source of faith abandonment for so many in Christianity. I believe that it's time to stop the bleeding, which calls for changing this default view in our churches--the dismantling of the popular teaching of YEC as the "biblical" view.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Blessings

My kids are cute.
My husband is cute.
We all have what we really love for Christmas, the Spirit of God and each other.

Everything else is icing on the cake.

I hope your Christmas is likewise blessed. Glory to God in the highest!

In the little village of Bethlehem,
there lay a Child one day,
And the sky was bright with a holy light
o'er the place where Jesus lay.

Alleluia! O how the angels sang.
Alleluia! How it rang!
And the sky was bright with a holy light,
'twas the birthday of a King.
("The Birthday of a King" by William Harold Neidlinger)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: A New Earth (Eckhart Tolle)

Full title:
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s PurposeCopyright 2005
ISBN 978-0-452-28996-3

I. Intro
As Dr. Phil got his big break by rubbing elbows with Oprah Winfrey, so has Eckhart Tolle, one of the nation’s superstar spiritual gurus in the latest (re)incarnation of the New Age Movement. A New Earth (ANE) is Tolle’s latest book, first released in 2005 but only receiving enormous attention last January via Oprah’s Book Club. Because of her promotion, it skyrocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list and remained there for double-digit weeks.

Are you looking for happiness in life? Do you want to end suffering both personally and globally? Do you want to start now? Like any self-help and/or pop inspirational manual, ANE claims that anyone can achieve happiness and banish suffering beginning the moment you read and comprehend Tolle’s message.

II. Chapters and Summary
The book contains nine chapters and an excessive number of subchapters all explaining why Tolle’s view of the universe is better than yours and how his propositions are the key to finding happiness.

Tolle lays out his view of the ego, the emotive part of a person responsible for negativity and negative emotions. Specifically, the ego is the drive to preserve a greater opinion of ourselves than we ought to have. He describes the “pain-body” that each person possesses. The pain-body is a kind of glutton for punishment that causes us to repeat cycles of emotional pain in an attempt to seek revenge for personal slights.

Using a generous sprinkling of Zen philosophical terms, he describes how people can divest themselves of personal pain, resentment, and conflict by changing one’s perspective on your involvement and attachment to the material life most people embroil themselves in. He says that you must gain awareness and understanding of your self, remove yourself emotionally from all your life’s situations (to a degree), and take peace from your existence, not your circumstances.

The result of gaining such awareness is that today we can begin living life anew with fresh eyes and a more mature confidence in ourselves, his version of a new heaven and a new earth (hence the title of the book).

So see that this unhealthy behavior is bad for you, the world, the universe. Now you know, 'and knowing is half the battle.' The end?

III. Analysis
To his credit, he is less Shirley MacLaine-ney in articulating Eastern principles and couches them in language more conventional to American ears, which I believe contributes to the popularity of his books.

So why is ANE so popular?  As such, I believe ANE has set a new standard for Eastern philosophy in America. Far from droning on about cosmic eudaemonia and so much self-absorbed navel gazing that has dominated the public’s impression of New Age thinking, ANE taps human psychoanalysis to explain the sources of suffering and the misplaced human drive for fulfillment found in everyday behavior. The use of the terms “ego,” “pain-body,” and “dysfunction” is a step up from many traditional purveyors of Eastern religions who refer to karma, auras, and psychic energies to explain the more metaphysical side of human life.

I can’t really object to the self-help portions of ANE. Western traditions have similarly taught that “consciousness,” “space,” and “inner alignment” are needed to address the difficulties of life, except that we’ve used words such as maturity, objectivity, and patience. If one were to read ANE simply for the insight on how to control negativity and behave more rationally, then this book offers decent advice.

There’s a bit of pretentiousness to the book. On page 6, he states, “This book’s main purpose is not to add new information or beliefs to your mind or to try to convince you of anything…” Oh, but it is. Otherwise, why write a book? “…but to bring about a shift in consciousness, that is to say, to awaken….It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless.” See?

The biggest criticism I do have about ANE is not the self-help advice but the undercurrent of anti-Christian platitudes, which serve to keep his views obviously more enlightened-sounding than those of “the religious”. As a Christian, I find nothing more striking about Tolle than his presumption to know Christianity (you know, before it was misunderstood by the church) better than Christians. He redefines sin, salvation, and the very name of God, and frequently misinterprets reinterprets the words and teachings of Jesus to conveniently fit his views that border on blasphemy. Just check out pages 69, 71, 79, 116, 227, and 245 to name several.

A few examples:
“The history of Christianity is, of course, a prime example of how the belief that you are in sole possession of the truth, that is to say, right, can corrupt your actions and behavior to the point of insanity….The Truth was considered more important than human life. And what was the Truth? A story you had to believe in; which means, a bundle of thoughts.” (p. 69) Unless I miss my guess, ANE is full of propositions and moral absolutes/directives, which are, it seems, also a bundle of thoughts.

Next, “When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter. You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications. You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness has identified with. That’s the peace of God. The Ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am.” (p. 57) Ahem, I believe the problem here is self-evident.

Last, “When you hear of inner space, you may start seeking it, and, because you are seeking it as if you were looking for an object for an experience, you cannot find it. This is the dilemma of all those who are seeking spiritual realization or enlightenment. Hence, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (p. 233-234) “Hence, Jesus?” I’ll tell you what is bliss: blithely mutating the meaning and application of the words of Christ for the sake of the readers’ potential flowering of consciousness. It certainly is a new world, isn’t it?

How magnanimous of Mr. Tolle to tell me my life’s purpose. Like a lot of preachers of Eastern religious thought, everything boils down to a “just so” argument. There is no defense of the One Life to which all of us supposedly belong. For a man who spouts the oft-repeated mantra about how truth is relative, he is adamant about how his teachings are necessarily transformative. The overarching posture of ANE is that Tolle is right and all other beliefs that he contradicts are wrong.

IV. Conclusion
In all, Tolle might not be that far from the truth. He recognizes that humanity’s deep spiritual problem necessitates some internal change in order to resolve. At issue is whether or not his teachings actually address the heart of the problem, which, with his many words about egos and pain-bodies and consciousnesses, seems to fall short. Tolle would say that we need to be like him. I would say that we need Jesus instead.

Addendum: There is something about this book that sounds so familiar...could it be that
Gaius Baltar?

Other reviews:
"A Review of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose," by Mary Jo Sharp (Confident Christianity)

"A New Earth and The Spiritually Elite," by Marcia Montenegro (Christian Answers For the New Age)

Two Chix Apologetics

I found this group on Facebook (yes, I gave in...), and am wowed by finding other women who like talking about theology and Christianity as I do.

The blog that goes with the Facebook group is called Confident Christianity. Coolness...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Hitler By Any Other Name Would Smell Just as Sweet?

It was just a matter of time before America's PC chicken would come home home to roost. A Pennsylvania couple made headlines when a local grocery store refused to decorate their son's birthday cake with his name on it. The boy's name? Adolf Hitler Campbell.

Okay, so one might wonder why these parents would name their child after the leader of the infamous Third Reich. In their own defense, they claim that "Adolf Hitler" is just another German name plucked from their German heritage. Pretty innocent? Uh-huh. What about one of the other kids, the one they gave the middle name "Aryan Nation?"

