Jun 16 2013

Thoughts about my dad

Category: family,God,love,marriageharmonicminer @ 10:17 am

This was written in October of 1997. My dad passed on about 6 months later.

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Recently I’ve thought a great deal about my father and what he has meant to me. This isn’t the first time I’ve considered his influence in my life, and the lives of many others, but perhaps my perspective is a little better in more recent years. He’s just turned 85. I’m 45, and my wife and I are expecting our third child in several months.

My Dad is first and foremost a man of God. At the very center of every part of his life is his love for God, and his trust in God’s promises. I have never known a man of greater integrity. As a child, the man I saw in the pulpit preaching was exactly the same man who sat at the dinner table with his family. Nearly everyone else I know has a “public” persona and a “private” persona, but Dad was and is simply himself.

My Dad isn’t a flashy guy. As a minister, he didn’t “turn on the charm” like a modern, glamorous mega-churchman should. As unrealistic as it may seem to the jaded sensibilities and expectations of many who attend church today, he is pretty much without artifice. In the multiple staff, high concept modern church, some ecclesiastical policy wonk would probably say that “his gifts are pastoral”. Perhaps a better explanation would be that he is simply, gently, firmly who he believes his God wants him to be. I know that everywhere he pastored, lives were changed, and many came to understand God’s love a little better through knowing him. Many of these people have stayed in touch with him and Mom over the decades, recognizing them to be the thoroughly remarkable people that they are.

My Dad is a better man than me. No doubt some shrink would like to make much of that simple statement, but I think it’s accurate. Although I believe my self-esteem is in fine working order, I still hope someday to attain his levels of gentleness, patience, self-discipline, basic courage and faith. Of course, I harbor similar hopes for most readers of this document.

My Dad was a “promise keeper” before there were marches on Washington and big testosterone rallies in football stadiums. Before the excesses of modern feminism obliterated much of its benefits, he was doing dishes, and making sure his sons did, too. He helped with math as needed. He and Mom made it a point to go to games, concerts and other school activities where their children were involved. He did his best to help them become educated. One or the other of them drove me to and from countless rehearsals for all kinds of musical activities, sometimes far across a large city. He was and is a loving husband who cherishes his wife, and doesn’t mind showing it. Before the civil rights movement had impacted much of America, Dad and Mom made it a point to raise non-racist children, by words, deeds and attitudes, even when we lived in the south. I remember his prayers as being clearly heartfelt, not mere formalities around the dinner table. I have some memories from age 5 or so, of his gentle hand stroking my head. I can still feel it, if I concentrate. At that age, his legs seemed to me like tree trunks, and I have clear memories of hanging on to one of them as he greeted people after church.

My Dad put up a basketball backboard in our backyard, mounted on a telephone pole. He played catch with me. It was due to his efforts that I finally caught on to the essential simplicity of subscript notation for related variables in algebra (I kept trying to treat the subscripts as exponents). He taught me that good two-part harmony consists mostly of 3rds and 6ths. He grinned at me when I managed to sing a particularly tricky line as an early adolescent tenor in the church choir. He and Mom managed to keep their own counsel, not to mention their sanity, as I played the same weird jazz chord progressions on the piano over and over and over, till I’d memorized how they sounded. On those rare occasions when I played a piano offertory on Sunday night, he generously refrained from asking me what song I’d played, as I tried out every strange chord God had invented up till then. And although I don’t think he ever really liked it much, he and Mom came to jazz concerts where I played my trumpet, making moderately musical noises that were probably never heard in the rural Wisconsin of his youth. I think he even applauded, politely. I hope I’m able to display as much tolerance of the music that my kids like.

I know it’s a truism, but as I get older, I realize occasionally just how much my Dad knows about living well. I’ve lost more often than I’ve won from not taking his advice on this matter or that. I’ve seen him find ways to enjoy life, even though his last few years have been painful and difficult at times, as he’s suffered many physical maladies. Thankfully, his mind is still very sharp; he still makes subtle verbal jokes and then looks at me to see if I get it. Sometimes I do.

