Archive for August, 2007

I wish I could have done this.  I understand his sentiment…. and my second child has not arrived yet.  It ends on a good note…

… that was one of my mini-epiphanies while CavWife was at the Beth Moore Event.  My tendency is to focus on the disappointing/frustrating.  But there are so many great experiences with my daughter to focus on- much more important.  If we focus on the whining and disobedience, our hearts easily become embittered.  But… to show her the gospel in real life, I must forgive and forebear.  Even better, rejoice over those great moments that do occur each day.

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I was looking at my Roadrunner polls again.  The question was: What is the #1 priority in your life? (71,366 respondents thus far).

66%  Family & friends

12% Religion

8%  Money

6%  Other

5%  Fun

2%  Pets (I doubt they all live in Seattle)

For a culture that focuses on family and friends as the number 1 priority, how come we have so many fractured relationships?  Why is money the primary argument in marriage?  And probably between parents and teens. 

I guess these are more aspirations than lived out priorities.  The rather low % of people putting God in a nation where 80% claim to believe in God is shocking.  I guess they don’t grasp the fact that God is our highest good, the one who alone can claim the right to be our #1 priority.  This just shows that we truly are idol factories (Calvin).

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The 3rd chapter of Velvet Elvis is called True, and I think I know what Rob Bell is trying to say, and I estimate I agree with about 90-95% of it.  I only say I think I know because Rob is not writing to me, someone who prefers precision, but for a group of “spiritual” people who want to find a non-dogmatic religion.

What is Rob “trying” to say?  That there is such a thing as General Revelation, and that all truth (not just what you might think is true) has the triune God as its source.  It is his world, and not all truth is found in Scripture (though all Scripture is true).  So, other religions have fragments of truth.  His example is Muslims being debt adverse.  I’d tell Rob that this is actually a biblical idea they happen to share with us.  So, other religions have areas of overlap with Christianity.

But he doesn’t put it that way, which opens the door for pluralism (even if he didn’t intend it).  This is where Rob’s non-linear style, focused on tangentially related stories does him a disservice.

Rob makes a good point that many kids who grow up in fundamentalist homes think that the church as a market on truth.  So they go to college and some prof blows their mind and they leave their faith behind.  Yep, happens.  The problem is not Christianity but parents who don’t live in the real world, nor prepare their kids for the real world.

Where Rob really loses me is in talking about missionaries “transporting God” to other cultures.  He sees this as a basic misunderstanding some have about missionaries.  God is everywhere.  Yep- with you.  But I’ve never heard of any misguided person talk about “bringing God” to other people.  Bringing the gospel, yes.

And I guess this is what saddens me about sections of this book.  He does what John McArthur often does- take an extreme, often foolish example as though it were the norm for a particular group of people he doesn’t really like or agree with.  So, Rob pokes fun at Fundamentalists and how goofy they are (and they really can be).  But he never really says that is who they are- so your average conservative Christian whose not as hip as some, gets painted as guilty by association.  Don’t want to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints or you are a “wall builder”, and that is bad.  Don’t want to say “Scripture alone” because some dolt in Idaho uses that to defend his strange views.  Sola Scriptura becomes bad.

I guess I’d like it if Rob just said something like, “I grew up Fundamentalist” (I don’t know if that’s true), “and had a bad reaction.”  I prefer if he expressed his prejudices so people would know upfront instead of us having to read between the lines.  He’s not objective- but neither is he upfront about his true convictions.

(I am a Christian who finds his heritage in the conservative, evangelical, Reformed, Prebyterian, missional branch of the church.  I grew up Catholic, converted in college was a Conservative Baptist => Reformed Baptist => PCA/ARP.  Just to be fair, you know.)

Add-on:  I slept on the chapter and had some additional thoughts.  Rob is not really repainting the Christian view of faith here, just disagreeing with a fringe element.  But what is disappointing, is that Rob provides no real framework for people to separate the true from the fascinating.  His example of kids going to to college is important.  At college, some of what they hear will be true, but lots of it will be fascinating half-truths, false interpretations etc.  I don’t think that has changed much from when I went to college.  You have many different theories of economics, psychology, politics etc.  Many of these can seem fascinating, for they “ring true” to someone’s experience.  But interesting/fascinating does not truth make.  Non-Christians know lots of true things.  But, due to the noetic effect of the Fall, they have a tendency to mis-interpret reality by denying the Creator.  Becoming a Christian does not utterly remove that tendency.  But Rob opens the floodgates without providing any sort of way for a young person to discern what is true and what is false.  I guess he’s assuming someone else, an agenda-driven prof perhaps, will provide that.

Repainting truth from the reality of General Revelation => (what sounds like) Pluralism.

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It is time to renew my driver’s license, and this provides an opportunity to reconsider my political affiliation.  As a pastor, I decided to remain unaffiliated.  I’m now thinking this was a mistake- I am not involved in my civic duty during primaries.  That is an increasing problem for me. 

Which party is pretty much a no-brainer for me.  I know it isn’t for some other folks.  I don’t think either party is “Christian”, or that Christians only vote for people in one party.  But as I look at the big picture this is how I see it.