Legally, parents can curse their children with objectionable names if they want (within limits, of course), but then to try act all casual and innocent about it for the newspaper is just disingenuous (I prefer to think of it as blatant SOB-havior).

But all right, back to the chicken - Are these people white supremacists? In my view, there's not much reason to name their offspring after Nazis unless they were. White supremacists are a hated minority here in the U.S. I would find it downright humorous and poetic should a case like the Campbells become a legal matter of discrimination that the ACLU would come to their defense. What a hoot!

(I know that the ACLU have defended white supremacists in various legal matters, but what would it look like on CNN?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Everyday Heresy

How Many Ways Can You Go Wrong in One Sentence?
Conversation 2

This is continuation of Conversation 1 about the deity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity.

"G's" comment:
And Lettia, it did feel almost as though this couple was assaulting the deity of God when we first had this conversation, and I was afraid for them for even suggesting that Jesus wasn't fully God, but merely had qualities of God since he was after all his son.

I responded:
The way you explain your friends' ideas about Jesus as Son of God betrays a bit of confusion about what Sonship is on their part. This is really important, because I believe this confusion exists in the Christian church at just below the conscious level and is not well addressed.

First, the idea that "Jesus was not fully God" is problematic by itself. In Judeo-Christian monotheism, someone is either divine or not divine; he cannot be somewhere in-between. In Jesus' case, He is either God or He is not. So, the term "fully God" is either a redunancy or signifies bad theology by suggesting that divinity is like a tank that must be filled to capacity in order to achieve God-status. In most cases, it's bad theology that rules the day.

Second, getting the "fully God" part wrong will trip you up going into the next portion of the sentence, "but merely had qualities of God..." Really? What are those qualities? If they are not eternal self-existence exhibiting omniscience and benevolent omnipotence operating in a transcendent-emmanent paradox with relation to the material world, then what--forgiving others, healing the sick, walking on water? Well, Jesus' disciples, even Judas Iscariot, had some of those qualities, but we don't wonder how close they were to being divine. Point is, one cannot appeal to the qualities of God without describing, well, God! They are unique and exclusive (no 'merely' about it!) to only ONE in a Judeo-Christian monotheistic worldview, which means that God cannot share His inherent qualities with Jesus unless Jesus inherently possesses those qualities also.

Third, the last portion, "since he was after all his son" simply screams out massive confusion. If I may grab an Islamic objection to the Sonship of Jesus to demonstrate confusion about Jesus as the Son. Islam teaches that God does not and could not have a son. To a Muslim, having a son is a form of procreation, something that is irrational for God to do. Therefore, Jesus being the Son of God is irrational at best, blasphemous at worst from their point of view. But Sonship isn't about a Muslim point of view; it is a Judeo-Christian point of view, which begs the question, what was so special about Jesus that made Him God's Son? And if being God's Son makes any sense at all, why wouldn't being God THE Son make just as much sense? Your friends are borrowing heavily the language of orthodox Christianity without any of the definitions associated with the language either because they don't know the definitions or because they choose to ignore them. In either case, they are not adopting a Judeo-Christian view of Sonship, which is that Jesus is fulfilling the duties that the second member of the Trinity, the Son, was sent into the world to do. What your friends mean by God's Son is a mystery to me, and I think perhaps it might be a mystery to them as well.

Overall, trying to explain how Jesus is not God but is able to exhibit all the "qualities" of God comes from and leads to great theological confusion about the very nature of God. If we impose a post-Enlightenment standard onto the Bible as many do, it should not surprise us that what was obvious in the 1st century escapes our understanding today. Furthermore, if we use terms devoid of their original meaning, it should also not surprise us the heights of heresy to which we can achieve. Sad but true.

Everyday Heresy

A Thumb in the Eye of the Son and other Mistakes about the Trinity
(Conversation 1)

Once in a while, members of my church bring up theological questions set off by personal encounters with friends or acquaintances with views contrary to Christian doctrine. Here's one such case: "G" has been speaking with a couple of friends who deny that Jesus should be understood and worshiped as God. This is her representation of their view and my response.

Alright...I have been chewing on, reading about and in general, bothered by a question that was posed to me this past summer by a Christian couple that I have never distrusted their answers and wisdom in thing things of God and the bible.

We were debating/discussing the reality of God being made up of 3 persons (Father, Son and Spirit) - or if it was a widely accepted idea that "the church" has taught us to be true.

They think that Jesus was really only the SON of God (who had been given power) and not also fully God. And they don't necessarily think that Jesus was with God since the beginning of time. They said these ideas are something we read into the Old (or New) Testament. They also said that they think the Spirit is not a separate entity or part of the Trinity, but that everywhere it speaks of the Spirit of God, that is exactly what it is - God's Spirit (and not this 3rd separate God-thing).

I made my arguments on why I believe in a Trinity (all pretty much based on the same stuff we teach at The Journey). But there were a couple points they made that really threw me for a loop and I have frankly been struggling with.

I've done some research, re-read the sections from the Gospel Class book on the Trinity and the scriptures we use to back this idea up. But I still haven't been satisfied with my researching on a few points they brought up:

1) We both agreed that the bible clearly teaches there is only ONE God. But as they pointed out, Jesus never had the power to do anything on his own, but always was given to him from God. And Jesus always pointed out that there was ONE God, his Father, and that Jesus only worshiped God (not himself) and his life pointed people to God. This couple thinks it's almost blasphemous when people worship Jesus - because as the bible teaches, there is only One God who we should be worshiping, and that is the Creator Himself. And yes, without Jesus' sacrifice we couldn't have direct access to God, but if there is only One God and Jesus was very specific and intentional to not make himself equal with God, then what's going on here?

2) (this is the one that really messed me up)... They said if we believe in Jesus being fully God, then God must have died when Jesus died. How do we explain that?!?! In some of my research it explained this by stating that just b/c Jesus died physically, his spirit was still there and still with God. But the bible states that God left him completely (he can't have any part in sin). I don't see how God and Jesus' spirits still could have been together when it says that Jesus gave up his spirit after he breathed his last.


After all the concept of "3-in-1" is so HUGE, why are there only hints in the bible of this idea? It never says 3-in-1 anywhere in scripture. So why on earth do we even use a man-made word "the Trinity" to describe this?

I responded:
The objections to the Trinity aren't new, but you can be relieved to know that they were answered about 1700 years ago (and since). Hence, you have many resources at your disposal to help you out.

Well, if the concept of the Trinity originated with the Westminster Catechism or Luther, you might have a point there. But it is much older than that, going back to the Church Fathers (the generation of church leaders following the Apostles). Understand that the word "Trinity" is a term that was fashioned to describe the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because of what Christians had already believed about God, not an idea that evolved over time. It is very important to make that distinction, otherwise you'll be getting history backwards, as seems to be the case with the couple you're talking about.

Let's call it what it really is: any objection to the Trinity as it relates to Jesus is simply an assault on His deity. It is a denial that Jesus is God, so I'll just deal with this rather than talk about all of the Trinity in detail.

