Saturday, December 28, 2013

When Is An Example BINDING? Never.

Sunset, Panama City Beach, November 2, 2013
This excerpt was taken from a much more detailed 2-part article that may be found here.

I do not categorically agree with everything said below, but I believe what is written moves us closer to the truth and would contribute to unity among churches of Christ.

I have included in this excerpt only what I hope will spark consideration and discussion. 

The author lists opposing arguments in great detail in the full articles.

He writes,


"Bible examples without a doubt are meant to teach and instruct us in what God finds acceptable and unacceptable.  Whether or not examples can teach us is not the question. The question is, "Are we required to imitate examples that the Scriptures show have God's approval?" Most in the Churches of Christ would answer yes."

"If we answer yes, then we must have a way of telling which Bible examples are essential and which were just incidental or else we have no means of knowing which examples God expects us to imitate. If we cannot tell the difference, then we must either imitate every New Testament account of action, or concede that we aren't required by God to follow any of them."

"In discussing the matter with other brethren, no one that I am aware of has produced a logical means by which the difference between significant and insignificant examples can be ascertained. If no objective means of distinction can be identified, then we must either bind all examples or none of them."

"Indeed, we have been very inconsistent in the binding of examples. There are a number of examples that would seem to have God's approval yet we do not bind them upon ourselves. Consider the following "approved" examples which we don't imitate."
 
  • Eating the Lord's Supper on a Thursday (the day Jesus instituted it).
  • Baptizing outdoors. The only passage under the new covenant which records where a baptism took place says that it was outdoors (Acts 8:36-39).
  • Eating the Lord's Supper only in the evening. The only passage that mentions the time of day that the Supper was eaten says that it was in the evening. By definition the word "supper" means an evening meal.  (Mt 26:20)
  • Restrict the number of deacons in local congregations to 7.  (Acts 6:3)
  • Setting aside the ninth hour as an hour of prayer. (Acts 3:1)
  • Observing the feast of Pentecost as Paul did.  (Acts 18:21, 20:16)
  • Daily assemblies.  (Acts 2:46)

"Why do we not bind these examples? How have we been able to logically conclude that they are insignificant and not worth binding?" 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Harmful Effects of Dualism: Today's Patriotism and Christianity

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I think we need to focus less on "separating the sin from the sinner" and focus more on the spiritual battle occurring in the cosmic realm. 

As Paul says,

"This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world."

Dualism causes us to view worship as separate from the rest of life and when we combine this part of our worldview with the compartmentalizing of being an American as separate from a Christian, then patriotism will dominate. Sometimes we will wear the hat of Christ, but mostly we will wear the hat of Caesar.

As a result of this Caesar oriented dominance, Christians become afraid of being branded an ungrateful traitor by advocates of the state, when in fact, Jesus was crucified by the state and by His own countrymen who viewed Him as a traitor to their nation's worldview. 

As John says,

"Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did."

Do we? 

Or have we inherited an admixture of the state and church that we will find it harder and harder to justify the more the world becomes globalized? I do not mean to cause the crony capitalism of central banks to come to mind when I say this, but Christianity has sought to globalize the world for 2,000 years.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nadab & Abihu and The Terrorism of Pattern Theology

Leviticus 10:1-11
What if I said to you that I feel peace and comfort when I think of Nadab and Abihu?

If you've been taught a legalistic pattern theology, then you may respond with:

"What? Those dudes were put to death by fire from God Himself! Are you kidding me?"

No. I'm not. Bear with me.

In Philippians 4:4-8 Paul instructs Christians to think positive and healthy thoughts:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
Painting by Noah Bradley
We can't follow Paul's instructions to rejoice and avoid living anxiously while thinking about God damning us to Hell if we disobey one command of God for worship like Nadab and Abihu. 

A while back, I came across three articles that I think, when all put together, will bring us some comfort as we better understand our blessings in Christ and that even Nadab and Abihu can bring in spite of the fact they have been used to terrorize faithful Christians for decades in Churches of Christ.

This peace and comfort comes from a better interpretation that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent.