I haven’t always agreed with Dad’s opinions about matters theological, political, social, ecclesiological or aesthetic. We’ve had more than one mildly heated discussion about some point of disagreement, even in recent years. I suspect that the fact that we’re both certain of each other’s love is part of what makes that possible. I’m usually right, of course….. but I try not to be too obvious about it, just for the sake of discussion. After all, a son should show proper respect for his father.

It’s impossible to think of Dad without thinking of Mom in the same breath. They’ve had a most unusual union, I suspect, one that can only come about with two unusual people, doing their best to seek God’s will in their lives. It would probably have served the marriage counseling industry well to toss out the majority of texts, and come interview my folks.

I think Dad is probably held in high regard by virtually everyone who knows him at all. I’m pretty sure that isn’t due to the slick sales job he does on people. Most of us just know the genuine article when we see it. I’m sure God agrees with this assessment, and is getting a bit anxious to have Dad all to himself. In recent years, Dad has had lots of illnesses to go through, and has weathered them so far. In what are probably theologically unsound moments, I’ve sometimes wondered if God isn’t just gently trying to convince him that it’s time to come home. But Dad was always just a touch determined once he’d started a course of action, and besides, he REALLY loves my Mom. So I suppose God will have to be patient a little while longer.


Sep 17 2012

Remembering Jennifer

Category: Beauty,family,friendship,God,love,UncategorizedMrs. Miner @ 10:54 pm

This was first posted in September of 2009, shortly after the passing of Jennifer Tinker, my student.  On this anniversary of her passing, this seems a good time to remember her beautiful life.  Here’s the original post:

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When I walked into Jennifer’s hospital room, I was initially surprised at the number of people present.  The pediatric intensive care unit doesn’t usually allow more than a few visitors at a time. The hospital staff was letting us say goodbye.

Peggy and I hugged.  There are no words for a mother at a time like this.  Then we both turned to Jennifer.  She was unconscious, breathing like my father had breathed during his last twenty four hours.  I noted the display of her vitals, grim confirmation of the obvious.  Family members were present that I had not yet met.  Introductions were made, and I sat down with silent prayers of support for a family in indescribable pain.

Conversations would start and stop.  Grandma softly sang hymns while stroking Jenny’s face.  Big sister Sarah leaned from her chair and partly lay across Jennifer.  (Maybe, if she could just hold tightly enough…)  Jennifer would occasionally open her eyes, look around briefly, then go back to sleep.  I was told that she had roused earlier in the day, alert enough to demand the remote control for the TV.  Hey, Tom and Jerry rocks.

Jennifer was born with a rare genetic disorder which resulted in a host of problems, including legal blindness, skeletal anomalies, learning difficulties and pulmonary hypertension, a fatal disorder of the heart and lungs.   She attended public school for a time, but became too frail to continue.  Our school district contacted me and asked if I would be interested in teaching Jennifer in her home.  After meeting with Jennifer and her mother, I gladly accepted the position.

Jennifer’s house was modest.  She had three sisters still living at home, and they all shared one bedroom.  There was no father.  Peggy, fiercely devoted to her children, seemed undaunted by her many challenges, drawing strength from extended family, church, and her Lord.  Jennifer was surrounded in love by a family that had truly learned to treasure what’s important in this life.

I quickly grew accustomed to her oxygen tank and was even able to avoid stepping on the tubing that accompanied Jennifer everywhere she went.  After a little more time, I nearly stopped seeing them altogether.  Jennifer was just … Jennifer.  Fourteen years old when I met her, she only weighed about sixty pounds, but she had a big attitude.  She was assertive, even stubborn, and her family and I would have it no other way.

Sweet Pea, one of two tiny canine family members, merely tolerated my presence, but she and Jennifer adored one another.  When Jennifer was feeling worse than usual, Sweet Pea would hop into her lap, seeming to comfort both of them.  In turn, Jennifer took excellent care of her dogs, leaping to their defense when I threatened one or both of the creatures with barbecue sauce.

