Posts Tagged 'Christianity'

Belief an Accident of Geography?

(HT:Friendly Atheist)

He overstates the point but is it a valid one?

Some objections I would raise are that:

1 – By what threshold is he saying a country is predominantly one religion?

2 – By what measure is religious affiliation identifiable. Is it merely the census box?

3 – In the Christian context the global church is diverse both in terms of race and culture. Indeed the balance is shifting according to some, if I’m still in the faith when I’m 60, I’ll be unusual in being a white Christian

Thoughts?

Is your word your bond?

I judge people. Christians aren’t meant to judge people according to the popular understanding. Of course what this means is you’re not meant to come to a negative judgment. If you come to a positive judgment it’s all good. Some Christians don’t even believe you’re meant to judge other people despite the fact that we may well end up judging angels and the rest of the world to boot. What is at issue isn’t whether or not we judge but the manner in which we do so.

I’m obviously interchanging different definitions of the word judgment here. And were this a blog whose purpose was to fill the world with my ill-informed, half-baked, lacking a clear purpose of thought on theological musings I would flesh it out more. But the purpose of this blog is behind the couch somewhere and when I find it I’ll let you know. For the purposes of this post it is sufficient to acknowledge that people make judgments – for various reasons and I merely hope that my reasons aren’t as bad as the rest of you beard-wearing, stone throwers gathered around.

Psychological testing has taught me that I am very much an all in type of person. When committed I can often stay much longer than is necessary and often to the detriment of my mental health and sanity. As often as I can I make sure I mean what I say. This is an odd temperament for an individual in my profession but it’s the way I am. So despite my best efforts when a person says something like: “I’ll call you”, “I’ll email you” or “I’ll pray for you” I know that most of the time they won’t. I know this and it still wounds me not to receive said email or phone call – much more than it should.

I’m all about reaching out. I like to connect to people and I know that I come across in a rather intense fashion. I recently undertook a little experiment. I stopped saying hi to people on Gmail or making an effort to chat to them on their terms online. People know where I am and how to find me. Net result is that people don’t chat to me a lot. There’s intellectual knowledge of an issue and then there’s the reality which brings home intellectual truths in a way you’re not always comfortable with.

I knew I was lonely. I didn’t need a psychologist to tell me something I’d known for the past four or five years. The whole non-initiation of internet chat has just brought that home. What bugged me was how there was always this part of me that had this illusion of hope: “Well, they said they’d email so it’s alright to expect it any day now.” The days pass and that little ray of hope which can brighten your entire day often merely heralds the coming despondent storm. Jesus put it simply Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That’s how I try to do it.

Men don’t like being the bride

The video above became a bit of sensation a while back. In it, a KJV only preacher stretches the bounds of biblical interpretation by arguing that the mark of a real man is that he urinates while standing up. The video was originally posted by the pastor himself, if my memory serves, but has since been taken down. No-one likes to be ridiculed but remember children. The Internet is forever.

People laugh at the video because of the absurd point that he makes but let’s try and dig the principle out of this. Who knows? Maybe I could one day make this one of my 52 life changing sermons I have in my back pocket. The error made here was taking verses from the Scriptures to fit a pet theory rather than looking at what is revealed in Scripture itself. Somewhere along the line of urinating standing up became the mark of what it means to be a man.

I was watching Brian Houston from Hillsongs Church Australia preaching at their Men’s Conference on God TV. I struggle with my attitude to a lot of the things that happen in church. How much is the prompting of the Holy Spirit and how much is down to the skill of the person you’re listening to? That’s not to say they’re mutually exclusive as the Holy Spirit can often use the words of others to convict us. It’s just when we become dependent on great preaching or the perfect worship ‘experience’ we are committing idolatry. We are placing spiritual disciplines before the Holy Spirit. We are placing judicious use of sound effects before Jesus. We are making gods of frail vessels who have a talent. But I digress.

Brian Houston said a certain phrase on stage. It’s something any preacher could have said and he’d have gotten a storm of deep toned “Amen!”s echoing from the congregation. It’s time for men to be men! A man has to be a man! Men need to start acting like men and not like, as our misfortunate preacher from the video says, males. Does anyone even know what that means? What is a man? Let’s have a go shall we? Let’s take two stereotypes for the sake of argument.

Take our first man: he plays football. He washes his car once a week. He works hard at his job and regularly puts in overtime. You often find him hanging out with the lads. He currently rents and is saving up to buy a place. When he does buy his house it’s going to have a tool shed out the back where he can do his carpentry. He can figure out his way around a house. You’ll often find him watching some form of sports on the TV. He likes to get his chips and burger and watch a DVD. That’s his idea of a good night in. He loses the rag if people threaten those he cares about.

And then we have our second man. He’s a bit different. He likes to cook and to clean. He reads a lot of books. He has pink shirts. He loves to watch dance recitals. He dances himself actually. He’s not really into cars. He prefers talking to women than men most of the time. He’s very huggy and affectionate. He takes a lot of time to get ready if he has to go out. He has so many clothes he’s forgotten that he has some of them. He likes to wear designer footwear and always makes sure he has his perfume cologne on if he’s walking out the door. He likes to talk about literature and Shakespeare. He’d much prefer to avoid conflict than start an argument.

Who sounds more of a man?

Who’s more the Biblical model of a man?

Could they be the same man?