FIRST ARTICLE

The first article came up when I was searching for information on demonizing one's enemy. It had to do with jumping to conclusions why the Boston Marathon Bombers killed civilians. 

No one really knew at that time, and the article's point was to explain that not all acts of violence are "terrorism," and that many of our freedoms have been infringed upon because the media immediately characterizes every act of violence as "terrorism" based on the U.S. Government's definition "which often expands... to demonize violence originating from ideologies and movements that oppose U.S. hegemony."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Safe People: How To Find Relationships That Are Good For You & Avoid Those That Aren't

$7.69 on Kindle

I found these quotes on goodreads by Colin Powell valuable:

"The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people."

"As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don't help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don't increase you will eventually decrease you."

"Consider this: Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don't follow anyone who's not going anywhere."

"With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights. A mirror reflects a man's face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses."

"The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate - for the good and the bad. Be not mistaken. This is applicable to family as well as friends. Yes...do love, appreciate and be thankful for your family, for they will always be your family no matter what. Just know that they are human first and though they are family to you, they may be a friend to someone else and will fit somewhere in the criteria above."

"In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. Never make someone a priority when you are only an option for them. If you are going to achieve excellence in big things,you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude."

Henry Cloud & John Townsend, authors of the best selling book Boundaries, in their book Safe People write:

"God does not use religious terms and language when he discusses people. He talks about how people treat Him and others, and whether or not they get things done as they said they would. In short, he looks at someone’s character. He is looking at their makeup as a person and the way that that character interacts with Him and the world.”

"The Bible is full of 'religious' people who are 'spiritual,' 'godly,' 'ambitious,' or 'fun to be with,' but these people are the ones that Jesus and the Old Testament prophets confronted over and over. They look good on the outside or from a distance, but to get close to them is a nightmare."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Certainty-Seeking, Doubt Eliminating Faith Hinders Learning


Greg Boyd writes,

"I contend that certainty-seeking faith tends to inflict a selective learning phobia on those who hold to it. It’s no secret that, at least in America, evangelical Christians sort of have a reputation of being narrow-minded and intolerant. Deny it though we may, research has established it."

"There are a number of plausible explanations for this, but I believe one of the main reasons has to do with the widespread assumption that a person’s faith is as strong as they are certain."

"Imagine a Christian I’ll call Bob. Like most other conservative Christians, Bob believes that he is saved by believing the doctrines that are “necessary for salvation.” And, like most others, Bob assumes that his faith is as strong as he is free of doubt."

"It’s apparent that for Christians like Bob, one’s sense of security is anchored in their level of confidence that their beliefs are correct. If Bob were to lose confidence or change his mind about any of these things, his salvation, as well as his acceptance as a fellow “saved” believer in his church, would at least be thrown into question, if not absolutely denied. Not only this, but Bob’s sense of identity, purpose, and well-being is wrapped up in his remaining convinced his beliefs are correct. With so much at stake, how open do you really think Bob would be to seriously studying books and dialoguing with people who might pose strong challenges to his core convictions? And how capable do you suppose Bob would be at objectively assessing the merits of points of view that disagree with his own, were he to somehow muster the courage to examine them? The answer, I think, is obvious."

"Not only this, but neurological studies have shown that the pleasure centers of our brain are activated whenever we encounter facts or opinions that confirm beliefs that are important to us. Conversely, they also reveal that our amygdala, which controls our “fight or flight” reflex, is activated when we initially confront facts or opinions that conflict with these beliefs. And, as we noted in the previous chapter, most of us know firsthand, to one degree or another, how painful it is to doubt beliefs that are important to us. Cognitive dissonance over important matters can be excruciating!"

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Reactionary (Conservative) Thinking Can Hinder More Truth From Being Taught


http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/9781585582914_p0_v2_s260x420.JPGI am wondering how being "conservative" is hindering the advancement of the kingdom of God. Many conservatives know the harmful effects of being "liberal" that violate God's will, but is modern political conservatism the answer? Is it the only alternative? I say no.

What I mean is NOT to become "liberal," as most of us understand these two terms in our political world. What I mean is to understand what conservative thought is better and, especially, its limitations. I am coming from a behavioral standpoint most of all, because my concern surrounds the fact that "conservative" means "reactionary."