Jennifer and I worked out of a small room Peggy had set up for that purpose.  This room was Jennifer’s domain, and she took great pride in her school work and in keeping her materials organized.  It never ceased to amaze and sometimes shame me that Jennifer accepted her many limitations without complaint. She was determined to find the good in all situations and never missed an opportunity to laugh.  Once, we read through The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  When I asked what the troll had in mind for the goats, Jennifer gleefully replied, “He wants to eat them!”  She licked her lips. Then she giggled.  Oh, that giggle…  It filled the room and made you laugh right along.

Jennifer was generous.  Sometimes I arrived at her home to find a brownie or some other example of her growing culinary skills waiting for me.  When my son had surgery, she sent him a homemade get-well card.  This required Jennifer to hold her face about three inches from the paper while she worked on the greeting.  She certainly wasn’t going to let a small annoyance like legal blindness stop her from encouraging another.

Jennifer’s life was worth living, and she lived it well.  I’ve heard some say she is “resting in peace,” but I see her running for the first time.  Running, running, running… into her Father’s arms.

Jennifer Monique Tinker

January 10, 1994-September 17, 2009

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After Jennifer’s passing, Harmonicminer of these parts composed a choral composition in memory of her.  Here’s a link and a description.   With some luck, we’ll be able to post a recording soon.

 


Jul 21 2012

The real first chapter of Genesis

Category: economy,freedom,funny but sad,God,government,humorharmonicminer @ 3:42 pm

Deep in the bowels of the third basement level of the Sears Tower in Chicago, a heretofore unknown manuscript has been discovered, a scroll believed by Keynsian scholars to predate the earliest known copy of the book of Genesis by at least two centuries.

It is now available for public viewing on the internet.

You only THOUGHT you knew the real story of Creation.


Feb 20 2012

The Beauty of Greatness

Category: Beauty,God,musicamuzikman @ 2:11 am

I am inclined to think of greatness (or excellence if you will)  and beauty as sometimes synonymous.  There is a particular kind of beauty displayed and sensed when something is done with unparalleled excellence, something performed, created, written or otherwise constructed with an instantly recognizable quality that surpasses the very best that most of us could ever hope to accomplish.

We are all guilty of using descriptive adjectives in our everyday language that casually exaggerate the quality of what we are describing.  Words like awesome, great, amazing, spectacular, and glorious seem to roll off our tongues with daily frequency to the point of meaninglessness.  We say, “I just met a great guy”, but how many truly great people do we ever meet in our lifetime?  Pity the word, “awesome”, it never had a chance.  Once the word became idiomatic for virtually anything someone liked or thought of as “cool” it became a word without meaning beyond a general statement of approval.  How many times in our lives have we ever come in contact with something or someone that really deserves the descriptive, “awesome”?

The word “glory” has met a similar fate within the church, I fear.  We ascribe glory to God in word and in song with seldom a thought about what we are saying.  I dare say that the briefest encounter with God’s glory would leave us face down trembling on the floor for quite some time.

But sometimes we are blessed by a rare encounter with true greatness.  Sometimes we get a glimpse of pure excellence. When we are confronted with awesome we start to realize how silly we are when we trivialize the word. And when these moments come, we discover a particular kind of beauty whose expression lies somewhere beyond words.  And especially if what we see or hear is within the sum of our own personal striving for excellence, then I think there is another level of beauty to be experienced.  It goes deeper than mere appreciation or understanding.  It goes much farther than relating to or identifying with.  It is, in fact, much like climbing a very steep and very tall mountain.  Only someone who has experienced the rocky incline for several miles and several thousand feet can really understand something about what it must take to stand on the peak.

I think herein lies a very good reason to earnestly seek excellence.  For it is in the striving, the sweat, the persistence, the sometimes triumphs and too often failures that we develop both an understanding of, and deep sense of oneness with that which is truly great.

