Thursday, November 29, 2007

How many children? (part 2)

I started a discussion of "family planning" a little while back (you can find the first post here). There, I focused on the folly of thinking of children merely as "economic entities" and therefore making children not a "blessing" but in fact a burden.

Today, I'd like to address the other end of the spectrum - those that say Christians should allow God Himself to decide how many children to have...

There are plenty of folk that would have us simply "let go and let God" with regard to family planning. They generally advocate that married couples should not use birth control and should have as many children as the LORD gives them. The logic behind this position is simple:

God opens and closes the wombs of women.
God is sovereign over our lives.
Therefore we should allow God to decide how often to open or close the womb.

Advocates of this position are usually quick to point out that having 7 children does not make one more blessed than having 2. At least they should be quick to point this out.

Before I get started, though, let me remind you that for a brief time I held this position and I still presently move in some circles that advocate it. In other words, I don't think mine is an uninformed "outside" interpretation.


There are two levels of problems I have with this position. The first is strictly practical; the second (and more important) is more theological.

First class of problems: pragmatic.

Advocates of the "God controls the womb" position typically have a number of practical dilemmas to overcome. First, as I hinted at above, they often act as if there is a hierarchy of blessedness, with those who have the most children at the top. Many of them don't believe this, but most of them give this impression nonetheless. Second, as a corollary to the first, they often give the impression that women without children are somehow deficient. 'Is God closing this woman's womb due to some secret sin?' 'Does He know she'd make a poor mother?' These questions are almost never actually voiced, but women going through the pain of childlessness often hear echoes of these sentiments in the company of "God controls the womb" folk.

Another pragmatic problem has to do with cost. Don't hear me advocating the silly "children are too expensive to have more than one or two" nonsense that passes for wisdom these days. And I'm certainly not buying the argument that says we must put all of our children through college. No! But let's be honest, there are costs associated with having children and some folk simply cannot afford ten. Those that have significantly more than they can wisely afford usually end up increasingly on the government dime, an issue which has ethical considerations not usually worked through by this camp.

There's another pragmatic problem that begins to touch on the theological, too - what happens when husband and wife disagree on this issue? Generally it will be that the man wants no more children and the woman wants to "leave God in control", though sometimes the situation is reversed. But what do we do now? Most folk would argue (in the first case) that the wife submit to her husband's wish but pray that God will show him the error of his ways. So what if the husband has an operation to end his potency? Now what? Talk about a rift in the marriage relationship!

But what if the situation is reversed - the husband wants more but the wife doesn't? Now we have a situation where most would advocate that the wife submit to her husband's desire and attempt to conceive a child she does not want. I know that she'll likely change her mind once she delivers the child, but that's not the point. The damage done to the marriage relationship could be considerable.

Second class of problems: theological.

As I noted above, I think these problems to be more significant that "merely" pragmatic ones. [Note: I'm not silly enough to think that theological problems don't have pragmatic effects, nor that pragmatic problems don't often have theological roots - the categories are just handy for this post.]

At its core, the major problem I have here is directly related to hermeneutics - the branch of scientific inquiry that has to do with how we interpret texts (in this case, the Bible). Advocates of the "God controls the womb" position tend to make more out of narrative texts than should be. They take portions of Scripture that were written as descriptions of events and try to make them commands. To put it another way, they tend to take what is descriptive and make it prescriptive.

So you find an example in the Old Testament of God "opening the womb" (of which there are several) and you broaden that narrative event to become a general principle for all the living. 'If God opened her womb, He must be in charge of everyone's womb.' Of course there's a certain amount of truth to the claim - God clearly has the authority to and ability to do this in each and every sexual encounter throughout humanity. But this opening and closing of the womb has much more in common with the miracles of the Bible than the commands - cases where God chooses to intervene in the normal/natural method He previously established.

One of the biggest reasons I believe this to be the case has to do with death. Every year over 500,000 women die in the act of childbirth worldwide, and countless more babies die in the womb or just moments out of it. We're talking about in excess of a million deaths a year directly related to childbirth! How can I blame God for this? Was death a part of His original plan? No! Is death a "natural" event? No! Is it accurate to say that God "wanted these people more"? No!

Death is a product of the Fall of Humanity. It is no more fair to blame God for death than to blame Him for cancer, leukemia, marital infidelity or hurricanes.

