Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Carthaginian Foundation myth

Okay, I know this is a major departure from my normal (though now infrequent) posts, but I need to do this for my students ... the rest of you may disregard this as you will.

Students, should you choose to accept the challenge: What follows is the story of Pygmalion and Elissa. It is the primary Foundation myth for Carthage. Please read it and then explain it in your own words, using no more than one page. Please abide by all of my standard nit-picky, grumpy old man rules and regulations for academic writing.

Beware: here be large, cantankerous words; let the dictionary be your guide!

Without further ado:

The Tyrians [...] sent a portion of their youth into Africa, and founded Utica. Meanwhile their king died at Tyre, appointing his son Pygmalion and his daughter Elissa, a maiden of extraordinary beauty, his heirs. But the people gave the throne to Pygmalion, who was quite a boy. Elissa married Acerbas, her uncle, who was priest of Melqart, a dignity next to that of the king. Acerbas had great but concealed riches, having laid up his gold, for fear of the king, not in his house, but in the earth; a fact of which, though people had no certain knowledge of it, report was not silent.

Pygmalion, excited by the account, and forgetful of the laws of humanity, murdered his uncle, who was also his brother-in-law, without the least regard to natural affection. Elissa long entertained a hatred to her brother for his crime, but at last, dissembling her detestation, and assuming mild looks for the time, she secretly contrived a mode of flight, admitting into her confidence some of the leading men of the city, in whom she saw that there was a similar hatred of the king, and an equal desire to escape.

She then addressed her brother in such a way as to deceive him; pretending that "she had a desire to remove to his house, in order that the home of her husband might no longer revive in her, when she was desirous to forget him, the oppressive recollection of her sorrows, and that the sad remembrances of him might no more present themselves to her eyes."

To these words of his sister, Pygmalion was no unwilling listener, thinking that with her the gold of Acerbas would come to him. But Elissa put the attendants, who were sent by the king to assist in her removal, on board some vessels in the early part of the evening, and sailing out into the deep made them throw some loads of sand, put up in sacks, as if it was money, into the sea. Then, with tears and mournful ejaculations, she invoked Acerbas, entreating that "he would favorably receive his wealth which he had left behind him, and accept that as an offering to his shade, which he had found to be the cause of his death."

Next she addressed the attendants, and said that "death had long been desired by her, but as for them, cruel torments and a direful end awaited them, for having disappointed the tyrant's avarice of those treasures, in the hopes of obtaining which he had committed fratricide."

Having thus struck terror into them all, she took them with her as companions of her flight. Some bodies of senators, too, who were ready against that night, came to join her, and having offered a sacrifice to Melqart, whose priest Acerbas had been, proceeded to seek a settlement in exile.

[....] Pygmalion, having heard of his sister's flight, and preparing to pursue her with unfeeling hostility, was scarcely induced by the prayers of his mother and the menaces of the gods to remain quiet; the inspired augurs warning him that "he would not escape with impunity, if he interrupted the founding of a city that was to become the most prosperous in the world."

By this means some respite was given to the fugitives; and Elissa, arriving in a gulf of Africa, attached the inhabitants of the coast, who rejoiced at the arrival of foreigners, and the opportunity of bartering commodities with them, to her interest. Having then bargained for a piece of ground, as much as could be covered with an ox-hide, where she might refresh her companions, wearied with their long voyage, until she could conveniently resume her progress, she directed the hide to be cut into the thinnest possible strips, and thus acquired a greater portion of ground than she had apparently demanded; whence the place had afterward the name of Byrsa.

The people of the neighborhood subsequently gathering about her, bringing, in hopes of gain, many articles to the strangers for sale, and gradually fixing their abodes there, some resemblance of a city arose from the concourse. Ambassadors from the people of Utica, too, brought them presents as relatives, and exhorted them "to build a city where they had chanced to obtain a settlement."

An inclination to detain the strangers was felt also by the Africans; and, accordingly, with the consent of all, Carthage was founded, an annual tribute being fixed for the ground which it was to occupy. At the commencement of digging the foundations an ox's head was found, which was an omen that the city would be wealthy, indeed, but laborious and always enslaved. It was therefore removed to another place, where the head of a horse was found, which, indicating that the people would be warlike and powerful, portended an auspicious site. In a short time, as the surrounding people came together at the report, the inhabitants became numerous, and the city itself extensive.

When the power of the Carthaginians, from success in their proceedings, had risen to some height, Hiarbas, king of the Mauretanians, desiring an interview with ten of the chief men of Carthage, demanded Elissa in marriage, denouncing war in case of a refusal. The deputies, fearing to report this message to the queen, acted towards her with Carthaginian artifice, saying that "the king asked for some person to teach him and his Africans a more civilized way of life, but who could be found that would leave his relations and go to barbarians and people that were living like wild beasts?"