If we are always reacting (conservative) to the world which by doing so we relinquish leadership to the "active" (liberal), then they set the agenda. Why does this matter? It matters because, generationally, conditioned reactionaries don't set the agenda, obviously, but more so, this matters because truth cannot be taught and/or known when letting others who are considered or known not to teach truth are setting the agenda. We end up getting lost in conservatism, looking back instead of forward, and stagnantly repeating signals reactively. We are not leading. We are reacting. And reacting equals conservative.

The best way I know right now is to illustrate this by using a commonly accepted group among us as an illustration. Apologetics Press does great work. My wife and I support AP monthly and benefit greatly from their work in the debate, and here comes my point, (reacting) against the General Theory of Evolution and its attacks on the Bible.

What if the Bible (Genesis in particular) is not addressing Macro-Evolution in its context? Does not context determine meaning? Yes, it does. So what if we are reacting to the world's lead, but are not leading ourselves as God desires?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why I Don't Submit To Hierarchy in the Church

The reason I don't "submit" to those in the church who misinterpret Hebrews 13:17 and by doing so claim "positional" power is, because my choice to do so would prevent me from obeying God's commands for me to exercise faith  and grow in His grace (Gal. 2:20; 2 Pet. 3:18). 

Any fellow Christian who exalts himself over me for control of my beliefs and time and influences me to "submit" to his or her exaltation is placing himself between me and my God regardless whether it is compartmentalized as "expedience" or under threat of "chaos" resulting from my lack of submitting.

All Christians are equal members of Christ's body, and none of us is the Head. Strangely however, I believe that since most Christians have been taught for generations, and so now commonly accept submitting to supposed superiors in the church, we are being hindered from conforming to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). In my view, the largest contributor to this phenomenon is nationalism-patriotism, or a preoccupation with being American ahead of being Christian.

In fact, I view churches in America as mostly religious versions of the State futilely straining to "Take America Back" as the nation's moral conscience. This worldview demotes the Church to a dependent and inferior status in the eyes of Statists. Why would they listen to us when they can easily see that we are only offering a moral version (which they do not want) of their own viewpoint? What could be easier to disrespect and reject?

Our military-rank mindset in churches borrowed from the Church-State mixed mindset needs eliminating, and I think that George Simon gives a good summary of what I believe, if we understood better, would go a long way in removing it:

He writes,

"Fighting is not inherently wrong or harmful. Fighting openly and fairly for our legitimate needs is often necessary and constructive. When we fight for what we truly need while respecting the rights and needs of others and taking care not to needlessly injure them, our behavior is best labeled assertive, and assertive behavior is one of the most healthy and necessary human behaviors. It's wonderful when we learn to assert ourselves in the pursuit of personal needs, overcome unhealthy dependency and become self-sufficient and capable."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Position of Preacher-Elder in Churches of Christ

The problem with a positional-culture such as ours is that, as life progresses, a higher position is needed for one to feel he is maturing. Using rank to show maturity, a positional culture (oligarchical, hierarchical, representative form of government) offers an increase in positional power up the ladder and over others; however, for the church, the NT teaches "self control" and forbids other control (Gal. 5:22; cf. Mark 10:42-45).

Having this positional-mindset causes us to misapply and misunderstand what doing something "for" someone else means. I believe that we have an unhealthy, and therefore, unsound, usage of the word "for" in the church that maintains dependency and hinders God commanded growth (2 Peter 3:18; cf. Eph. 4:11-16).

Also, I think that this entitlement and military-rank mentality has caused the belief that, as one gets older, s/he is simply owed this status based on their age. Perhaps because when they were younger, they "respected their elders," and now they feel that this "respect" (read obedience, not dignified treatment among equals) is their God-given right. I don't know if some attached these strings earlier in their lives and are now pulling on them. I am simply trying to understand why some people act as they do.