One party focuses on structural evil, virtually denies personal evil (except for hypocrisy), wants to expand government to deal with structural evil (since government is apparently free from structural evil), and its members tend to remain in office regardless of the scandals they face.

One party focuses on personal evil, recognizes that its own members can do evil, and usually has them step down, expects/demand personal initiative, and  expands government at a slightly slower pace.

I’m looking for the party (which does not exist) that recognizes both personal and structural evil, recognizes that government is not the solution but does have a responsibility to punish evil-doers, limits government programs to lower tax rates so citizens can have the resources to spend money in the economy (creating jobs) and save money (to create capital and prepare for retirement).

So, like the rest of you I must choose the lesser of two evils.  In a fallen world this is an all too common dilema.  But I now think I need to be involved in the process earlier (not just by watching lame debates either).

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Ted Haggard has apparently sent out a fundraising letter, verified by CT’s David Neff.  This is to support his wife while they both study psychology at the University of Phoenix the next 2 years.  His overseers were taken by surprise (shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention). 

The big issue raised is why he should need financial help.  According to newspaper reports:

“Haggard received a salary of $115,000 for the 10 months he worked in 2006 and an $85,000 anniversary bonus before the scandal broke, according to church officials. The church’s board of trustees gave him a severance package that included a year’s salary ($138,000). He also collects royalties on his many book titles.

“Haggard owns a home in Colorado Springs that has been for sale. It has a market value of $715,051, according to records from the El Paso County assessor.”

He should have enough money available to get through a 2 year program.  I did it (and after the 3 year MDIV).  I just didn’t expect to live at a upper class standard.  Ted… he does- and wants people like you to pay for it.

HT: Between Two Worlds

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Vacation, It Be Over

We left gorgeous upstate NY, clear skies and 70’s, this morning to arrive in the inferno we call home- Florida.  The last week of vacation was far more relaxing.  CavDaughter had a blast playing with her cousins, and roaming the many acres that make up the Farm.  There were lots of berry bushes to plunder, and fallen apples to gnaw on.  They could play outside all day.

CavWife was able to go to a Beth Moore event in Providence, RI with her mom, 2 of her sisters and a sister-in-law.  She had a great time- encouraged by both the teaching and worship in song.  The focus was on 2 Peter 1- that we have all we need to live godly lives in Christ, and how to grow in maturity.  I really wanted her to be able to go as we continue a time of transition.  Mission accomplished!

Sunday night the church her family attends had a cookout in the afternoon.  They were able to borrow some inflatables from Word of Life.  So CavDaughter enjoyed bouncing in the Moonwalk.  My nieces really wanted to get tickled.  Then my daughter and a few cousins derived great joy in climbing over my back.  Yeah, I don’t get it either. 

Monday night we had a big Mexican dinner to say goodbye- for now.  It is hard being so far away from so much of her family.  They are pretty close- closer than mine.  There were tears aplenty this morning as we packed up and left for the airport.

On a great side note, after 2 1/2 years of work, the APA (the environmental agency of the Adirondacks) approved the final subdivision of the property into 5 more lots.  Today her brother got a building permit for his lot.  They should break ground this week on their home.

Our daughter has flown roundtrip 6 times, and this was the first time she was scared.  She just freaked on take off.  She was able to calm down, but was anxious during the landing.  And now we are home… sweet, hot home.

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In the second chapter of Velvet Elvis called Yoke, Rob Bell tackles the issues of authority and interpretation.  He provides some interesting background information, showing that he is well-read.  He continues the practice of asking questions instead of answering questions.  In the process, as in the previous chapter, he unwittingly (?) seems to set people up to question themselves right out of orthodox Christianity.  Here are some examples.


“Notice this verse from 1 Corinthians: ‘To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…’  Here we have Paul writing to a group of Christians, and he wants to make it clear that the next thing he is going to say comes from him, ‘not the Lord’.”

Rob does not discuss the context of this passage from 1 Corinthians 7.  Paul differentiates his counsel which is coming from the Old Testament, and that which is not found there.  Are we to take Paul to mean that we don’t need to heed this instruction because it’s from him and not God?  I don’t think so.  I’m not going to start chopping my Bible up into what God says and what the human author says.  But Rob’s statements undermine the authority of Paul’s instruction (unless I’m really missing something here).


In keeping with his anti-fundamentalist bent, he turns his gaze to the Southern Baptist Convention (without naming names).

“The reason their annual gathering was in the news was that they had voted to reaffirm their view of the importance of the verse that says a wife’s role is submit to her husband.  This is a big deal to them.  This is what made the news.  This is what they are known for.”


Last I checked the SBC didn’t control the news outlets.  I have some bones to pick with them too, but this is not one of them.  It made news because it is so counter-cultural.  I applaud them for not giving in to cultural pressure to somehow water down Scripture.

But Rob has a question or two.  First, “What about the verse before that verse?  “What about the verse after it?” The prior verse is a summary statement that we should submit to one another (a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit).  Paul then lays out some examples- wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers (yes, I made an epochal shift there out of slavery).  No one says that parents should submit to their children, or that employers should submit to their employees.  But somehow Paul is not to be taken to mean that wives should submit to their husbands.  He wants you to doubt that it really means this, and the SBC is foolish for believing it (Neanderthals!).  I guess Christ should submit to us.


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