I have come to grips with the fact, that, in spite of many years of trying, I will never be a great musician. Good will have to do.  But I thank God my journey has brought me to a place where I can weep with joy at the beauty of hearing truly great musicians perform. Still, I don’t think I would know great without having sought it.  I believe few now know what it means to be great or excellent.  It has lost its meaning, a victim of trivialization, and it is a journey few are willing to take because it is a prize seldom gained.  Let’s face it, greatness and excellence don’t go hand in hand with instant gratification.  Many simply wait to be told something is great, then nod their assent. Sadly, whether or not it is doesn’t seem to matter.  I’m glad it still matters to me.


Feb 15 2012

American Catholicism’s pact with the Devil?

In this article at ToRenewAmerica, I wrote about the failure of the “Seamless Garment” perspective of Cardinal Bernadin to provide a proper moral compass for Catholics and other Christians by equating the moral necessity to resist abortion with the promotion of essentially socialist perspectives on society and government, making resistance to abortion the hostage of socialist policies.  Bernadin’s positions on this have provided cover for way too many Catholics to support leftist, pro-abortion politicians, in the name of vague sounding concern for the poor, politicians whose policies and enacted laws have had a distinctly non-vague, and very negative impact on life in these United States.

And now the comeuppance of these very confused Christians and Catholics has arrived, in the form of a President Obama whom they helped to elect, a president whose plan all along was to find a way to force all Americans to pay for abortifacient birth control, even if it is against their religious beliefs.

Now, Professor Paul Rahe has written on American Catholicism’s Pact With The Devil.

….the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

I do not mean to say that I would prefer that the bishops, nuns, and priests sit down and shut up. Barack Obama has once again done the friends of liberty a favor by forcing the friends of the administrative entitlements state to contemplate what they have wrought. Whether those brought up on the heresy that public provision is akin to charity will prove capable of thinking through what they have done remains unclear. But there is now a chance that this will take place, and there was a time – long ago, to be sure, but for an institution with the longevity possessed by the Catholic Church long ago was just yesterday – when the Church played an honorable role in hemming in the authority of magistrates and in promoting not only its own liberty as an institution but that of others similarly intent on managing their own affairs as individuals and as members of subpolitical communities.

In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernardin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many. 

 

There is more at the link, all worth reading, and pretty forthright in its condemnation of the Catholic church leadership’s “deal with the devil,” that is, its deal with the powers of the state.  Basically, it failed to render unto God what is God’s, and gave way too much away to Caesar, and was aided in this by liberal Christians of all stripes.


Dec 06 2011

The Earth’s wild ride?

Category: God,scienceharmonicminer @ 2:10 pm

I’ve written in Someone To Watch Over Us about how the universe appears to be fraught with dangers to life.   Complex life must be incredibly rare,  because long lasting ecospheres that can support life over billions of years seem to be thin on the ground, as it were.  The article excerpted below discusses the “wild ride” of the Earth’s solar system through all kinds of hazards to life, which include dust clouds, supernovas, black holes, gamma ray bursts, etc.  Scientists are only beginning to gather the kind of data they need to really understand what challenges to life have already affected our solar system and the Earth.  But already, with hundreds of planets discovered around nearby suns, only one seems likely to support liquid water on its surface (if it has any water, which we don’t know, the surface temperature may allow liquid water, based on its distance from its star). 

The Earth seems to have dodged the most deadly bullets so far.  On another interpretation, Someone is perhaps just pushing us out of the way of them.

Earth’s wild ride: Our voyage through the Milky Way

FOR billions of years, Earth has been on a perilous journey through space. As our planet whirls around the sun, the whole solar system undertakes a far grander voyage, circling our island universe every 200 million years. Weaving our way through the disc of the Milky Way, we have drifted through brilliant spiral arms, braved the Stygian darkness of dense nebulae, and witnessed the spectacular death of giant stars.

Many of these marvels may well have been deadly, raining lethal radiation onto Earth’s surface or hurling huge missiles into our path. Some may have wiped out swathes of life, smashed up continents or turned the planet to ice. Others may have been more benign, perhaps even sowing the seeds of life.

