Friday, December 18, 2015

What gods do we believe in now?

Ya gotta worship something, says NT Wright, in this hour plus long Veritas forum video.  We think of 'worship' and stained glass windows or lively charismatic people with arms waving or some other venerable scene comes to mind, but worship simply means giving worth to something.
In other words, one can often get a good idea of what they worship by looking at their checkbook...well, online bank statement nowadays, since checkbooks are becoming more and more a thing of the past.
He talks about the Big Three:
Mars: the god of power and war
Mammon: the god of money and greed
Aphrodite: the god of erotic love.

Although we don't identify them as 'gods' in todays sophisticated society, we pay much tribute to them in big and small ways, even and up to the point of sacrificing our lives to them.

Worshiping the Creator God in whose image we are made, looks very different (and should look very different) than worshipping other gods.

Wright explains that our twofold function as humans made in God's image is (1) to reflect God's wisdom into His creation and (2) to sum up and bring the praises of His creation to Him...
I think that is an accurate (though not elegant) description of what he said.

When we worship any THING other than our Creator, the one who we were created to worship and reflect, we de-humanize ourselves. You become like what you worship... if we worship power, then that distortion becomes internalized and we begin to look at people thru a lens of 'how can impose my will upon them?'.  Everything in life becomes about power and then competition and then lack of trust and then broken relationships and then broken life...
Whether its money, sex or power, the end result of giving our lives to any of these results in LESS love, less life, less humanity.
But the opposite is true as well.  When we give our lives and worship to our Creator in who's image we were made, we find that we become more human, more giving...more like God.
LIKE God...not God.  We were made to be LIKE him...but He is the source...He is the alpha and the omega... from Him and to Him and through Him are all things...we are just privileged enough to be given a life to spend in our King's honor.

Just call me Nate the Conqueror (of the timing belt)

Morning dawns with a brisk freshness to the air... I awake with an excitement I can't place where from... a picture of my $1000 subaru legacy takes form in my mind
OH YEAH!! today is the day I tangle with the timing belt!!

The water pump went out on it about a week ago and my mechanic informed me that its one of those things that don't fix itself, and as if you're gonna change the water pump out, you might as well replace the timing belt (you gotta take it off anyways to get to the water pump), I struggled with whether I should attempt to fix it myself for the big feather in my cap (not to mention saving money) or whether I would heed the big ***CAUTION*** sign in the auto repair manual for timing belts.  The problem with doing timing belts, is that if you do it wrong you can seriously mess up the engine, thereby turning a $300 job into a $1,000+ job.

so would a modicum of reasonable-ness and caution would rule the day or would I go for the feather?
Needless to say (since i'm here blogging about it), I went for it.  I had to.  Facing one's fears is a noble thing to do, right?  Anyone can pay a professional to do it right, but only a true amatuer mechanic can really mess it up right.
how did it turn out?  God provided a retired mechanic guy to help and the car now resides up in Colorado, running like a old beat down champ, but a champ nonetheless.


Humanism is our theme.  A few definitions plagarized from cyberspace for your consideration:

  1. 1.
    an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

hu·man·ism  (hyo̅o̅′mə-nĭz′əm)
1. A system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth.
2. Concern with the interests, needs, and welfare of humans: "the newest flower on the vine of corporate humanism" (Savvy).
3. Medicine The concept that concern for human interests, values, and dignity is of the utmost importance to the care of the sick.
4. The study of the humanities; learning in the liberal arts.
5. Humanism A cultural and intellectual movement of the Renaissance that emphasized secular concerns as a result of the rediscovery and study of the literature, art, and civilization of ancient Greece and Rome.

But my favorite by far and getting to the heart of the matter 
Greek homo mensura ("humans are the measure"

Humans are the measure of what?  The right answer is (if you want to be a good humanist) 'it depends'.   And more to the point, good and the Bard so eloquently summed up the relevatists position:
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

Taken to even more extremes, reality itself becomes unhinged as (the logical conclusion demands) depends upon my perspective of it. 
I'm sure we've all heard the term "relativism".  Its all relative is our era's one axiomatic and unquestionable truth.  The truth that there is no truth... confusing...yes, terribly confusing and contradictory to boot.