As if the oligarchical system we have where a few "decide for" the many in private meetings is not foolish enough when compared to the wise Biblical process of open discussion and consensus (Acts 15:1-30), what is becoming more evident to me is that when elders have delegated their teaching responsibilities in the assemblies (Eph. 4:11) to "gospel preachers," this has, over time, caused the emergence in churches of Christ of a head-pastor as at the beginning of the 2nd century depicted in the letters of Ignatius.

Please don't think that when I say private meetings that I am talking about matters in life of a personal nature which is actually what elders (older men and women) are for (1 Tim. 3:1ff; cf. Titus 1-2). Real life help--not institutional, organizational rule. I am also not against elder-led consensus where elders would naturally have more influence (not rule) in the assembly.

When I was a "gospel preacher," I was never bothered by the fact that in many churches the preacher and one other man are often considered a "Scriptural eldership" with God-given "authority" to "decide for" (rule) other Christians in "matters of expediency," but the harmfulness of this "position" in our position-minded culture is becoming clearer as I see it more and more. (I have also found that the "expediency" realm is a fictional compartmentalizing in order to sustain "pattern worship" that is imposed onto the Biblical text).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Becoming an IRONMAN: FLORIDA 2013

The title of this post comes from a book of the same name written by Kara Douglass Thom which compiles various experiences of "first encounters with the ultimate endurance event." 

I read Thom's book a year ago before signing up for IRONMAN Florida, and the thesis of her book is simple. 
There are plenty of triathlon books out there that can help you become a triathlete, help you train better and race faster. But very few will tell you what it feels like--really give you the dish on what goes on inside a triathlete's head. 
This is my race report of IRONMAN Florida 2013 which I finished in 14 hours, 42 minutes, and 39 seconds on Saturday, November 2, 2013 in Panama City Beach, FL. This is what it "felt like" to me as best as I can recall. It was a perfect day, and a perfect result for me. Everything I hoped it would be (but not more), because I had high expectations and dreams!

The IRONMAN has been around for 35 years now, so most people are at least vaguely familiar of its reputation as a grueling challenge of endurance. The specifics, and their origin, which may not be so familiar are that it consists of an open-water swim of 2.4 miles, immediately followed by a 112 mile bike ride, which is immediately followed by a full marathon of 26.2 miles. Participants begin at 7am and are allowed 17 hours to complete the 140.6 miles giving finishers the goal of making it by midnight. As you can imagine the finish line is the place to be! Excitement builds throughout the night as the final finishers trickle across the line to raucous cheers of support from family, friends, and fellow finishers.

The IRONMAN originated in Hawaii in 1978 in the mind of U.S. Navy Officer John Collins, and Thom explains the reason for the particular distances and athletic disciplines of the IRONMAN:
He organized an event that combined all three of Honolulu's endurance races: the Wakiki Rough Water Swim, a 2.4 mile open-water swim, the Around Oahu Bike Race, a 112 mile cycling race that originally spanned two days, and the Honolulu Marathon, 26.2 miles of running. Fifteen men competed in the original Ironman race on February 18, and at the end of the day twelve called themselves ironmen.
The only glory these 15 had at the time was a homemade trophy made by Collins the night before in his garage consisting of an "ironman" made of bolts and a nut symbolizing the head with a hole in it. How fitting! But even more vain-glorious than that was Collins' promise:
Swim 2.4, ride 112, run 26.2. Then brag for the rest of your life.
I don't know about the bragging part. It seems once people know you finished an IRONMAN, they do the bragging for you! This is the way it should be, I guess.

IRONMAN Florida 2013 (IMFL) was special for me and others for many reasons. Any major endurance event you do for the first time will be epic, but IMFL2013 seemed to have a little extra. For starters, the day before the race (Friday) was a double-red flag day for swimming in the Gulf which means NO SWIMMING. You can imagine how nerve racking that can be for almost 3,000 participants who have waited and trained for a full year in preparation for this one day!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Belief & Faith Are Not the Same

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Robert Anthony asks:

"Just what are beliefs?"

"They are the conscious and unconscious information that we have accepted as true."

"Unfortunately, we have accepted and been taught things that are not true, because we have not proven them for ourselves."

Anthony says,

"Truth can never be revealed to the so called 'firm believers.' They are too busy telling you everything they already know and refuse to believe anything outside their already existing belief system."