A long time ago, in this galaxy but far, far away… the sky is packed with bright stars and glowing nebulae, far denser than today’s tame heavens. But this scene is not to last. A great curving wave of stars picks up the solar system like a scrap of flotsam, sweeping it out into the empty galactic fringes, far from its forgotten homeland.

…….Some measurements imply the sun is richer in heavy elements than the average star in our neighbourhood, suggesting it was born in the busy central zone of the galaxy, where stellar winds and exploding stars enrich the cosmic brew more than in the galactic suburbs. ………

The sky blossoms with brilliant, blue-white young stars, some still cocooned in a gauze of the gas from which they formed. The brightest shines with the light of 20,000 suns, but its brilliance is a warning sign. Soon the star will explode, banishing the night for several weeks. Unlike the life-giving warmth of the sun, this light will bring death.

In a nearby spiral arm of the Milky Way, more than 1000 light years away from our solar system’s present position, lies the Orion nebula, a birthplace of giant stars. Our solar system must at times have drifted much closer to such stellar nurseries. To do so is to flirt with disaster. A massive star burns its fuel rapidly, and in a few million years its core can collapse, unleashing the vast energy of a supernova.

X-rays from a supernova just tens of light years away could deplete or destroy Earth’s ozone layer, letting in harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. High-energy protons, or cosmic rays, would continue to bombard Earth for decades, depleting ozone, damaging living tissue and possibly seeding clouds to spark climate change. Such convulsions might have triggered some of the mass extinctions that so cruelly punctuate the history of life on Earth – perhaps even hastening the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, according to a theory formulated in the 1990s.

Evidence for past supernovae is thin on the ground, although in 1999 German researchers found traces of iron-60 in south Pacific sediments (Physical Review Letters, vol 83, p 18). This isotope, with a half-life of 2.6 million years, is not made in significant quantities by any process on Earth, but is expelled by supernovae. The interpretation is disputed, but if iron-60 is a supernova’s dirty footprint, it suggests a star exploded only a few million years ago within about 100 light years of us.

Planetary scientist Ian Crawford of Birkbeck, University of London, suggests we can look to the moon to find clear evidence of such astro-catastrophes. “The moon is a giant sponge soaking up everything thrown at it as we go around the galaxy,” he says. Cosmic rays from a supernova will plough into the moon, leaving trails of damage in surface minerals that will be visible under a microscope and knocking atoms about to create exotic isotopes such as krypton-83 and xenon-126.

….

The darkness is coming. It starts with just a small patch of starless black, but slowly grows until it blots out the sky. For a half a million years, the sun is the only visible star. As alien dust and gas rains down and pervades our atmosphere, Earth is swathed in white cloud and gripped with ice; a pale mirror to the dark cosmic cloud bank above.

Interstellar gas permeates the Milky Way, but not evenly. The solar system happens now to inhabit an unusually empty patch of space, the local bubble, with only one hydrogen atom per five cubic centimetres of space. In the past we must have drifted through much denser gas clouds, including some more than 100 light years across in whose cold and dark interiors hydrogen forms itself into molecules.

In such nebulae, Earth may have caught a cold. …

We know Earth has suffered such episodes, including big chills some 650 and 700 million years ago. Their cause remains obscure. It could have been the weathering of mountains that pulled carbon dioxide from the air, or volcanic eruptions, or changes to Earth’s orbit around the sun – or a black cloud in space.

………

The faint red star seems harmless at first, a barely perceptible speck outshone by 10,000 other points of light. But it grows. In only a few thousand years, it waxes to become the brightest star in the sky. Out in the Oort cloud far beyond Pluto, giant balls of ice and rock begin to deviate from their delicately balanced orbits and move in towards the sun. Soon the skies teem with comets – ill omens for Earth.

The moon’s pitted surface records aeons of bombardment. Apollo astronauts found many samples of ancient melted rock, revealing that around 4 billion years ago the inner solar system was being pelted with massive bodies.