When I was in high school, I had a good friend who was a Jehovah's Witness, and I spent oodles of time researching JW teaching about Jesus and how to combat it. Back then, my approach was to pull out every verse in Scripture that demonstrates Jesus' deity. I got really good at spotting relevant verses, but I still missed the bigger picture because my knowledge of Bible and church history was severely lacking. The single biggest disadvantage we have today when it comes to reading the Bible is that we do not know how to read it in its historical context. Fact: we are NOT the Scriptures' primary audience (spiritually, yes we are; historically, no). Our troubles begin when we forget that the NT, in particular, was written in the context of 1st century Palestine for primarily Jewish and Greek audiences. So, we must read it like a 1st century Jew (preferably) if we are to get the full impact of the words on the page.

Ironically, the deity of Jesus is the best example of what I'm talking about. Your question includes the phrase "Jesus was very specific and intentional to not make himself equal with God." If we take a 1st century mindset and look at the ministry of Jesus, we would come to a very different conclusion.

(some are notes I cut and pasted from my prep on the cancelled DYD Forum on the Resurrection) Let’s examine some things Jesus said and did in the Gospels.
1. "I say to you”/”I tell you” statements – Jesus often used these phrases to assert authority to change a concept of Jewish law or tradition by either contradicting it or correcting its present interpretation. For example, on divorce, Jesus assumes authority over Moses and contradicts Mosaic tradition (Matt. 19:8-9). And again, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The impact of this was not lost on those who heard Him, for in so doing, Jesus was putting Himself in authority above them, above the Prophets, and above God’s Law as Judge and Revealer of God’s truth. William Lane Craig says in his book, Reasonable Faith, “Jesus’ sense of personal authority to correct the Torah and contradict Jewish tradition goes down hard for faithful Jews.” To His audience, Jesus put Himself in the very place of God, making the pronouncements that only God has a right to make. This is true even today. Jacob Neusner, the well-known Jewish scholar, wrote the book, A Rabbi Talks With Jesus, in which he objects to Jesus on the same grounds a Jews in the 1st cent. Neusner is offended at Jesus’ presumption to subject the Torah to His word and says of the book of Matt, “No one can encounter Matthew’s Jesus without concurring that before us in the evangelist’s mind is God incarnate.” In effect, Neusner is asking, “Who do you think you are, Jesus—God?”

2. Many times, Jesus orients Himself to God the Father differently than He orients His disciples to God the Father. In John 20:17, He says to Mary, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " He doesn’t say “our Father.” (The famous Lord’s Prayer is actually a misnomer, because Jesus never prayed that prayer; it is a prayer for His disciples to pray.) Jesus always establishes a unity and intimacy between Himself and God the Father that He doesn’t ascribe to anyone else.

3. Liberal theologians also deny any historical references to Jesus' divinity, yet there is one parable of Jesus that is universally seen as authentic to Him, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12): in this parable, Jesus clearly puts Himself in the story as the son the tenants plot to kill for his inheritance. The Pharisees' reaction to this parable is telling, for they seek His immediate arrest--for what? Jesus put Himself in direct authority above THEM with special relation to God and spoke judgment against THEM (remember, the Pharisees were the religious elite who were closer to God than anyone else; anyone having more authority than they would HAVE to be God Himself).

4. One of the titles Jesus often used for Himself was "Son of Man" with direct reference to Daniel 7:13. My intent is not to get into a Bible verse-joust, so I will quote Darell Bock in his Breaking the Da Vinci Code. When you read how Jesus portays Himself to His immediate audience in the Gospels, you can't help but recognize that "Jesus is a divine figure worthy to sit in God's presence because He is capable of sharing God's unique glory." The Gospels needed to make distinct exactly what their position was on Jesus: that Jesus was either a blasphemous pretender or one worthy to share in God's glory. Their choice is the latter. Jesus is a fully human person who also bears the unique signs of God's deity and deserving of that status, a view held by Christians long before Nicea.

That anyone would ask for more explicit claims for Jesus' deity really betrays a modern blindness to the way things were (anachronistic imposition of post-Enlightenment thinking, if you will). They are committing the first mistake I talked about, which is to want Jesus to get up in the middle of the Beatitudes and shout, "Yes! I am God! Worship Me now!" Such a proclamation would have been unecessary and would have given the wrong idea to Jesus' listeners. To say that would have meant that Jesus was the Father, (or a contemporary mistake which is to say that Jesus is the Trinity) which would make no sense whatsoever to the Jewish mind.

As I noted above, the challenge to the deity of Jesus Christ is and old one, and an answered one at that. But history doesn't seem to make a difference in the minds of modern-day deniers, so here we go again and again. Anyway, Conversation 2 is coming up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Complegalitarian Moves to WordPress

Goodbye, Blogger! The Complegalitarian blog has a new home at WordPress. If you're interested in jousting about gender roles in the Christian church, join me in a discussion over there. Now, behave! :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trying to fight that...

nasty, bitter urge to hurl my guts out at every thought of "President-elect Barack Obama."

While I'm in the throes of the need of extra grace to pull myself back together for a proper post on America's political future, I should remind myself to be thankful that we haven't elected a Castro or a Chavez, but someone more akin to a Guevarra. God loves him, and so must I as well.

Grace and peace.

I Have Iranian Siblings

It's true! I have clipped a few details of "Rachel" and "Ali's" experience of persecution in Iran. Their story is not unique, and though these two in particular have successfully escaped from Iran, right now, thousands more Christians like them experience persecution as they did.

In November 2005, just months after being elected Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with the country's 30 governors. "I will stop Christianity in this country," he declared, according to Compass Direct News.

"Persecution is increasing in Iran because of the success of the underground church there," says one VOM director. "There's victory in this story."

In the face of such burgeoning growth in Christianity, the Iranian government has fought back with laws, abuse, and terrorism on its citizenry. Iranian Christians, however, do not buckle under the toil. They cling closer to God as they are persecuted because of His name.

The Iranian Secret Police on more than one occasion stormed their home, beat the couple, and forced them to sign statements that they would not ever attend church. They held Rachel and Ali to the ground and beat them severly with steel cables. Once, Rachel was even raped as she complied with their demands to sign regular statements concerning their Christian faith.

A recent law in Iran has made conversion away from Islam a capital offense for males. This means that the death penalty is the only punishment rendered for any man found guilty of becoming a Christian.

The unimpeded crackdown to "stop Christianity" has placed the church under a magnifying glass. Iranian house church leader Noor says that house meetings have been reduced to three to four people at a time--no large groups.

The article goes into more details of the kinds of beatings, torture, and death that Iranian Christians often face from the government. If you'd like to read the article fully, you may subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs by making a donation online.

While we live very comfortable lives with our many luxuries and liberties, please think about this: that, like Iran, it could disappear with the installment of just the right political leader(s). The Church in Iran needs our prayers. And we need theirs too.

Praise be: VOM estimates about 500 people become believers in Jesus every month!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tim Brister's Photo...of Us

I said I was lazy. Thankfully, Timmy Brister wasn't. Here's the photo of us at Lemongrass with him at dinnertime.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

LEAD Conference - Naps Follow

My church has hosted its first big conference on church planting this week. Here's my plug for volunteering: it gets you in for fabulously free. Click on LEAD for the City Conference for more info.