Humanism and relativism both exist where the assumption is that God either doesn't exist or is essentially irrelevant to day-to-day living.
It is important to note that this assumption is 100%  NOT compatible with a belief in the Creator God of the Bible.  If humans are at the center of things (leaving aside the question of how we got here, and what our purpose is), then we truly are the measure of good and evil (assuming those terms have any meaning at this point).
So Hitler, who thought that his path was Good, was 100% as correct as, say, Gandhi or Mother Teresa or MLK Jr., or fill-in-the-blank... as long as you THINK you are doing something good, no one can argue with you if good and evil are all relative and subjective.

Monday, July 28, 2014

thank God this could never happen in 'merica!


If the intellectuals in the plays of Chekhov who spent all their time guessing what would happen in 20 30 or 40 years had been told that in 40 years interrogation by torture would be practiced in Russia; that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that human beings would be lowered into acid baths; that they would be trussed up naked to be bitten by ants and bed bugs; that ramrods heated over a Primus stove would be thrust up their anal canals (the "secret brand"); that a man's genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot; and that in the luckiest possible circumstances prisoners would be tortured by being kept from sleeping for a week, by thirst, and by being beaten to a bloody pulp, not one of Chekhov's plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums.
And not only Chekhov's heroes- what normal Russian at the beginning of the century,  including any member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, would have believed, would have tolerated, such a slander against the bright future?  What had been acceptable under Tsar Aleksandr Mikhailovich in the 17th century, what had already been regarded as barbarism under Peter the Great, what might have been used against 10 or 20 people in all during the time of Biron in the mid 18th century, what had already become totally impossible under Catherine the Great, was all being practiced during the flowering of the glorious twentieth century - in a society based on socialist principles, and at a time when airplanes were flying and the radio and taking films had already appeared - not by one scoundrel alone in one secret place only,  but by tens of thousands of specially trained human beasts standing over millions of defenseless victims.
Was it only the explosion of atavism now evasively called the "cult of personality" that was so horrible? Or was it even more horrible that during those same years, in 1937 itself, we celebrated Pushkin's centennial? And that we shamelessly continued to stage those selfsame Chekhov plays, even though the answer to them had already come in? Is it not still more dreadful that we are now being told, thirty years later, "Dont talk about it!"? If we start to recall the sufferings of millions, we are told, it will distort the historical perspective! If we doggedly seek out the essesnce of our morality, we are told it will darken our material progress! Lets think rather about the blast furnaces, the rolling mills that were built, the canols that were dug. We can talk about anything, so long as we do it adroitly, so long as we glorify it.

It is really hard to see why we condemn the Inquisition. Wasn't it true that beside the autos-da-fe, magnificent service were offered by the Almighty? It is hard to see why we are so down on serfdom. After all, no one forbade the peasants to work every day.   And they could sing carols at Christmas, too. And for Trinity Day the girls wove wreaths...

All the big Bolsheviks, who now wear martyrs' halos, managed to be the executioner of other Bolsheviks (not even taking into account how all of them in the first place had been the executioners of non-Communists). Perhaps 1937 was needed in order to show how little their whole ideology was worth - that ideology of which they boasted so enthusiastically, turning Russia upside down, destroying its foundations, trampling everything it held sacred underfoot, that Russia where they themselves  had never been threatened by such retribution. The victims of the Bolsheviks from 1918 to 1946 never conducted themselves so despicably as the leading Bolsheviks when the lightning struck them. If you study in detail the whole history of the arrests and trials of 1936 to 1938, the principal revulsion you feel is not against Stalin and his accomplices, but against the humiliatingly repulsive defendants - nausea at their spiritual pride and implacability.

So what is the answer? How can you stand your ground when you weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared?

What do you need to make you stronger than the interrogator and the whole trap?

From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: "My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die - now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died.  From tody on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me." 
Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble.
Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.