This “late heavy bombardment” is thought to have been caused by movements of the outer planets Uranus and Neptune disturbing asteroids in the Kuiper belt, where Pluto resides. Incidents in our galactic odyssey would have unleashed other storms of comets and asteroids. Passing stars or dust clouds might have triggered a one-off spike in the bombardment. A more regular pattern of new crater formation could reflect a repeated encounter on our path around the galaxy – passing through a particularly dense and unchanging spiral arm, for example.

To find out we would need to visit a variety of surfaces, taking small rock samples to determine their ages, and then making a careful census of craters to see how the impact rate has fluctuated. Buried soils could help, says Joy. “We might find fragments that would tell us what type of asteroids or comets were hitting the moon.”


Jul 10 2011

God, Christians and politics

Category: church,God,government,legislation,politics,society,theologyharmonicminer @ 8:39 pm

This is just a bit of an excellent article that I commend to you on Government and God’s People

I want to be careful not to make policy pronouncements on specific issues that the Bible does not address. I think sometimes Christians simply have to make decisions based on the results of one policy or another. People can evaluate the factual data in the world in different ways; evaluating the results of different tax policies and things like that. However, on unemployment, there are at least two principles that come into play. One is that we are to care for the poor and those in need, and the Bible frequently talks about the need to care for the poor. I think government has a legitimate role in providing a safety net for those who are in genuine need of food, clothing and shelter.

There is also a strong strand of biblical teaching that emphasizes the importance of work to earn a living. Paul commands people to work with their own hands and gain the respect of outsiders, be dependent on no one. He says if anyone will not work, he should not eat. In the book of Proverbs, it says a worker’s appetite works for him. The longer that unemployment benefits are continued, the more we contribute to the idea that some people should not have to work in order to earn a living, but we should just continue to have government support them. That creates a culture of dependency, which is unhealthy for the nation and unhealthy for the people who are dependent, year after year, on government handouts.

In the book The Battle, Arthur Brooks says that what people need is not money, but “earned success.” The example that comes to my mind is a student at the seminary here who told me that a number of years ago, he had been in jail. He was arrested for the sale of drugs and other crimes, and his life was just a mess. Later, he finally got a job at a fast food restaurant and one day his manager told him he was doing a good job of keeping the French fries hot. All of a sudden, this young man had a sense of “earned success.” That is, he was doing well at something and he felt great about it and it spurred him on to work harder, to seek to receive more managerial responsibility at the fast food restaurant, and now he is a straight-A student at the seminary and has had a number of years of successful Christian ministry already.

So we need to be asking the important questions about how we can we get the economy growing so that more jobs are available.


Feb 08 2011

“Prosperity gospel” for Christian institutions? Part 2

The previous post in this series is here, and will help provide background for what follows.

There are many instances of people and groups who take risks for the gospel, do the unpopular thing, and God does bless them. But obvious worldly blessing is not a given. God has His own agenda and ways of doing things, and we cannot assume that our worldly success is due to God’s blessing, nor our difficulties evidence of our failure to seek God’s will and do it. Some missionaries are murdered, and martyrdom in Christ’s service did not end with the fall of the Roman Empire. Lesser difficulties also occur with some regularity, even in the modern world.

Yet how many boards and leaders of churches and para-church organizations proceed with the assumption that apparent worldly or financial success equals God’s blessing, with such a rigid conflation of the two that any policy which carries some attendant risk of worldly disapproval is assumed to be the wrong one? Consider the logic: if we are doing good, God will bless us in worldly ways. Therefore, we should not consider doing something that risks getting worldly disapproval, since if the world disapproves, by our benighted definition, God is not blessing us.

So how can we decide if we are making our decisions according to God’s plan, from a fully Christian worldview, or if we are simply doing what seems best to us, within our human expertise (and afflicted with human pride and desire for power), as we try to strengthen our organization or institution in a worldly sense? There is no way to know for sure, of course….

But one thing seems indicative.