The first man is the guy who writes the posts for this blog. The second man is this blogger. They’re both me. Different sides of the same man. And that’s the first problem when this kind of message is preached. Defining masculinity on the type of activities a man does. Hunting sounds like a manly activity that men with guns and an excess of chest hair and sweat get up to. Am I less of a man because I’ve never hunted? I couldn’t be bothered my arse learning how to hunt. I’m pretty glad society has advanced to the point that I can be perfectly ignorant of where my food came from and how it got there without worrying. If it gets to the stage that I have to learn how to hunt the world is in a hell of a lot of trouble. The other problem is that this is nothing more than cultural expectations presented as the word of God. I could be wrong but the last time I read my Bible the imageo Dei wasn’t conditional on one’s familiarity with team sports. My salvation is based on the work of the Cross not on whether I know how to make a cross-halving joint in woodwork.

One interesting hypothesis I was directed to concerning this can be found here. The post is worthy reading as it’s by a psychologist and he talks about church culture. The point he makes about educational attainment among men correlating with greater involvement in stereotypically female activities is an interesting one for me. Books like Wild at Heart speak to a man on a fundamental level. They diagnose the problem to a certain degree but perhaps don’t propose the best solution. It’s like the preacher on stage saying we need men to be men. It gets a reaction but it’s not necessarily the reaction that is best.

This blog post is an attempt to figure out what bugs me about the whole men need to be men ideal. Were I to sum it up I would say it’s too focused on the alpha male. It’s too focused on a masculinity that is based more on specific Western conceptions of manhood than any Scriptural foundation. Sometimes it just seems like pandering to an audience while doing nothing to facilitate making the church more accessible to that audience. Young men who are leaving this country because the only work they know is bricks and mortar. Young men who fail to treat women in anything that resembles absolute purity and sisterly love. People may mock attempts to evangelize through Ultimate Fighter but at least it’s an attempt to relate to the men out there.

What is a man?

The Lion and the Lamb.

Jesus tore up the temple in a fit of righteous anger yet said that we must be as children in order to enter the Kingdom of God. David wrote poetry, songs and played a frail stringed instrument. It’s not a unique failing to alpha male types to read cultural expectations into the Scriptures. What is dangerous is when those cultural expectations take on the authority of Scripture in the mind of believers.

Self-Discipline

I think most things in my life come down to the amount of discipline I have. It’s that simple. If you can tame the temptations and desires that accost you and work towards your goals you will achieve those goals. Whether this gives you a happier life is another question of course. This presupposes that we are able to accomplish things through our own means and power; that man can lift himself up off his own feet; that the grace of God plays no role in our achievements and triumphs.

What is the chief aim of man? As human beings, as men and women what are we here for? To take the Westminister Catechism: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. John Piper changes this to: Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. We also can sum up the commandments and the Law with the phrase, “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself.” I always favoured the third one myself. You can’t do much better than Jesus’ summation of it like.

How is this reflected in my life? What should it look like? I wrestle with these questions a lot. It’s fair to say they are always uppermost in my mind when I’m walking through my day. At the root of it is individuality and community. To borrow from N.T. Wright even the hermit at the top of the pole in the desert needs someone to bring him food and water. I would lean to a more communal interpretation of Scripture but I’m not really sure what that is. In what sense does the Unity of the Body apply to local congregations of believers? Unity of doctrine, of diversity or of purpose? And how should local congregations relate to each other?

That’s what pisses me off the most actually. Christian churches behaving like factions of left-wing political groups based in Judea around the first century A.D. There doesn’t seem to be an urgency in myself first of all (which is a blog post in its own right) but also in a lot of Christians I know. To quote our atheist magician friend, Penn Jillete, below: “How much do we have to hate someone not to proselytize?

One of my pet hates in relation to the expression of Christianity I’ve come from is a tendency to view structure as Satan himself. People becoming legalistic in their attempts to avoid legalism. There is no great blessing of the Spirit on spontaneity for its own sake nor is there a great blessing of the Spirit on tradition merely because that’s the way you’ve always done it. The Scriptures tell us that it’s the heart of the worshipper that God looks at. We have the fruits of the Spirit and then we have spiritual disciplines.

What does the phrase ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ imply? The Apostle Paul uses the analogy of physical training in his letters. There are times you don’t want to go training but you do it anyway. There are times when training hurts a lot but you do it anyway. There are times when there is no-one else training with you but you do it anyway. The thing with training is that there’s no guarantee of a reward at the end of it all. The other team might get lucky or the referee makes a bad call. You could have put all that work in for nothing. But that’s where the analogy falls down.

With training the goal is to mould our bodies into shape so we can achieve a goal. With spiritual disciplines the Master Potter has moulded us into new creations. We stand righteous because of His work and not due to the efforts on our own account. They will not change our salvation. What they can do is they can help our own minds realise that fact. They can draw us further into the presence of God because He can feel our presence through regular prayer and Scripture reading; through love that is manifest in the lives we live revealed both to the world and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Human motivation is complex. What prompted this post is the quote from Penelope Trunk below:

And I thought: Dutch pedophiles are more focused on their long-term goals than I am.

Her post is worth a read in its own right. I’m not sure how we motivate ourselves; how we discipline ourselves further. I know that if we delight ourselves in the Lord that He will give us the desires of our heart. That’s because when we delight ourselves in Him our desires become His desires. To get to that stage with me though I know I need to make a list and start ticking boxes. It may appear like legalism but in my heart I know where it will take me :-)

N.T. Wright helps me make sense of things

What about you?

(HT: Zoomtard)

God knows the heart…

I asked him, “What do you say to people when they say don’t give to a homeless person because they may use your money for drugs or alcohol?” He said, “Sir, I tell them that they need to leave it in the Lord’s hands what they do with your money. If they do something bad with it, it’s not for you to judge, but for God to judge them. But by you giving and taking that chance, God looks at the person’s heart who gave it and that is what is most important

Ouch

I tried for hours this morning to access the internet, though it wasn’t responding.

I don’t do that with God. Do you?


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