From an excerpt of The Gulag Archipelago published in the July 1974 shortly after Solzhenitsyn's expulsion from the Soviet Union.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Backyard Landscaping ideas - for 250 sq ft sideyard

Please see attached video

some ideas
1. chimineas from Craigslist

2. large ceramic pots for potted gardens

Home Depot rents 70lb jackhammer for $60 for 4 hrs.... we definitely shouldn't need it for even close to 4 hours

How to haul it away? Its going to be over 1000lbs
Plus all those flat concrete pavers that she doesn't like so they need to be hauled away too.
We can drop those off at Habitat's Restore, but need somewhere to dump the broke up concrete.

Ask Allen and Tim for suggestions on how to do up a small area nice and clean with pavers and maybe something else to make it look cool...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

You bet your butt, Bell is Bonkers...

a response to Andy Gills blog

Heresy is any provocative belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs.[1] Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause,[2] and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion.[3]
The term is usually used to refer to violations of religious or traditional laws or legal codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment.

So I see a few things going on here – all pointing towards the unspoken logic that,
a. hey people have decried top notch theologians and Christian giants for heresy before.
b, People are knocking Rob Bell for heresy; therefore
c. Could it be that Rob Bell is simply in the mix of a long and noble line of actual orthodox theologians who were simply misunderstood?

Well, each case deserves to be taken separately.

OK. lets look at the alleged heretic candidates in order;
  1. CS Lewis -
    1. Inclusivism – I would agree that it looks like Lewis is in the inclusivist camp – but if that is a heresy, then its one that at least he can claim there are some ambiguities about this issue. Scripture does say in many different ways that salvation is through faith in Jesus alone. However, it also certainly shows some old testament dudes are in heaven, and we make allowances for children, and what about people who have never heard of Jesus, or the mentally incompetent? There is even some stuff in Romans (2:12-16) to further complicate matters. So, if Lewis is wrong, then at least he'll have a leg to stand on by saying “well God, you know you could have laid that one out better for us...”. Point is, while that may not be the MOST orthodox view, its not out in left field. And besides, this is mainly about people who haven't heard about Jesus, not people who have heard and rejected him.
    2. Substitutionary atonment theory – well, I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds kind of like what Aslan did for Edmund by dying for him in his place, in taking the consequences of sin on himself. Anyways, I can't imagine any evangelicals engaging in anything more than an armchair philosophical battle over this one in the last 100 years. I mean, I suppose there is Scriptural support for both of them and the Truth might include elements of both theories and more besides. But again, not something that is a hill to die on for the non-scholars out there.
    1. Martin Luther – Biblical he thought they got the number of people wrong... this – ok... but wasn't this the guy who was all about 'sola scriptura'? I'm just saying that although he may not pass the new fundamentalist hardcore Biblical Inerrancy test, he took Scripture waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more serious than most Christians...
    2. St. Augustine – really? That's the best you got for him? I wasn't aware that this was ever an dividing line between evangelicals. I don't believe in literal 6 day creation, some of my friends do (to my utter amazement) – but its not even close to an issue of heresy for any of us...(or anyone else I've ever met).
    3. Barclay – Universalism.
      1. Here we come to something which could fulfill the elements of a legitimate heresy. Here is the problem with this one – if its true, then great! With all my heart, I hope it is. For real. Theproblem is that there are a lot of passages (some spoken by Jesus Himself) that have to be dealt with to responsibly arrive at this conclusion, and I haven't seen that.
      2. On the flip side, if its not true (which apparenly the vast majority opinion of orthodox believers over the past 2000 years would say its not) then it would be really really really really irresponsible (understatement of the year award nominee) to insinuate otherwise.
      3. I haven't read Barclay's reasoning for being a universalist, but if its along the lines of Bells, then it sucks. I read “love wins” and he has really weak theological grounding for his conclusions – he rightly points out that the standard understanding of “Hell” and the different words translated as “Hell” are poorly understood. But to then to avoid the most difficult Biblical passages dealing with this issue and leap to the conclusion that “its all gonna work out in the end just fine” (you can argue that technically his conclusions may be more nuanced than this, but realistically this is what people are going to walk away with)...well, again, irresponsible is the nicest thing that comes to mind. And this in a leader. This is why leaders are held to a higher standard. Lots of people follow them because they are..well, leaders. I'm no Biblical scholar and I actually liked Bell before 'love wins', but after reading that I was like “this guy is not dealing with some hard Biblical passages and he's talking about an immensely important issue.” Anyways, after that book, Bell's theology became highly suspect. Sorry, I forgot that one wasn't about Bell...or was it??
    1. John Stott - Annihilationism – here is another one that would be a stretch to claim is heresy.
    2. Billy Graham – again, inclusivism is something that there is some gray area about – we have to ask questions which the Bible doesn't explicitly answer and there is necessarily mystery there... though my own opinion is that ole Billy succumbed to the Republican party pressure when he declared Mormons to be legit Christians...but that's another story...But Billy has led so many people to Christ, he might just get a ghetto pass...