So, if sound theology must not blame God for these million-plus deaths each year surrounding childbirth how are we to understand them? What are we to do when wise medical professionals (not just any medical professional - plenty of them lack wisdom!) tell us the chances are very great that mother or child could die?

Let me put wheels on this: I have a good friend who has precisely one child. His wife had many, many medical issues surrounding childbirth and came much closer to death than anyone really wants to think about. She was told in no uncertain terms that having another child could do any of a number of awful things to her or the baby's body, including death. After much prayer (and some tears) they came to the wise decision to prevent future pregnancies. But let's say they didn't - let's say they adopted the "God controls the womb" position and got pregnant anyway. They'd be forced to say that God caused their particular pregnancy, right - He causes all pregnancies in this model. Then, when she died, my friend would be forced to believe that God either caused her death or knew that it would happen and chose to do nothing about it. Remember, though, that in this system of belief God caused (not just allowed) the pregnancy that He knew would lead to death. In any court of law God would be judged liable for the death, and rightfully so.

The list could go on: why does God cause rape victims to become pregnant?; why does He cause young teenagers to become pregnant?; why does He cause uterine ruptures?; why does He cause so many good and Godly women to be incapable of conceiving?...

This is not just a semantic battle - there's a world of difference between allowing and causing. In the first, God establishes a natural/normal way things work (sperm meets egg and conception occurs) and sometimes intervenes (ie, performs a miracle), or God chooses not to intervene against the by-products of the Fall (ie, He allows people to die of cancer or childbirth). In the second case, God is willfully manipulating events to cause awful outcomes, outcomes that do not reflect the character of God.


Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating for the "normal" American model of family planning. Go back and read the first post in this topic if you doubt me. But God has given us the principle of wisdom over and over again in the Bible. Making wise decisions - that's the command. But making wise decisions and fatalistically allowing God to control the womb are two different models. The weight of Scriptures is certainly aligned with seeking wisdom far more than a handful of narratives that describe specific workings of God.


PS: Expect one last post on this subject to tie up loose ends and offer a practical example of what I think looks most Biblical.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

User updates

In case you haven't noticed, I've taken a little time to try to make my blog a bit handier and easier to use. Some of the changes were specific requests (or guided by general request); others were just things I thought would be nice.

If you haven't already found them, read on and I'll point them out...

First, I made the logo at the top of my blog a hot link to the main page. This way if you're on a particular page you can either click the link at the bottom of every article or click the logo at the top of every article. Either way you'll get back to the front page.

Next, I updated the explanation for "Hatushili" link - it's not an image to click and not merely plain (and, I thought, slightly confusing) text.

Then I added a custom Google search bar. It searches only this sight, so if you're looking for a specific word or idea this will be the fastest way to find it. It searches every word on the blog - comments, posts, titles, etc...

Also, I changed my "posts by label" into a label cloud. It takes up less space and is a bit easier on the eyes, eh?

Finally, I streamlined what was once the "Ask the Pastor" link and removed some other clutter...

I hope you find the blog a bit improved. As always, I'll happily field criticism here. Or if you have any other suggestions, let me know and I'll see if I can incorporate them.


PS: Nick, thanks for motivating the label cloud idea - I hope your friend can more readily find what he might be looking for!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Immoral pregnancies?!

So I just posted the other day about the problem of seeing children primarily as economic entities and basing "family planning" decisions upon such a view. I argued in that post that this view is common, even though it sounds awful if you actually put it on paper.

Well, it seems I understated the case. I don't normally recommend overly-long web articles to you folk, but you really should read this.

It seems babies aren't "eco-friendly"...

I hope you just finished reading the article and are now outraged. If not, please stop reading my post and go read that article - the whole thing. Sometimes it's useful to be outraged...

Read it? Good.

Obviously I have serious issues with these women, especially the first one. Remember my contention that people view children as economic entities? How about this statement from the first woman in the article:

"I've never doubted that I made the right decision. Ed and I married in September 2002, and have a much nicer lifestyle as a result of not having children... We love walking and hiking, and we often go away for weekends... Every year, we also take a nice holiday - we've just come back from South Africa... We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population. "

So this is the latest in the "offsetting carbon credit" thinking?! Unbelievable.

The second lady in the article, to her credit, does not appear to be a materialistic hypocrite. Hers is a problem we should not be surprised by. Allow me a brief (but relevant) aside into social history:

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin introduced what was inarguably the most significant concept of the century - evolution. Today we talk about the nuances of micro- versus macro-evolution (at least, we should acknowledge this hugely significant difference... funny how public schools don't, but I digress). But in Darwin's day, the concept was (for most of his followers) as simple as "survival of the fittest".