Here's the lowdown on my week:
Monday - picked up Tim Brister at the airport. A virtual friendship is made actual. Very nice.

Tuesday - Resource Tent duty calls. We sell books to pastors and potential pastors from all over the country. Free lunch. What'd I say about free? Ohhhhyeaaaah.... In the evening, went back to help with the funky fresh concert. J.R. and Titus were our performing arts guys. Conway did security with our fab SSU team. My beau on a bike at night is a security risk in and of itself, but thankfully, no scrapes.

Wednesday - back out at the Resource Tent. It's colder, windier, and cloudier today. Brr. Met a wonderful lady from the West County service. Better than free lunch is the chance to meet and talk to people I normally would never see. Love it.

Wednesday night - Eating dinner at Lemongrass with Tim Brister! I am honored to break noodles over talk about family, church, and of things to come in the blogosphere. A terrific end to three days of conferencing.

Regrets - I was lazy and didn't take any photos. : (

Thanks - My gracious mother, who cared for Calvin for these three days in our home while I've been away during the middle of the day. If Moms like this exist, God exists.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Money (is all that) Matters

In my last post, I pointed out that I haven't heard nary a whisper about the hot button political issue of abortion in these last raging weeks before Election Day. The public is freaked about the stock market and the strength of the economy as of 9:21pm tonight and it seems to be all anyone wants to hear our President-to-be to talk about, either of them. Last time I checked, the oft-shouted demand "Issues! Issues!" was plural, yet the public and the media are only hearing one issue and tossing the my child picking off the toppings on her pizza, leaving just the cheese.

It's somewhat comforting knowing that I'm not the only one noticing the heap of important issues growing by the side of the road to the White House. Today, the American Center for Law and Justice radio broadcast highlighted the numerous "normally" hotly discussed issues that have not been touched so far: Supreme Court Justice nominations, partial-birth abortion legislation, the Defense of Marriage Act, First Amendment limitations (seriously, if we have abandoned talking about the Bill of Rights altogether in favor of how much socialism ought we to tolerate, freedom has already been lost in this country), and the (Un)Fairness Doctrine, which is more legislation designed to slowly crush First Amendment rights. Foreign policy has also gotten the look-away-for-now; don't mind that Russia is test-firing long-range missiles (for AIDS awareness, I'm sure). Even--EVEN the environment and global warming have suddenly receded like a melting glacier away from public discourse.

Well. On the one hand, we're leaving our constitutional rights on the curb; on the other, we're telling Al Gore that his truths are a little inconvenient at this time. I guess it's not a total loss. In fact, I feel quite priviledged to witness all these so-called unprecedented events in my life: the biggest single-day drop in the Dow ever (twice!), followed by the biggest single-day rally ever, the simultaneous collapse of America's most successful financial institutions followed by the largest government check ever written to one man--Hank Paulson, who promises to git-r-done. Gas prices that have risen to never-before heights followed by the fastest drop that didn't require price controls. I daresay I might live to see the reconstitution of the Soviet Union, although the official language might be Mandarin by the time that happens.

What the public is saying is "Show me the money, and I'll show you my vote." If God wills it, so be it. As fast as things are changing in this country, Americans will have no problem getting used to being called "New Venezuela" in no time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Real Inconvenient Truth

It seems that it doesn't take a whole lot (just money or lack of it) to eclipse the abortion issue in the upcoming presidential election. As much as pro-life supporters have consistently pointed out that convenience is the driving reason for 95%+ of abortions, the media and pro-abortion advocates have consistently refused to face it.

Just six weeks ago at the Republican National Convention, it seemed the abortion issue was set to make a big impact on the campaign trail with Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate to John McCain. Her personal and family experiences with unplanned pregnancies and pregnancy with a special needs child logically would have catapulted the controversy over abortion into major media attention. But four weeks ago, Bear Stearns happened, then Washington Mutual, then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, then AIG, then Wachovia, then a $700 billion "rescue" bill, and now a stock market tumble of a few thousand points--suddenly, as fast as it appeared, the abortion issue went from being near the top three to "Abortion and marriage are things that are better left to individuals' conscience," which I take to mean that it isn't even on the radar in the public eye anymore.

A tragedy indeed. Never mind the fact that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has vowed, if elected, that the Freedom of Choice Act would be the first thing he would sign into law. Never mind that he supports the total federal abandonment of crisis pregancy centers nationwide. Never mind the fact that he has voted twice not to protect an infant born alive despite an attempted abortion. And truly, never mind the fact that bad economies often turn and become good ones again in time, but babies that are aborted will never get another chance to be born.

The focus on the economy has made the issue of abortion an annoying inconvenience right now. What a sad way for pro-lifers to be right again.

The Journey in the BBC
National Review Online

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Three's Company? Palin, Mohler, and I

The following is a post I wrote for Complegalitarian. The issue surrounds the debate about how Sarah Palin should be viewed as a Christian woman in politics, running for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Although the debate over women in positions of authority is not new, the subject of Sarah Palin has catapulted the issue to the forefront of Christian circles. For Christians with a Complementarian point of view (that is, women have limited roles with respect to men) that also have a great interest in politics, this is the ultimate test of how their views apply. Some, like Al Mohler and David Kotter, both contributors to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, make way for Sarah Palin to lead in the highest executive position in the country. Others, like Doug Phillips of the Vision Forum, say that consistency is key, and no woman should ever occupy any civic position of authority.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I side with Mohler's approval of Gov. Palin. However, the reasons underlying my agreement differ quite a bit from the majority of Complementarians who have put their views in print, as CBMW has. This post, as well as the next one, expound on my particular views on the issue. As the following is in repsonse to comments made on the Palin-Mohler issue, please feel free to read Complegalitarian for the full context.

This is hardly a cheering endorsement from Mohler, though it certainly is an acknowledgement that not all wives and mothers are called to stay at home. It is, however, a clear admonition to not view her as a normal women. She is an exception, like Esther or Deborah, period. She is not so much an example to be followed as she is an exception to the general rule. (molly).
Mohler has a consistency problem with this one because Palin professes to be a Christian. Mohler/CBMW teach that Christian women have a 'role'and all that entails that we have discussed here ad nauseum. :o) However, they are also saying that we can separate the civil and spiritual realms for women in leadership. That does not seem to be a problem except that Palin is a Christian woman. Is anyone else not seeing this conumdrum for CBMW? How can they separate the civil and spiritual realm with a Christian woman? You can't. Christians don't have 'realms'. (lin)
It is clear that the non-egals want to have their cake and eat it too. (don)

Is CBMW being inconsistent, many ask?

I think it depends on the person speaking. Doug Phillips seems to believe he is more consistent than Al Mohler, but I don't think that matters in light of his views. When you believe that a woman is created for no other purpose than to be a babymama-housekeeper, you've effectively dropped out of reasonable conversation altogether.

Is complementarianism in trouble because of Sarah Palin?

That's funny, and the answer is no. Let me point out that Richard Land (complementarian) was one of the first people to propose naming Sarah Palin for McCain's VP early on in the campaign.

Do I have a problem with consistency as a complementarian?

Well, if I make the kind of errors I've read so far from both egals and patriocentrists, yes. But I haven't. In this previous post, I argued that it is perfectly consistent with my views on Complementarianism that a woman could be a leader in any civil realm she chooses.