Anyways, taken all in all, the worst of the bunch is the accusation of universalism, simply because the underlying message it is sending is “relax, all will be well” instead of “Repent, the Kingdom of God is near!”. Which one was Jesus message? Which one was Pauls? Which one is Bell's?

All of the other -isms up there (with the exception of universalism – which happens to be one of the 2 heresies that Bell has embraced) do not seem to me to be actual deal-breakers for the majority of Christians... and looking at the Bible, we can legitimately say “ok, so maybe there is a mystery here”.
With Universalism, if there is a case for it, Bell hasn't come close to making it. Which leads one to wonder why he wants to make that case? He must have some other motivation than Biblical Truth. I think the answer lies, as I've already stated, in looking at the our current culture and seeing how nicely universalism lines up with the ethos of this age...

The other heresy is of course Bell's somewhat recent embrace of same-sex marriage. Here he not only doesn't have any Biblical ground to stand on, its unclear whether he even thinks he NEEDS Biblical ground to stand on.

This is a more obvious departure from anything close to Orthodoxy – this is an overt embrace of Humanism at its worst.... if you want to see Bell faced with the hard questions on this subject you can find it here.
In my opinion, they ask him very fair questions about his position and he does his best to squirm around answering them.

The worrying thing is that you have to assume the conclusion and then work the theology backwards from there...and even then, you have to do violence the text, the context, the whole Kaboodle to get to the conclusion that God is OK with homosexuality (or any sin for that matter).
Bell (and unfortunately not just him) try (usually successfully) to convince his disciples that God will go against his word out of His great love. That's like compounding heresy with blasphemy. Going against God's word BECAUSE of God's great love? How can God go against His word out of love? Would it be loving for God to go against his word? Give up some of His holiness to accommodate sinners?? Oh wait, He did do that, didn't he? He became sin and died on a cross.
So that we could REMAIN in our sin, right????????? Good lord, I wonder if the heresies ever actually change...
I couldn't say it better than John:
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be save through Him...and this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light.

I get it man, we DO need to love each other more. No doubt...I know I do.
But does that mean NOT taking someone to task for flagrantly teaching stuff contrary to Scripture? Considering their calls to holiness, what message do you think the apostles would have for Rob Bell who is teaching that homosexual marriage is not a sin?
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. “
Sorry if it sounds all legalistic and stuff, but God does take holiness seriously. And He apparently takes sin seriously. And it is in black and white for anyone to see that its obvious that in both the NT and the OT, God calls homosexuality a sin that will keep you out of His Kindgom. And here we have a leader, a teacher, contradicting what God so clearly says in His word. Its bad, man. THIS is straight up heresy. And its NOT loving NOT to say anything especially when so many people are eating this up.
And if that is NOT heresy (because I know many people embrace Bell's reasoning) then what CAN be called heresy?

I could go on. Suffice it to say, the Bell's of this world who are given the huge responsibility of sound Christian leadership and piss it away for public acceptance are leading lots of people to question some very basis Biblical stuff... reminds me of someone else in a garden a long time ago who asked the question “did God really say?”