"Anything that contradicts this person's belief system is seen as a threat which must be labeled 'unacceptable,' or 'evil,' and that which suppresses the old traditions which are viewed as 'good.'"

"This person cannot see that the truth--no matter how painful--is by its very nature 'good' and that a lie--no matter how convenient or pleasurable--by its nature is 'bad.' Therefore, to protect his beliefs at all costs, he builds a wall around his world."

"Some 'firm believers' have a tall wall over which they will never look and some have a short wall over which they peek occasionally. Regardless of the height of the wall, however, it only serves to shut out more truth than it can hold in."

"The firm believer does not have the option to change his mind. He can only recognize what is found within the walls he has built around himself which prevent discovery and freedom." 

"Belief and faith are not the same thing and should not be confused." 

"Beliefs are totally limiting, but faith is limitless."

"Faith recognizes that there is more to learn, discover and know, and that life's quest is to seek to unfold more truth which leads to more freedom. 'With faith all things are possible' (Mark 9:23), but with the firm believer s/he is always "right" and thinks s/he knows the answer."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Christian Supper: Better Understanding James 2:1-6; 1 Cor. 11:17-34 & Eph. 5:3-20


*With specialized research interests in the social world of early Christianity, Dennis E. Smith is a recognized authority on ancient Greco-Roman meal customs. He has maintained throughout his career an active research interest in various aspects of the study of Christian origins.

B.A., Abilene Christian University
M.A., Abilene Christian University
M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary
Th.D., Harvard University Divinity School 

Dennis E. Smith writes,

"Whenever they met as a church, early Christians regularly ate a meal together. In this they were no different from other religious people in their world: for when any group of people in the ancient Mediterranean world met for social or religious purposes, their gatherings tended to be centered on a common meal or banquet."

"It did not matter whether it was a social or religious occasion; nor what the ethnic group might be, whether Jewish or Greek or some other ethnic group; nor what the social class might be. If it were a special occasion, whether religious, social, or political, more often than not a formalized meal functioned as a centerpiece of the gathering." [see Luke 22:14-29; Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-34, sp].

"Scholarship on early Christian meal traditions has tended to concentrate on the issue of the origins of the Eucharist [Lord's Supper, sp] and to define that issue in a deceptively narrow way. It is a perspective that does not develop naturally out of the ancient evidence, but rather represents a retrojection onto the ancient sources of the form taken by the Eucharist in the later "orthodox" church."

"Models are constructed for analyzing the ancient data based on the form of the Eucharist in the later church. The ancient data is not studied in its own right and on its own terms. Early Christianity was made up of varied groups, however, who adapted the common banquet tradition to their own situations [see Romans 14-15; 1 Cor. 10-11, sp]. This proposal fits the form of our data, which witnesses to a variety of ways in which early Christians practiced communal meals. The process eventually led to the collapsing of all these traditions into one orthodox form and liturgy."

"Many studies of early Christian meals attempt to compare them with forms of meals in their pagan environment. Invariably, however, what is compared is the assumed essence of the early Christian Eucharist, namely, its nature as a 'sacramental' meal. The larger category into which the 'sacramental' meal is generally placed is that of the 'sacred' meal. But the category of sacred meal also lacks clarity. There is an assumption that it has little relation to the form of an ordinary banquet. Indeed, scholars in history of religions studies typically see sacred and secular as existing in two different realms. They then analyze the data based on this model."

"To be sure, they base this idea on foundational premises of the sociology of religion. Emile Durkheim, for example, defined the sacred and the profane as two separate realms of human existence. It is my contention, however, that the sacred versus secular model is not appropriate for ancient meals. Instead I consider meals to have an integrative function in ancient society in which they combine the sacred and the secular into one ritual event."

Smith continues,

"Here I use the terms sacred and secular to refer to the degree to which meals might exhibit a religious purpose or might lack any religious emphasis at all. Most Greco-Roman meals would fall into a middle category in which they exhibit characteristics of both sacred and secular. Indeed, in ancient Mediterranean culture in general sacred and secular are interwoven and tend to be indistinct.