To the issue raised that Christians (and certainly complementarians) don't have separate realms, vis a vis a Christian/spiritual realm to a secular realm (and the accusation that complementarians are trying to split life into these two realms): I would contend that this is an incorrect framing of the issue, which is then, incorrectly trying to expose inconsistency in complementarianism.

The idea, 'There is no separate spiritual realm and secular realm for the Christian,' is a theological proposition about how we should conduct ourselves with Christlike integrity wherever we are (not an existential proposition). Al Mohler is not making a contrary theological claim to that. Instead, he is making a simple modal distinction brought up by the case of Sarah Palin. In short, she can wear that hat (whether governor or VP or whatever). As to whether or not there exist separate realms, of course there are--we don't live under a theocracy afterall, and we don't demand that our government be ruled by the Church. This is an argument against a position like Doug Phillips'. That anyone can construe this to be a problem of complementarian proportions is ridiculous.

Is Gov. Palin the exception? Yes, in the sense that I think most women don't have the ability to do what she is doing, including myself. I can hardly find time to read a book much less occupy a public office. But also no, in the sense that she is an exeption because she is exceptional, not because she's bending some rule somewhere to get where she is (which is otherwise closed to women). There is no such rule that prohibits women from exercising public office. Any woman who has the skills to govern effectively and still regard her husband and family properly should be afforded the opportunity to exercise those skills, regardless of whether she is a Christian or not. (I would add, especially if she is a conservative Christian, but that is my bias that we don't need any more liberal pro-abortion politicians hostile to Christianity here in this country). Marilyn did make this point in the combox (much better than I, I think).

For those of you who are salivating at the idea that the issue of Sarah Palin proves that complementarianism as a system of thought is wrong need to aim your guns elsewhere, because you've really missed the point. Some hard complementarians/patriocentrists, like Doug Phillips, are certainly wrong in their views, but their problem isn't complementarianism. It's the refusal in their own hearts to see the full humanity of women.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pimp My Church?!?

When authentic has left the building.

every sunday in september

car cruise on virginia avenue, 9am - 1pm
free popcorn & drinks for cruisers
worship @ 11am

register each sunday to win a wii game

drawing september 28

live abundantly *
learn diligently *
laugh freely *
love completely

pimp my what????

the connection united methodist church

st. louis,
missouri 63111 * sundays 11am

Under the "pimp my what????" link is the following, er, explanation:

Pimp My Church is a play off of a popular MTV show called "Pimp My Ride." They take old junker cars - ones really meant for the trash heap - and "pimp them out," meaning, they give them new paint jobs, fix the dents, clean out the trash, and add outrageous things like movie projectors, refrigerators or whatever else the owner might like. That's what it means to "Pimp My Ride." (translation, fix up my car)

It seems our society has begun to view church as an old junker, something useless, worn-out, out-of-date and ready for the trash heap. At The Connection we want to let people know the church is absolutely relevant and useful - that life & faith can meet in a way that impacts our very existence. The church is as "fly" (translation - cool or hip) as we dream it and create it to be. God is certainly not out-of-date and neither should God's people be out-of-date.

So, come each Sunday in September and find out what The Connection is becoming. You'll find people just like yourself, searching for something meaningful in life. You'll enjoy a live band playing music that will connect you with God, hear practical & relevant messages that make an impact on every day life, and build relationships worth keeping for a lifetime. Now, that's a fly, outrageously pimped out church.

I think I've heard enough.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Matt Damon, Comedian

The media blitz on the presidential campaigns has been exceptionally droll so far, so thank God for the comic relief I saw today. We need more entertainment like this kind Matt Damon dished up Wednesday. The fact that he could execute such a barrage of comedic lines with a straight face is golden. No one could have done better.

You gotta see this:

YouTube credit: The AP.

For instance, in the midst of the unprecedented anal exam that the entire state of Alaska is going through in search of Sarah Palin's identity, Damon jokes that he knows nothing about her, which is really funny. 'Cause, aside from the names of all her kids, that her oldest is going to Iraq, her daughter is 17 and pregnant and marrying the baby's father, she was almost Miss Alaska, has a Down's baby, her husband is First Dude, she's brought terrific success to Alaska in 24 months as governor, and the names and locations of every place she's ever step foot in since birth, I guess we really don't know a lot about her. US Weekly and, you're falling down on the job--"Gimme More"!

I love that he jokes about how he expects John McCain to die in office. But he missed the line where McCain just might beat Dick Cheney to the grave. And you know all hockey moms are a bunch of softies, especially those from plush, beachy, fair-weathered Alaska, so that joke is right on. I mean, hockey, Barbie, what's the diff?

There aren't enough small town ("really small town") jokes floating around, especially mayor jokes. We should thank Damon for reminding us how funny people with humble beginnings really are. Does he have polack jokes, too? I wonder.

Just to make sure no one misunderstands that he's not being serious, throwing that bit in about how things might go in a McCain presidency being like "a really bad Disney movie" should get him booked on Comedy Central by the weekend.

And just when I thought he couldn't get any funnier, he unloads the very best line of all about Palin--"I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago; that's an important--I wanna know that. I really do, because she's going to have the nuclear codes. Y'know? I wanna know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago, or if she banned books or tried to ban books. I mean, y'know, we can't--we can't have that..."

How he trails off at the end there is beyond precious! Let me add one more thing: he set this up perfectly by using the word "absurd" two or three times right before this joke. Matt Damon has just outdone Michael Richards in every way. This has got to be worth some award. I hope he wins big. Go Matt!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Laugh Rack 5-Can I haggle for those ninjas?


The ninjas sound spectacular, since they are on there twice.

I'd buy a cat and a ninja, but I was afraid they'd fight and make a real mess in the car. Mmmm, cake...

What James Dobson ate for dinner Aug. 29th

Crow. Did you catch that? Crow.

From a flat out rejection of Sen. John McCain in February to a possibly-maybe endorsement in July to now a full-fledged booya! in the wake of McCain's VP pick of Sarah Palin, James Dobson has made a red-faced reversal on who he'll vote for in November. Other than to make me writhe in pain on the floor from the sheer agony of it all, what was the point of all this "I hate you; don't leave me" hullabaloo?!

What if he would just say we should pray for all the candidates to do the right thing? What if he stopped picking one person to pin a blue ribbon onto? What if we all kept silent just a wee bit longer and gave objectivity a little more time to work its way through our minds? Seriously, is that asking too much?

A lesson to all of us evangelical, conservative Republicans out there stumping for a hero(ine) in politics. Open your mouth too soon and you may just discover a foot in it--your own. Rethink the idea of endorsing someone (or saying that you won't vote for a particular candidate "under any circumstances") as official position of your Christian organization and/or as the face of your like-minded community. Keep your endorsements personal and you may save yourself some embarrassment in the public eye, for you and members of the conservative Christian community. Ahem, that would be me.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Amazing Thing...