What followed was horrific, but perfectly understandable. Social evolutionists popped up on the scene and began arguing that only the "fittest" of people should be encouraged to bear children and populate the earth. Then came forced encouragement - Hitler, for example, clearly based his genocidal methods on the concept of "survival of the fittest". For him, Jews were least fit and therefore did not deserve the natural resources they were consuming. Killing them merely sped up the natural process of evolution toward a superior race.

In light of all this, the notion of a Creator-God that sustains all life slowly faded from the social consciousness of many peoples around the globe. "Mother Nature" was said to be able to take care of herself, thank you very much! And since Mother Nature doesn't need our help, it has for some become only natural to believe that ...

... the earth would really be better off without people screwing it up.

The second lady in the linked article clearly believes along these lines. It seem unbelievable that she could, but clearly she does. And I'm sure she's not alone. She's just got the courage to live her convictions to the fullest, regardless of where they take her. Most people of her persuasion only say the earth would be better off without us - she's actually living that principle.

I guess she should be commended... ?

No. She's traded the Almighty God for an idol; an image she perhaps calls Mother Earth. She's quite literally perverted the very nature of God and the universe in her own mind.

And you thought evolution was no big deal, didn't you?



Note: The only possible good news that can be squeezed out of a story like this is a truth that sociologists have recently begun to pick up on: "liberals" are having far fewer children than "conservatives" and will therefore likely be severely outnumbered in the coming generations. [Please don't comment on my use of liberal/conservative - I understand the limitations and am merely using the term as sociologists tend to.]

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who gets to speak for God? (part 3 of 3)

We started this conversation here, then continued it here, in case you're keeping track.

In those two posts, I basically argued against the two primary intentions behind the question "who gets to speak for God?".

Now (finally!) I'll give some of my own thoughts about the issue...

As I mentioned before, people generally use this question as a way of articulating either a) a leaderless/egalitarian position, or b) overall skepticism about the ability to objectively know what the Bible teaches.

I find both intentions unnecessary, but that doesn't mean I object to the question.

So, in my opinion, who does get to speak for God?

First, we need to remember that each of Christ's followers has the right to read and the empowerment to understand Scripture. The Holy Spirit resident within us makes clear things that the "natural man" cannot grasp. This is one of the truths the Reformers fought so hard for, and we should not readily abandon it. I will never advocate a position that only allows a certain select few to speak for God, whether pastor, teacher, elder or otherwise.

But we can't take that position too far. We must also acknowledge that some people have ability to handle Scripture beyond our own, through training, practice, wisdom, experience, etc... For example, odds are good that a pastor of 25 years will have some significant skill in interpreting Scripture - skill to a degree unlikely to be found in a new Christian. But that same pastor of 25 years has no monopoly on truth! He will have just as many biases and preconceived notions as the rest of us. We need each other - all our voices - to help keep one another honest, to gently expose our biases, to gain a deeper sense of perspective.

Those in the life of the local church accustomed to speaking for God (read: pastors, preachers, elders, SS teachers, etc...) need to carefully avoid giving the impression that they have exclusive right to full knowledge. We must be willing to admit just how humble our level of understanding really is. When necessary, we must be willing to agree to disagree.

But yet we cannot escape the genuine authority structures that the Bible lays out for us. Elders have a God-given responsibility to guard the flock against wolves. And trust me, there are plenty of wolves out there - cults, 'isms, heresies, and downright demonic schemes. Elders - especially those that are paid to serve full-time - likely have much more time than others to read and research, to ponder and work through the issues facing us today. In short, they very often have insight and wisdom that we cannot ignore. So, for example, if you want to bring so-and-so's book into your Sunday School class but the elders consider it unwise ... listen to them! Ultimately you retain the right to leave that local assembly - it's the best way people can help keep elders and churches from straying. But so long as you're under the authority of a local church, give serious consideration to the wisdom of its leaders.

Moreover, we are all part of a body - one organism. Therefore it is simply unacceptable to ignore the wise counsel of others, believing that we all "speak for God". It is unhealthy to think of "me" all the time, instead of "us". There's a time and place for "me", but the normal model should be "us".