Being then reproached by the queen, "in case they refused a hard life for the benefit of their country, to which, should circumstances require, their life itself was due," they disclosed the king's message, saying that "she herself, if she wished her city to be secure, must do what she required of others."

Being caught by this subtlety, she at last said (after calling for a long time with many tears and mournful lamentations on the name of her husband Acerbas), that "she would go whither the fate of her city called her."

Taking three months for the accomplishment of her resolution, and having raised a funeral pile at the extremity of the city, she sacrificed many victims, as if she would appease the shade of her husband, and make her offerings to him before her marriage; and then, taking a sword, she ascended the pile, and, looking towards the people, said, that "she would go to her husband as they had desired her," and put an end to her life with the sword.


HT: livius.org


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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The secret value of Children's Ministry

Like so many other pastors, I sometimes find myself pondering some of the less than encouraging statistics reported about the Church in America. One that particularly bothers me is that (per Barna) 2 out of 3 teens involved in a local church will graduate from high school and rarely even grace the doors of a church building again until they marry and have children.

How is it possible that we're failing this badly? Surely the local church alone can't bear all of the responsibility, but just as surely we must bear some. We spend gobs of time, effort, and money on Youth Pastors, youth ministries, youth centers, etc... but to seemingly little long-term effect. Is it perhaps time to rethink things...

I have wondered out loud for some time now ... wondered if good CM isn't part of the solution. Hear me out for a moment.

CM is typically handled one of two ways in most American churches. A) It's left as a strictly volunteer ministry, believing that good CM "just happens". B) It's loaded with all the latest bells and whistles; Disney-land meets daycare with a Bible theme.

It's my considered opinion that neither is the right way to go.

Good CM is designed and led to be so. It focuses on both evangelism and discipleship; that is, it leads kids to Jesus and then teaches them how to follow Him. When done right, we're building a foundation for future, further growth and maturity. When done well, we're crafting safeguards against many of the problems common to kids when hormones and peer-pressure really start to weigh in.

It seems to me that the standard mantra about Youth Ministries ("teens these days face so much more difficulty than we ever did") misses the real point: teens these days were generally given no significant foundation by the local church when they were young to cope with and conquer the trials in their lives.

If that's the case - and can anyone really argue otherwise? - then why do we continue to repeat the same flawed formula? Why is it that most churches will hire virtually every other "specialty" pastor before thinking about hiring a Children's Pastor? We keep doing things the same way yet expect different results...

I know, I know ... there are certainly other issues here. For example, what about the time-honoured debate over how to care for the teens with roots in our local churches and the teens that simply show up looking for love and encouragement? Plainly we have an obligation to both.

What about parents? Surely I'm not letting them off the hook! Mom and Dad have the primary responsibility for leading their own children to Jesus and teaching them how to follow Him; the local church works to partner with them. But how are Mom and Dad supposed to know how? If the local church doesn't model and teach these principles, how will Mom and Dad ever stumble across them? Oh, some will for sure. But the majority? We will have failed to serve them and failed to serve their children.

I'm not being too idealistic here - I have no delusions that good CM will vaccinate kids against all the troubles that beset most teens. But it's obvious that what the local churches in America have been doing with regard to making disciples of kids has been an almost universal failure.

Isn't it time to seriously consider rethinking our methods?


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Great Pyramid

For my World History class and anyone else interested in how the Great Pyramids might have been created:

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What Jehovah's Witnesses believe

For my World Religions students and anyone else interested in Jehovah's Witnesses:

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome BCS!

As of a day or two ago, the new BCS website has a link to this blog. If you've come here that way, welcome!

I'll warn you in advance that my blog is not generally light reading. While I do post occasionally about such things as book or movies, more often than not I'm dealing with some aspect of the interface between cultural postmodernity and real Christian faith. If that sounds interesting, by all means ... read on! If not, feel free to find me on Facebook.


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Summer reading

So other than the previously posted about "This Present Darkness", I undertook the task of reading two classics this summer: Dune and The Last of the Mohicans...

Dune, for the uninitiated, is the sci-fi equivalent of the Lord of the Rings series - the quintessential work in it's field. If your only experience with Dune is the truly horrible 1980s film, please attempt to blot it from your memory! The book is fantastic - it addresses theology, ecology, sociology ... and it's terribly entertaining, too. I'm glad to have read it.