If we find we are mostly making decisions from the point of view of what the world will think of us (not from the point of view of God’s will, God’s commands, God’s moral precepts, and Christ within and among us), even if we have great institutional and public success, even if we are doing some good, we are not doing what God desires of us. Christ’s way is one of sacrifice and risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, most particularly the risk of being misunderstood and vilified by those who do not know Him. This is true whether we are explaining His way to the world, or standing for the principles He taught.

I’ll be developing this idea further in subsequent posts.

The next post in this series is here.


Feb 07 2011

“Properity gospel” for Christian institutions?

Much is made of the centrality of sacrifice in the Christian life, and justifiably so. Christ’s own life on earth was one of individual sacrifice and service, and not only on the cross, though that is the preeminent example. Simply being incarnated was a sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-9), and his very manner of living was sacrificial, in that he never married and had a family but instead lived for others, took risks of many kinds at various times for the sake of doing his Father’s will and speaking the truth, and so on.

As individuals, we are all called to sacrifice in one way or another for the sake of Christ and the gospel, though it’s a mistake to assume that everyone should live sacrificially in the same ways. One may choose to live simply and have greater financial freedom to give more (though all should give some), another may choose to give greatly of time and service (though all should do this some), and another may choose a lifestyle of great self-denial of one kind or another (though all of us must deny ourselves in some ways), all for the sake of doing God’s will. Few are called to sacrifice all. What seems fairly clear is that a person who has sacrificed nothing, not time, not finances, not manner of living, is likely to be a person who is not listening to God’s whispers, and probably a person who has not closely read the scriptures.

Yet some churches and para-church organizations seem to operate as if it is God’s will for them never to suffer or risk suffering, and never to choose a path that is hard and uncertain, or one that is likely to earn some degree of disapproval from the world, especially the secular world. Some para-church organizations operate as if their leadership believes in a sort of “prosperity gospel” for their organization (even when they deny that as a proper perspective for individuals), assuming that their role is to manage their organization with the same professional risk management as they would apply for any secular organization. And this risk management is fine, up to a point.

The “prosperity gospel” approach to a church or para-church organization is that somehow it can just get bigger and bigger, more and more popular, and it will all be because of God’s blessing. This may work for a time. And God may indeed be blessing certain efforts of the institution, while at the same time some of the institution’s apparent success may be coming from “playing it safe,” maintaining “good public relations,” even innovative business practices and good luck with market demographics or placement. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for people in an organization, including its leadership, to really know what measure of an organization’s apparent success is due to God’s blessing of its efforts, and what proportion is due to good business practices, smooth marketing, or just plain good luck. The temptation, of course, is to ascribe all success to God’s blessing, especially in public pronouncements.

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. The assumption that God will increase the institutional strength and vigor of any organization that is doing His will is itself evidence of “prosperity gospel” thinking, not scripturally sound thinking about the nature of sacrifice for Christians, and Christian organizations. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament and church history reveals many instances of people and groups (institutions) who appear to be following God’s commands, but who suffer in various ways, sometimes almost in a “no good deed goes unpunished” sort of way… which is of course, the intention of Satan. The point is that apparent prosperity in the world is not proof of God’s blessing. Indeed, it is a sort of heresy to assume so.

I will develop this line of thinking further in future posts.

The next post in this series is here.


Jan 23 2011

The Next Great Awakening Part 15: Reasoned response to skeptics

Category: apologetics,Bible,God,philosophy,Scripture,theologyharmonicminer @ 1:52 pm

The previous post in this series is here.

Here is a website that addresses many of the claims of skeptics about Christ and Christianity.  It does so in the context of responding to various claims made by a prominent scholar/skeptic, Bart Ehrman.  The speakers and writers on this site are also prominent scholars who do not respond with polemics or personal attacks, but with calm reasoning and observation.  It has many short, well-produced videos with concise responses to various issues and problems.  Click the links along the top of the page linked above to reveal other videos and links.

Highly recommended.

h/t:  Koinonia

In general, I think too many upwardly mobile Christian universities put too little emphasis on apologetics, and I hope more of them will seek the contributors to the site linked above as guest speakers.

 

The next post in this series is here.


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