Take the "worship wars" of the recent past. How much of this would have been avoided by people remembering that the church does not revolve around their personal preferences, but instead heeding the wisdom of the elders and the principles of "us" (not "me")?

I guess more than anything what I'm really calling for is humility.

Elders, teachers, preachers and pastors that humbly recognize their own limitations; that humbly recognize the skills and abilities of others around them; that humbly speak for God as they serve the church.

Congregants that humbly recognize the authority structures within the life of the church; that humbly desire to understand the Word; that humbly speak for God as they collectively do the work of ministry.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How many children?

As a father of seven children, I routinely get asked whether we're "done" or not. While this question often leads in comical directions, it does bring up a great issue: reproductive theology.

Don't let that sound too boring to you. Trust me; you should read what I'm about to say. Not that it'll necessarily be profound, but it's an issue you should be wrestling through...

In my experience, there are basically two major ways Christ followers view the issue of "family planning" - that is, two different ways Christians think through how many children they'd like to have. There are (of course) variations within these two major paradigms, too. But in broad brushes, the major views can be laid out this way:

Paradigm 1: The number of children we have is entirely driven by our own personal wants. Choosing how many children to have is largely an economic decision - we all want children, but they're expensive. Choose to have what you can afford.

Paradigm 2: The number of children we have is entirely up to the LORD. He opens and closes the womb; He is the author of all life. We will have as many children as He gives us, with no thought toward contraception. Choose to be content with as many as He gives.

There are significant problems with both of these views, but I've found that (fundamentally) most people are in one camp or the other. Obviously, the vast majority of people operate in Paradigm 1. But Paradigm 2 people are increasingly vocal in Christian culture, too.

I have to admit that I've never really been terribly comfortable in either of these camps. I've spent time in both of them (something most can't say) and find neither very satisfactory.

I want to use the remainder of this post to discuss the problems with Paradigm 1. I'll follow that up with a post about the problems of Paradigm 2, then get to what I think is a more Biblical view. Here we go...

As I said, most people are fundamentally Paradigm 1-types. If you're reading this, odds are very good I'm describing you. If so, understand that I'm not trying to be mean or pick a fight. I want all of us to think through the implications of what we're saying - I want us to think critically. Having spent a number of years with this paradigm, please allow me to point out some very real problems along with the paradigm's strengths.

Strengths: Paradigm 1 encourages people to try to make wise decisions. It does not seek to remove the individual from responsibility over hugely important life issues (few issues are bigger than this one!). Having said that, I can't think of any other virtues of this paradigm...

Weaknesses: Paradigm 1 often makes children a largely economic entity. People are encouraged to think of kids in terms of what it will cost them - grossly exaggerated figures are bandied about for cost of education, clothing, vacations, etc... A classic example: virtually every time some meets me and finds out I have seven children they get around to asking, "How are you going to pay for college for all of them?". Though tempting, I don't want to go down that rabbit trail right here - I cite the question to prove the point: people are trained to think of children almost exclusively as economic entities.

Paradigm 1 largely ignores a few major themes of Scripture: a) that God commanded us to "be fruitful", b) that God is the author of human life, c) that the family has from the very beginning been the fundamental unit that God works through. Let's be honest, most couples don't think about the implications of these truths when having the "family planning" discussion. Often token acknowledgment is given, but serious consideration? Perhaps you're the exception, but most prove the rule.

Paradigm 1 takes too lightly the fact that children are a blessing. There are very few specifically named blessings in the Bible that apply to all of us - children are on that short list, yet we often ignore that and focus on dollars and cents.

Paradigm 1 is often in cahoots with materialism: if you want the finer things in life, you can't have too many children. If you want to do right by your children, you'll try to provide for them a better life than you had as as child. It's better to have a few children and provide these things for them than to have many and force them to go without.

As I've done before, I turn to my own family as an example of the folly of this view: we get along just fine on significantly less than the average American family income, even though we have significantly more children than the average American family. Believe it or not, the US government more or less considers our family poor. Those that know me personally would likely call our family lifestyle "modest", but "poor"?!

Paradigm 1 completely fails to wrestle with this concept:

If I have to choose between new cars, satellite TV, fancy vacations, a big house, etc... and a large family, children always trump lots of stuff.

I'm really not sure how any Christian could argue with this concept. But Paradigm 1 encourages us to ignore it. We've allowed the standard cultural expectation for a "normal American lifestyle" to so dominate our minds that we can't think straight.