About Amazing Grace (the movie) is not the actors, although they were terrific. It was not the screenplay, although excellently written. It was not even the way the movie looked and felt, which was really, really good--almost fantastic. It took me a minute to ID Ioan Gruffudd, who plays William Wilberforce, as the same guy who played Mr. Fantastic in the much lesser movie The Fantastic Four, but thanks to his role here, I'm now a fan! The movie is filled with great scenes, but this exchange between Wilberforce and Lord Dundas on the floor of the English Parliament struck me like a bolt of lightning.

Lord Dundas: "I am in favor of the abolition of the slave trade. There's no doubt in my mind that this trade in human beings is an Almighty calumny and is a disgrace to this nation. However, I also take the point of my honorable friend, the member for Liverpool, if we were to outlaw the trade tomorrow, this would bring financial disaster to the many great cities and industries of this country. I therefore suggest a period of reflection--"

Wilberforce: "After a year and a half of privy counsel and investigation, what good would it do to delay the inevitable?"

Dundas: "Inevitable? Is my good friend already counting the votes before they are cast?"

Wilberforce: "I didn't mean that."

Dundas: "If the trade were to be abolished, I suggest we do so gradually. Violent storms sink ships. This great ship of state should not be sunk by a wave of good intention."

Substitute "abortion" for "slave trade," and you have what many say today about overturning Roe v Wade: I am personally against abortion, but I believe it should remain legal. Though the economics of retaining legal abortion are strained at best, pro-abortionists do try hard to make a case that unlimited access to abortion is a necessary part of our country's makeup.

As for the gradual part, I believe we are already on this path with informed consent laws, parental notification laws, and bans on late term abortions. I support these laws. It would be better, though, if lawmakers and judges would recognize the inherent humanity of the unborn and extend the right to life the same as the rest of us. That would be the human(e) thing to do.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Some Mormon Blog Tract

A Mormon who goes by the blog name MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS dropped what I can only describe as a tract of some kind off in the combox at Triablogue. For whatever reason, I decided to take up the cause of showing the hand correcting some errors contained therein. Here is the cut and paste, followed by my response:

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) is often accused by Evangelical pastors of not believing in Christ and, therefore, not being a Christian religion This article helps to clarify such misconceptions by examining early Christianity's theology relating to baptism, the Godhead, the deity of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

• Baptism: .

Early Christian churches, practiced baptism of youth (not infants) by immersion by the father of the family. The local congregation had a lay ministry. An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified.

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continues baptism and a lay ministry as taught by Jesus’ Apostles. Early Christians were persecuted for keeping their practices sacred, and prohibiting non-Christians from witnessing them.

• The Trinity: .

A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ , His Son , being separate , divine beings , united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration?

The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity , which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: "There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one."

Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Chairman of the Religion Department at UNC- Chapel Hill. He no longer believes in the Nicene Trinity. .

Scholars agree that Early Christians believed in an embodied God; it was neo-Platonist influences that later turned Him into a disembodied Spirit. Harper’s Bible Dictionary entry on the Trinity says “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.”

The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views the Trinity as three separate divine beings , in accord with the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts.

• Theosis

Divinization, narrowing the space between God and humans, was also part of Early Christian belief. St. Athanasius of Alexandria (Eastern Orthodox) wrote, regarding theosis, "The Son of God became man, that we might become God." . The Gospel of Thomas (which pre-dates the 4 Gospels, but was considered non-canonical by the Nicene Council) quotes the Savior: He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him. (Gospel of Thomas 50, 28-30, Nag Hammadi Library in English, J.M.Robinson, 1st ed 1977; 3rd ed. 1988) The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS agrees with Athanasius and Thomas regarding theosis.

• The Deity of Jesus Christ

Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists (28 percent of Episcopalians) agreed that Jesus was “without sin”, 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus was sinless.

• The Cross and Christ’s Atonement: .

The Cross became popular as a Christian symbol in the Fifth Century A.D. . Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) believe the proper Christian symbol is Christ’s resurrection , not his crucifixion on the Cross. Many Mormon chapels feature paintings of the resurrected Christ or His Second Coming. Furthermore, members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

• Definition of “Christian”: .

But Mormons don’t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. They believe Christ’s atonement applies to all mankind. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”: All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. They all worship the one and only true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and address Him in prayer as prescribed in The Lord’s Prayer.

It’s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be authentic Christians. . Early Christians had certain rituals which defined a Christian , which members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue today. . Please refer to:

If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.

• The Parallel with the “Rise of Christianity”

Rodney Stark in his book “The Rise of Christianity” found parallels with the rise of Mormonism:
A similar growth rate (40 percent for Christianity, and 43 percent for Mormonism) for both nascent religious movements. Conversions proceeded along social networking lines, primarily. While Christianity retained Jews’ belief in the Old Testament, Mormonism retains Creedal Christians’ belief in both the New and Old Testaments. The Romans martyred the Christian leaders, the mobs in Missouri and Illinois martyred the Mormon leaders. In both cases, they expected the fledgling movements to fail without their leaders.

• The Need for a Restoration of the Christian Church:

The founder of the Baptist Church in America, Roger Williams, just prior to leaving the church he established, said this:

"There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.” (Picturesque America, p. 502.)

Martin Luther had similar thoughts: "Nor can a Christian believer be forced beyond sacred Scriptures,...unless some new and proved revelation should be added; for we are forbidden by divine law to believe except what is proved either through the divine Scriptures or through Manifest revelation."

He also wrote: "I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. The spiritual powers have been not only corrupted by sin, but absolutely destroyed; so that there is now nothing in them but a depraved reason and a will that is the enemy and opponent of God. I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it.

"The Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) churches recognize an apostasy from early Christianity. The Lutheran and Baptist churches have attempted reform, but Mormonism (and Roger Williams, and perhaps Martin Luther) require inspired restoration, so as to re-establish an unbroken line of authority and apostolic succession.* * *

• Christ-Like Lives: The 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion published by UNC-Chapel Hill found that Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) youth (ages 13 to 17) were more likely to exhibit these Christian characteristics than Evangelicals (the next most observant group):

1. Attend Religious Services weekly
2. Importance of Religious Faith in shaping daily life – extremely important
3. Believes in life after death
4. Does NOT believe in psychics or fortune-tellers
5. Has taught religious education classes
6. Has fasted or denied something as spiritual discipline
7. Sabbath Observance
8. Shared religious faith with someone not of their faith
9. Family talks about God, scriptures, prayer daily
10. Supportiveness of church for parent in trying to raise teen (very supportive)
11. Church congregation has done an excellent job in helping teens better understand their own sexuality and sexual morality

LDS Evangelical
1. 71% 55%
2. 52 28
3. 76 62
4. 100 95
5. 42 28
6. 68 22
7. 67 40
8. 72 56
9. 50 19
10. 65 26
11. 84 35

So what do you think the motivation is for the Evangelical preachers to denigrate the Mormon Church? You would think Evangelical preachers would be emulating Mormon practices (a creed to believe, a place to belong, a calling to live out, and a hope to hold onto) which were noted by Methodist Rev. Kenda Creasy Dean of the Princeton Theological Seminary, as causing Mormon teenagers to “top the charts” in Christian characteristics. (see It seems obvious pastors shouldn't be denigrating a church based on First Century Christianity, with high efficacy. The only plausible reason to denigrate Mormons is for Evangelical pastors to protect their flock (and their livelihood).