The Last of the Mohicans was, perhaps, even better. I couldn't put it down. Again, it deals with issues of theology and pluralism, tolerance, history ... and is very entertaining. Having just finished the book, I though I watch the 1992 film of the same name. I phrase it that way on purpose, because the film bore so little resemblance to the book that I found myself wasting two hours of my life. I'll never get them back. Neither will you, should you watch that wretched film. I'm generally not a film-snob, but this one is simply terrible.

All right, then: what was on your summer reading list?


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Saturday, July 18, 2009

You CAN'T be anything you want to be, folks

"You can be anything you want to be." "You can do anything you set your mind to."

This particular issue has come up a few times recently, and it's reminded me of the folly of so much of today's parenting. I'm not sure exactly when we started telling kids these things. But if you think about it for just a few moments, they're obviously not true.

For example, let's say little Johnny dreams all his days of being a fighter pilot ... but he grows up to be a 6' 3" man. So much for fighter pilot; they're not made to accommodate people that tall. What if little Suzy really wants to be an accountant when she grows up ... but she's terrible with math. So much for being an accountant. The list goes on; there are things in this life so far beyond our control that we simply must stop telling kids these lies.

More to the point: we are implicitly telling kids that a) life is fair, and b) they can control their own lot in life right down to the minutiae. Neither is true. Life simply is not always fair (unless you understand that what's fair would be universal condemnation, but now I'm digressing). We cannot control every detail of our life story - height, aptitude, tragedy, circumstances, etc... We are essentially building within our kids the notion that they are little gods unto themselves.

I know, I know ... that seems like I'm overplaying it. And perhaps I am; the point remains the same. Neither you nor I, nor our children or grandchildren, can be anything we want to be. I don't care how many cartoons, info-mercials or people in stuffed animal suits proclaim otherwise.

[Note: A quick search o' the internet tells me that Robert E Lee is credited with using the expression, so it's safe to assume it goes back at least that far...]


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Present Darkness

Okay, I'm sure I'm so behind the times, but I finally got around to reading Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. All 508 pages of it!

My twelve year old son actually won it at some library contest, but quickly decided he didn't want to read it. So, being the voracious reader that I am, I did! (By the way, did I mention that my wife has declared June a 'no TV' month? Lots of time to read, friends!).

Anyway, I can see why the book was so popular a few years back, but (as you might imagine) I have some serious criticisms of it too...

First things first: it's a novel, not a theology book. Frank Peretti has the same rights to create fiction as any other story-teller. In that sense, he's created a captivating world, one filled with billions of demons and angels at war with one another. A world where the LORD tells people the names of these demons in a bid to grant power to His angels on the offensive. A world where super-powerful individuals work toward a one-world religion and government with great cunning.

As a novel, the book is pretty gripping. I regularly found it hard to put down. Some of the names are cumbersome, and when you can't get comfortable with names it tends to make a story choppy for me sometimes. There were too many Halmark moments for my taste, too. But all told, the tale is interesting and fast-moving. The daunting 500 pages didn't seem overly long once the story began to unfold.

The trouble I have is that too many well-meaning Christians seem to have taken their theology from the pages of this book. More accurately, this book reflects a theological tradition that has grown in prominence because of this book. Regardless, there are now plenty of folk out in the world that are "binding and loosing" demons by name, all the while convinced that this is what real spiritual warfare is all about. I disagree.

If spiritual warfare were what Peretti's fictional world makes it out to be, why is the Bible so shockingly silent about it?!? Where's Paul's great teaching section about how to bind demons? Where's the letter to the Angelonians - you know, that church struggling against the weight of all these sin-demons? Just as importantly, why does the New Testament so often leave us with the impression that we - not some spiritual power of darkness - are to blame for our sins? If the reason I struggle with pride is that I have a "pride demon" crawling around my person, surely the Bible would tell me that, no?

It's this kind of spirituality that severely minimizes our own culpability in our sinfulness that drives me crazy. Always looking for a demon to blame; always certain that "the Devil is out to get me". I'm not denying the reality of demons and the stated goal of Satan, but I can't go along with a theology that over-emphasizes it either. Let me wrestle with my own sinfulness, my own wrong desires, my own "old man"... I'll leave the untold things of angels and demons in the hands of the Almighty.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Only the beginning of Romans is inspired

Okay - don't brand me a heretic. I used the title to make a point: rest assured, I'm not doubting the inspiration of Paul's letter to the Romans.

So now that you can breathe again, what exactly am I saying...?

I've just recently finished teaching a 12th grade course on the book of Romans. To my surprise, we actually finished the whole letter! In the process, I think I've stumbled across a major blind spot on the part of many of my well-intended evangelical brothers and sisters...