Talk to someone who is unable to become pregnant - they'll pick the small, crying baby behind Door Number 1 over the pile of goodies behind Door Number 2 every time.

I'll leave you with one more to chew on. I've met many older couples that admit to sometimes wishing they'd had more children.

I've yet to meet any that wish they'd had less.


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Praises and Prayers

First, thanks to those that prayed for my recent trip to Nebraska to candidate for a pastoral position. It went extremely well. If you'd like the details, shoot me an email.

Also, I have two specific prayer requests for your concern:

First, Bill - he works at the business next door to mine and has been undergoing dialysis for about a year now. He need a kidney transplant but has had no success in finding one. He looked really weak today, and I had a chance to pray with him (yes, you can pray out loud at a Shell gas station!). Pray for Bill; for strength, encouragement, healing.

Second, Leo - I met him in Nebraska this past weekend. His wife (Diane) felt poorly and went to see about it, only to find out that she has AML, a form of leukemia that has required her to immediately begin chemotherapy. I was honored to be part of a large group of Christ followers praying for them Sunday, and I ask you to do so also.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Togo update

As most of you likely know, I've been very concerned about the plight of sub-Saharan Africa in the last few months. Massive flooding has finally receded, only to be replaced by great concern over water-borne diseases, lack of shelter, and spoiled food stores.

As a result, I asked you all to help my family contribute to a fund to send money specifically to a local church in northern Togo. [More of the details can be found in this post and the posts it references.]

I'm happy to report that through your efforts, we were recently able to wire-transfer $285 to Christ's followers in Togo. I don't know that we'll ever hear precisely how those funds get used, but that's not really the point. They know how best to use it - pray for their wisdom, not some specific goal you might have in mind.

Again, my thanks to those who gave. I ask that you continue to pray.


Type rest of the post here

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Pray for wisdom

As some of you might already know, Carmen and I are flying out to visit a church in Nebraska this weekend. We'll be spending a lot of time with the pastor in charge of (potentially) hiring me.

Please pray that God would give all parties involved tremendous wisdom to know clearly whether this will be a good "fit" for both the local church and its leaders, and for my family and I.

If you have specific questions, feel free to email me.


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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday Buffet

Not much to talk about in this Saturday's Buffet, but what there is is certainly worth reading...

First, we have a compiled list of the most stupid of all British laws. My personal favourite is Number 8:

It is illegal to avoid telling the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.

Next, there is the sad story of the Tower of Pisa, which apparently no longer holds the record for most off-kilter structure!

Finally, a political story. My regular readers will note that I rarely deal with politics directly on this blog. But this story had me scratching my head: Pat Robertson endorses Guiliani?!

Personally, I'm not sure that I much care who Pat Robertson votes for. I generally wish he would keep his mouth shut far more often than he does, so opening it to tell me who he's voting for isn't doing much for me!

But the point is that Robertson influences (and represents?) tons of Christians in this country, and yet he's willing to throw his weight behind Guiliani?!

I suppose I'll feel compelled to post about the current crop of presidential candidates in the near future. But for now, it's enough to say that I most certainly won't be following Pat's lead next November.


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Friday, November 9, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes...

Does your child have some ridiculously un-funny or just plain nonsensical "joke" tell over and over again? You know, the kind that on paper just really isn't funny, but because s/he is your child (or perhaps because of the delivery of children - especially the cute voices!) you find yourself laughing nonetheless.

My three year old (Gracie) has just such a joke. I have no idea where it came from - I must only presume her (somewhat odd) brain. It really isn't funny, but it makes me laugh every time I hear her say it.

So, do you want to know the joke?...

I present to you the unedited Gracie joke:

What do you get when you cross?

A meat 'n donkey cheese!


I find myself laughing uncontrollably even as I'm typing this! I can't explain it, really. Notice she does not say "What do you get when you cross X with Y"... It's just "What do you get when you cross". Moreover, I have no clue what "a meat and donkey cheese" is!

[More uncontrollable laughter. Sorry....]

Okay. Deep breaths.


I'm guessing your children have lines like these, and I'd love to hear some of them...


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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Social Justice?

As you likely know if you've read my blog for very long, I'm theologically conservative on many issues. You probably also figured out that "conservative" is not, however, a particularly good label for me.

One of the reasons why has to do with the issue of social justice. I am an advocate of helping the poor and needy, and I'm reasonably sure God is too!