My response on Triablogue:

Thank you, MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS, for giving me my daily OMG! moment. It's late at the time I'm reading your comment, so I apologize I will not be giving a thorough examination of your many propositions at this time. However, I will not forget you and will probably address much of your outrageousness on my own blog in the future.

Aside from the Trinity, the diety of Christ, and the Atonement, your points hailing LDS doctrine as "historic" Christianity is at best secondary and at worst, hollow of meaning when it comes to determining genuine faith in the Christian God. And, that's giving you too much credit for the things you did say about the Trinity, the diety of Christ, and the Atonement.

Here are your flaws:
1. The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity...

The Nicene Creed doesn't define the Trinity; it describes the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, being of "one substance" (Gk. homoousios) with each other. The Son is identified as "God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God" to which the creed follows with the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father (and the Son) to be interpreted as of the same substance as well. You sound as if you have never read the Nicene Creed and are not familiar with the formation of the Trinitarian doctrine, for anyone who has given it any serious look will know that Trinitarian doctrine is not based solely on 1 John.

In trying to elevate LDS beliefs concerning the Son to the level of orthodoxy, you discreetly failed to mention that LDS doctrine teaches a polytheistic understanding of the divine vs. the strict monotheism of 1st century Judaism (and hence, Christianity) and that Jesus the Incarnate Son of God is the product of sexual intercourse between the Father and Mary. Nowhere in the Bible is the Son treated as a separate god apart from the Father, nor a literal offspring of God; the Father and the Son are the same divine being worthy of worship across the Old and New Testaments. There are no "separate divine beings," as there are no separate divinities within historic Judaism and Christianity, so it is exceptionally erroneous to claim that LDS beliefs are "in accord with Greek New Testament manuscripts."

2. Scribes later added "the Father, the Word and the Spirit," and it remained in the epistle when it was translated into English for the King James Version, according to Dr. Bart Erhman...

Was it left in the KJV Bible that the LDS church uses itself?

Bart Erhman, as you cited, no longer believes in very much about Christianity at all today. Are you willing to continue to cite him even when his point of view also contradicts your own? Erhman is best known for his touting of problems in the Bible, an opinion that has been refuted publicly not once or twice, but three times in debates with Christian scholars (not to mention the number of times in print). Just what do you think his opinion would be toward the Book of Mormon, a book that has numerous problems with language, scholarship, and consistency with actual history and historic Christianity?

3. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS), Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son.

You fail to clarify that this statement should read "Jesus is not only a son of God literally but also a god himself called the Son," in accordance with true LDS doctrine. Mormon doctrine indeed teaches that God has fathered many children quite literally in the spirit realm with his spirit wives, and that you and I are also one of these incarnate sons (and daughters)--we're just not Jesus. That is about as far away from biblical teaching as you can get.

4. members of the church believe the major part of Christ’s atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane as Christ took upon him the sins of all mankind.

This is unsupported by the Bible. It is part of the orthodox understanding of the Atonement that the period at which Christ took upon the sins of the world was on the cross, specifically indicated when Jesus exclaimed that the Father had forsaken Him.

5. The Gospel of Thomas

Welcome to the funny farm. Not even reputable liberal scholars date the Gospel of Thomas to anything before 150 A.D., long after the last Gospel was written, not to mention that many of Paul's letters were written before even they. And why should we take seriously a "gospel" with talking crosses and men tall enough to reach the clouds (and beyond) compared to the four Gospels we have? Ridiculous. CORRECTION: This depiction is found in the Gospel of Peter, not the Gospel of Thomas, my mistake. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of Syriac Gnostic sayings attributed to Jesus which is completely uncharacteristic of the four Biblical gospels and shows a heavy influence by the Diatessaron, a work written by Tatian in 175 A.D. This means Thomas was an even later work, making the dating of it at the earliest of 150 A.D. fantastically generous.

Even what you quoted is a tell-tale sign of the later Gnosticism that existed beyond the New Testament church, and you need to know that it doesn't correspond to LDS teaching about the godhood of man (as you implied). To the Gnostics, it was more important that Jesus was enlightened (occupying a higher plane of existence in which knowledge was supreme) more than He was divine.

But this is what you must resort to doing: pulling out scraps of extremely bad scholarship and wacky ideas about Christian history and scholarship in order to prop up some semblance of credibility to the LDS Church. The problem that you haven't mentioned yet is that the LDS church doesn't even have any confidence in the Bible as the Word of God, from which Christianity ultimately flows. So far from being a part of the historic Christian faith, Mormonism is exactly its namesake, that which the Book of Mormon has wrought, to contradict your moniker that MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS.

Mormons need to have a truthful perspective on where the LDS church stands in the beliefs and doctrines of historic Christianity, which is firmly outside of the discussion entirely.

BTW, your comments are a little convenient in their format in that it looks like a prearranged troll or tract. You wouldn't happen to drop this little package off every so often on people's blogs now, would you?

Gene Bridges from Triablogue did confirm for me that Mormons are Christians' fly-by-night posting was a repeat from past comboxes, so I am confident that this is nothing more than a roadside ambush that appears on Christian blogs every so often.

I must give credit to some Mormons who are trying to learn new things and wrestle with how they believe their faith should fit into the scope of Christian history. However, ex nihilo nihilo fit (from nothing, nothing comes), and no Mormon can fabricate a position on the LDS church that fits in with historic Christianity where no such position can possibly exist.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Steve Wagner at ASU

My official alma mater is Boilermaker country in the midwest (Purdue), but I do adopt Arizona State University as a kind of "aunt" when it comes to schools I've attended and have a particular soft spot for (aside from the fact that I'm from AZ and ASU is the alma mater to my husband and sister and other members of my extended family and in-laws and great crowd of friends). Thus, when I ran across Steve Wagner's latest newsletter about his recent open air time at ASU, partnered with Justice For All, I was genuinely interested in the outcome of his encounter with students concerning the issue of abortion. I invite you to read it and think about the dialogue that took place between himself and one particular student.

I am convinced that this student's views are consistent with the vast majority of Americans on the issue of abortion. Most people (even former liberal Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry) are "personally against abortion," but cannot deny that the unborn are living humans that we can legally kill for reasons unrelated to medical necessity whatsoever.

We have come a long way to valuing the visible lives of women in human civilization. Isn't it about time we also valued them at the time when they are the most vulnerable and invisible--in the womb of their mothers?

(Steve Wagner is on staff with Stand to Reason, a Christian ministry that I would better term hard-hitting Christian thinktank or thinkarmory than anything else.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Distinctions, Part 2

Between Submission and Submission

Or perhaps, Submission vs. Submission. Now that I've said that husbands can submit to their wives without biblical violations, I can't let that fly without making another important distinction, the distinction between the kind of submission a husband should have to his wife and vice versa. I tend to agree with David's thoughts in an earlier post that men and women are created differently and that those differences need to be respected (and I would also add NOT exploited) in how spouses submit to each other.

I've commented earlier that the question for Complementarians is not how much submitting should be excercised, but what kind. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem makes the case that the role of a wife includes a unique kind of submission that wives should afford their husbands that isn't replicated in any other type of relationship. I see nothing wrong with that. After all, my husband only has one wife--me--and logically should receive a unique and designated kind of love and respect (and deference) from me that I don't show to anyone else.

Likewise, a husband should show his wife a unique kind of love and respect (and submission) toward his wife that isn't replicated in any other relationship either.

Is this submission "mutual?" Yes. Is it equivalent? Definitely not. But what is submission anyway? Even in defining submission within the marriage context, there are varying connotations. Complementarianism holds that men and women do not require and are not made to require the same kind of submission from each other, but do require the appropriate submission from each other. Even Egalitarians seem to use the word 'submit' a little differently when referring to whomever is doing the submitting. Again, the issue is about the nature of submitting, not how much or how often or to what degree one should submit to the other and if the other should reciprocate in equal quantities. I realize that this is a rather broad generality, and I think scripturally it is meant to be.

To throw a little more perspective onto things, imagine if wives always contested their husbands. Imagine if husbands continually ignored their wives. (Do we really need to imagine?) Now we can understand why Paul would spend time addressing the marriage relationship in scripture, for it appears that it was because wives were not submitting to their own husbands that Paul makes his declarations.

Perhaps this is where I should have started from the beginning. There is plenty of fear and suspicion to be had without a clear understanding of the motivations of the Apostle Paul whenever Christians talk about any kind of submission. We still have a long way to go to reach clarity, but I hope my making a distinction here contributes in some small way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Distinctions, Part 1

This is a series that I am writing for the Complegalitarian blog. In an effort to spread controversy as far and wide as I can (which may not be very far, but here I go anyway), I am reproducing it here for my own blog.

Making Distinctions...

Between Patriarchy and Complementarianism
As I see it, ground level complementarianism simply states that there are divinely purposed roles for men and women to function in the family and in the church (yes, some roles not being swappable). Patriarchy can be seen as an extreme form of complementarianism, but I believe that its characteristics are less an extension of Complementarianism and more like Complementarianism's 'cult,' like the Jehovah's Witnesses are to Christianity(1). Therefore, I find much about patriarchy's views on complementarian principles objectionable.

1. Husband/father headship. Complementarianism simply gives the husband/father the role of representative leader that carries a unique accountability to God (Genesis 3). With that role logically comes a certain amount of authority. Complementarianism does not place the husband over the wife in terms of authority but logically maintains that deference be given to him because of his position. Is this a "priviledge?" If it is, it is a slight one and one not without narrow limits. This is not male hierarchy or male superiority any more than it is female inferiority.

Patriarchy seeks to centralize all authority to the head position and expands its reach into areas of life that minimizes the other figure in the marriage and home, namely the wife. Patriarchy views wives as means to the husbands' ends. From this point of view comes all the examples of husbands micromanaging (to put it nicely) their wives' lives for the purpose of making husbands' lives fulfilled and convenient. This is neither biblical nor justifiable. Scripture gives to the man a wife as a helper. Nowhere does the Lord God call her a maid, a butler, a servant, a tool, and certainly not a slave. As my pastor once preached as well, "Marriage is not to make you happy; it is to make you holy." Indeed, God commands the man to leave his home (meaning his familial identity) and cleave to his wife, yet patriarchy insists on the husband making the wife conform to his leanings and identity. One could more biblically state that the husband should be the one conforming more to his wife's identity instead.

What does the position of head contain? A man has the responsibility to make sure that what he and his family does is right in the sight of God, simply put. He is the one that has to answer for the collective state of his household; this doesn't mean that he speaks for his wife as an individual, but for both husband and wife as a unit.

2. One flesh unity in marriage. Complementarians and Egalitarians both agree that husband and wife should act together in building the character of their marriage and family. Patriarchy seeks to make this task univocal rather than in unity, and since authority is centralized in the husband, he then might find himself deciding things that he likely has little wisdom to give, like how many babies his wife should bear, what clothes his wife should wear, determining the occupations of his children beforehand, etc. The result is clearly not one flesh unity, but forced conformity (as discussed above).

3. Eve was created to be Adam's helper/helpmate. Complementarianism acknowledges that Eve wasn't just any female, but Adam's wife, pointing to a relationship between the two that existed the moment she began to exist. Outside of this relationship, who Adam and Eve were to each other would have been meaningless. Similarly, as Complementarians apply the Adam & Eve theme to the rest of humanity, it only makes sense in a marriage relationship that a woman is her man's helpmate. Therefore, there cannot be any patriarchal generalization that females in society are helpers to males in society. Thus, it is not wrong for women to hold positions of civic authority over men and similarly not wrong for women to have authority over men in the church provided that their authority does not violate a more foundational principle of 1 Tim. 2:12 (that women cannot have authority in church over their own husbands).

4. Wives are to submit to their husbands. That 'wives are to submit to their husbands' does not conversely mean that husbands are not to submit to their wives, yet this is precisely what patriarchy implicitly holds. (Oh, perhaps husbands may submit to their wives, but in patriarchal terms, such submitting must be done only if he wills or desires to submit. Pathetic.) A wife's submission is to God first and to her husband second and that submission to her husband is because of her submission to God. I am not now going to kill wifely submission with a thousand qualifications, so please don't misunderstand when I say that when a husband is sinful in his treatment and demands of his wife, her obligation not to sin is greater than her obligation to submit to her husband, so a wife should not feel compelled to obey the will of her husband in those times. Let me be redundant for clarity: a husband's sin need not be his wife's sin as well.

5. Should a husband submit to his wife? We've asked this question before on Complegalitarian without making this particular distinction, so allow me to make it here. Patriarchy says 'no.' Complementarians should correct the question to read "When should a husband submit to his wife?" As stated above, the mandate that wives are to submit to their husbands doesn't negate the fact that husbands need to listen and submit to their wives--when?--on the occasions that they should submit to their wives. This is what "mutual submission" means to me. It isn't 50/50, because 50/50 can be unjust by disregarding the nature of the subject.

First of all, these are not contrary statements. One may now try to accuse me of using an argument from silence, but I'll remind us that it is legitimate when we would expect circumstances to otherwise contradict the silence. In a couple of instances in scripture, we see married women acting without any explicit direction from their husbands in action very much in accordance to the providence of God.

Example 1 - In Genesis 2:1-4, Moses' mother orchestrates the saving of Moses' infant life by putting him into the basket in the river and then directing Miriam to watch over the baby.

Example 2 - To Moses again, his wife is the one that decides to circumsize their sons without his intitial knowledge.(Exod. 4:24-26) If patriarchy (the kind we're talking about) were the case, we would expect to see a reprimand of some kind of both women for making decisions that their husbands had to comply with--ahem--submitted to. But we don't. Instead, we see Yahweh's implicit approval of these women as having acted in accordance to His will when (especially in the latter case) the husband had not.

As a Complementarian, I see many problems with Patriarchy and agree with many of our Egalitarian commenters about them. However, I do object to the blurring of Complementarianism to share Patriarchy's views in the same way and in the same relationship.

(1) The most striking similarity about this comparison is the psychological irony that both Jehovah's Witnesses and Patriarchalists seem to play out, that all things so done by the ruling authority in the name of loving God and loving family actually end up robbing God and family of the love they truly ought to receive by substituting a false love of cultish control and demanding compliance in all things.