But I just read an article from the magazine of my alma mater on the subject that takes the issue far too far...

[You can read the full article by clicking this link, then finding and opening the (pdf) link labelled "Waging a Living".]

The University of Michigan is undoubtedly one of the most hard-left leaning, liberal schools in America. Cal-Berkley is the only school I can think of that leans further to the left. Knowing this, I tend to read everything they send me with a grain of salt. A recent article by Irasema Garza was no exception.

In this article, Garza starts out by discussing the well-known changes in the American economy in the last 20-30 years. She makes particular note of the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the propensity for the very wealthy to become even more wealthy. She seems more-or-less even-handed about it all, at first.

She tips her political hand when she says:

Even today, with record high gas prices, worker layoffs, tax cuts to the top one percent of Americans, an unpopular war, and political scandals and corruption, the majority of Americans still want to believe in the American Dream. But the dream is fading.

I have a number of issues with this blanket statement, but don't really want to go down that road in this post. But the one I do want to address is the whole notion of the "American Dream".

What exactly is the American Dream? It seems to me that it depends upon whom you talk to! For some, nearly all of us are living the American Dream - after all, most of us have a home, a job, a family, and the freedom to do as we please. We're not told what religion to practice, what person to vote for, what job we can or can't do... Sounds vastly better than many in the world have it, does it not?!

But for others, the American Dream is just a more sugar-coated way of saying "hyper-materialism"! There are those that think the American Dream is starting your own business, become uber-rich at an early age, then "retiring" to spend the rest of your life lounging on the beach somewhere. Frankly, that sounds much more like a nightmare to me.

But it's clear that Garza has the later more in mind than the former, that her vision for America and her concept of the American Dream has far more to do with the almighty dollar and good ol' materialism than anything else.

Here's the conclusion to her article:

... our political leaders have a responsibility to redefine priorities and act swiftly. Americans need jobs with better wages, universal health care, better balance of work and family, affordable housing, and more connected communities... If the United States is to remain a world economic power and the strongest democracy in the world, working and middle class Americans have to believe in - and have to be able to realize - the American Dream.

That's just plain silly, folks! Let me count some of the reasons:

1) Odd, I don't remember anything in the Constitution about the federal government's job involving meddling in free markets...

2) Odd, I don't know that I've ever felt I needed my "political leaders" to do something for me before I did for myself...

3) Americans need jobs with better wages? Okay - at the risk of sounding like a nut, why? Because we all need more cars, bigger televisions, larger houses? Seriously, why? Without getting too personal on you, allow me to point out that I know a family of eight (yes, that'd be six children) with an income significantly lower than the US mean household income of $48,201/year. They get along in life just fine, with no wealthy benefactor! Oh wait!, that family is mine... I guess I did get a little personal on you... My apologies.

My point? I believe (and have seen first-hand) that most Americans can live an economically sound life if they are willing to (in the words of Garza) "redefine priorities". But contrary to Garza, this isn't about government priorities, it's about ours! This could rapidly become a post all to its own... Pressing on...

4) Universal health care?! Let's for just a moment set aside the fact that our Constitution makes no provision for such a concept. Let's ignore the many failures of such a system overseas. Let's focus on the dollar and cents of it - where will the money come from? The obvious answer is taxes. There are only two real choices to find these tax dollars: a) restructure the way the fed spends tax dollars right now, moving funds away from many projects to fund this one new (and enormously expensive) one, or b) take more taxes from the people (and by "the people", they most likely mean "wealthy people" - rob from the rich to give to the poor). I find neither option acceptable.

5) Affordable housing, you say? So government is now supposed to pick up some of the bill for the house I want (versus the one I can afford)?

6) The two that drive me the most nuts: "better balance of work and family" and "more connected communities". It is my absolute contention that Garza's version of the American Dream and these two goals are mutually exclusive. Want to maintain a better balance between work and family? Then just do it. Find ways to make your dollar stretch further, so you can spend less time at work and more time at home. A friend of mine advises others to "cheat toward home". Want more connected communities? It takes time and effort, not government intervention. We live in isolation by choice, not because our "political leaders" have failed to set the right "priorities".

At the risk of sounding downright mean, Garza has utterly and completely missed the boat. If you're reading this blog post, you're likely living what the Founders would've considered the American Dream. If you live in America, you are likely VASTLY more wealthy than the average African, even if we here in the States consider you poor.

Appreciation. Thankfulness. Hard work. Sacrifice. These are words to live by.

Even more government intervention? No thanks.


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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Who gets to speak for God? (part 2 of 3)

[In case you missed part one, you can read it here.]

Last time, we looked at those that use the question "Who gets to speak for God?" as a way to support egalitarianism, or even so-called "leaderless" models of church.

Today we look at other primary way people use this great question...

There are plenty of well-meaning folk out there that use this question as a way of supporting their belief that so much of what we call Biblical interpretation is subjective. They've grown weary of the somewhat silly notion that (for example) Greek and Hebrew language skill can resolve all the difficulties of the Bible! [Believe it or not, I was once in that camp ... 15 semesters of ancient languages later I know better!] They tire of people that think they've got it all figured out. You know the type - no room for mystery, no room for disagreement.

So the question ("who gets to speak for God?") gets raised as a way of reminding everyone that no one has a direct line from the mouth of God, as it were. We're all - like it or not - subject to a certain amount of subjectivity when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

There are those that believe almost everything about the Bible is subjective, but I'm not really addressing those folks in this post. In my experience, they tend not to ask the question we're discussing. Nor do they use the question to prop up their claims. They tend to be much more direct and pointed about their issues...

But for those that genuinely wrestle with the many (seemingly) contradictory or at least "difficult" passages of Scripture, asking this question is a good way of levelling the playing field.

There are two appropriate responses to this situation, in my opinion:

1) We must acknowledge the fundamental truth of what they're saying. There is a fair bit of subjectivity in the human interpretation of Scripture. You don't have to like that fact, but it's a fact nonetheless. That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't study God's Word and seek to come to an understanding of if. What it means is that we must carefully guard against coming to quick or easy conclusions, and we must certainly make every effort to genuinely consider the opinions and interpretations of other Christ-followers when they disagree with ours.

Here's a good way to start. Try to eliminate the only-slightly subtle "I'm right and you're not" language from your vocabulary. For example, avoid phrases like:

Anyone who takes the Bible seriously will agree with me.

That's a pretty liberal interpretation.

Sorry, I just don't buy that interpretation.

In others words, when the debate is in-house let's keep it civil and humble.

2) When appropriate, we need to try to help these people understand Biblical hermeneutics. Know going in that there are different hermeneutical paradigms that people use, and some of them you're just going to have to agree to disagree with. But in my experience, once people see that you hold your interpretations humbly but you hold them for well-considered reasons they are much more likely to feel a peace about the whole process of Biblical interpretation. We can't give the impression that people just make this stuff up! Because that's exactly how it looks to many...

If we believe that God wants us to know His Word, we must believe that He's given guidelines for how to do so. Helping people understand this principle therefore comes with the added bonus of helping them understand the very nature of God better.


So, if you're asking "Who gets to speak for God?" because you're frustrated with the know-it-all attitude of too many Christians and what to encourage them toward humility, I'm with you!

But if you're asking the question out of your own doubts and fears, let me help you.


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Saturday Buffet

No fanfare this week. Except to say that if you look at nothing else this week, you must at least check out the last entry in this week's Saturday Buffet.

Here's this week's edition...

Perhaps you never thought about the fact that Daylight Savings Time is (in part) about saving energy? Now you know. And just for the record, you should know that Indiana finally adopted Daylight Savings Time ... sort of.

In this weeks political double-speak category, John Edwards wants us to know that in order to pay for his proposed enormous "College for Everyone" initiative, every taxpayer will have to put in more money ... because "there are no free meals". Unless, I guess, you're getting a taxpayer supported free college degree ... ?!?

Good news from Focus on the Family - they intend to focus more on parenting than politics in the coming years! ... and there was much rejoicing!

In Iraq, the premier has vowed to help our brothers and sisters in Christ as they attempt to stay safe and in the country (more than 50% of them have left already).

In case you avoided my Halloween post (and who could blame you!), here are two more interesting articles on the subject. First, it seems Russia is attempting to stop the import of the "holiday" in schools. Next, in a logically related story, it appears that Victoria's Secret is successfully marketing their products to young girls.

Finally, this one is amazing. Apparently a bunch of guys with a ton of time on their hands took zillions of high-resolution pictures of DaVinci's Last Supper and then pasted them together. The result? You can now view the painting online and zoom right down to the tiniest detail. Seriously, you can find some of the original pencil marks where DaVinci traced images out before painting them! You must check this one out, folks.


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