Ask virtually anyone acquainted with the text, and they'll tell you that Romans is the quintessential explanation of the Gospel. A cursory examination of the text will reveal that what Paul begins with in Rom 1:17 (the righteous shall live by faith), he expands in great detail.

We speak of Redemption - that great truth that Jesus bought me out of the slave market of sin.

We talk about Justification - that astonishing truth that Jesus declares me to be perfectly righteous, even though clearly I'm not.

We rejoice in Sanctification - that amazing truth that the Spirit is actually making me more like Jesus.

For some, the book of Romans gets a bit confusing after that (for those of you playing along at home, we're up to chapter 9 now). But chapters 9-11 aren't really that complicated - they are Paul's vindication of God's revealed righteousness ... but I digress.

So here were are, loving the book of Romans for its full and wonderful explanation of the Gospel. And rightly so ... but

so what?

We think the Gospel is fundamentally about restoring a right relationship with God ... and that's it.

But that isn't all there is to it. Paul actually goes through a whole series of "so what" thinking, but most of the time we miss it. He talks about living at peace with our neighbors as a result of the Gospel. He talks about obeying the authorities over you as a result of the Gospel. He tells us not to make mountains out of mole hills as a result of the Gospel.

Finally, Paul boils it all down for us: "Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory." [Romans 15:5-7, emphasis mine]

In the end, the heart of the Gospel is to bring God glory. Surely our lives here on earth are to be a major contributor to this, no? Then why do we so often speak of the Gospel only in terms of its power to save us from eternal damnation?

This is little more than "fire insurance" faith. I'm tired of it. I want no part of it. I refuse to believe that Jesus died on the cross to issue me a "Get out of Hell free" card.

This life is to be lived out for God's glory. And that's not just an after-effect of the Gospel; it's a fundamental part of it.


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Logically speaking...

So I had the honour of spending part of last night with our church group for college-age folk. With nothing scheduled to talk about, the evening was devoted to "can of worms" questioning... sometimes a bit daunting, but always fun. I only know about half of these folk very well at all, so there was the additional challenge of that. Anyway, I was asked one particular question that's left me thinking - always a good thing!

One guy asked me (in response to a comment I made about the differences between Modernity and Postmodernity) if I thought God was logical. My answer: "It depends on how you define logical". That's not a cop out! Think about it for a moment with me, as I try to refine my thinking...

Usually when we talk about logic we mean something that makes sense, it flows from A to B, etc... Webster's dictionary says it means "capable of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion". That sounds about right. But does that describe God? I would argue that plenty of what God has done and does is not "reasonable" to me. Much of God's work does not seem "orderly" to me. Moreover, God often does things that simply don't seem logical to me! Don't shoot me just yet; hear me out.

God holds that I must pray, yet He knows everything. Is that logical? God says I'm alive here on earth, yet I'm viewed as presently glorified with Him in Heaven. God says I'm a sinner struggling daily to walk in the light, yet I'm viewed as righteous through Jesus' blood. God says Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. God exists in three co-equal persons. The list could continue.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying God is illogical. Not at all! I'd like to think there's a third option - something like superlogical - above what we call "logic". I'm also not saying His Word is illogical or that it should be read and studied in any way but a logical one.

I'm arguing that "logical" means different things from either the human or the divine perspective. Therefore I'm not sure it's terribly instructive to talk about whether or not God is "logical". A more instructive question: has God left us a logical revelation of Himself? The answer, of course, is yes - the Bible is God's logical self-revelation.

I admit I haven't thought through all the ramifications of this just yet. It all started as a simple question in the midst of a grander discussion. But if His ways are beyond my comprehension, and the word we use for comprehensible, orderly, cogent things is "logical" ... you do the math.

In the end, I'm reasonably certain this is a philosophical argument, and a philosophical one only. I could be accused of merely arguing semantics, I suppose. But as is usually the case, such philosophical banter can often be instructive, and regularly makes us think. So thanks, Revolution, for making my brain turn to a different beat last night!

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

We are a family

I've been preaching and teaching that we (the local church) are a family for years now. At our local church we recently made a change to reinforce that concept - we now include our K-5 children in corporate worship. We're one week in, but I'm already excited...

It seems odd to me that so many local churches shuttle their kids off to their own little corner virtually every time they meet. I understand that there's great value in having kids grouped with other kids sometimes: age-appropriate teaching, peer bonding, etc... But why the trend toward virtual isolation? I'm not sure it speaks well of our culture.

Having said that, one of the things I most like about our local church is that people actually want to include kids in the life of the local church! So we finally took the next major step last week, keeping the K-5s with their parents until the start of the sermon. For my part, it was great! Having all those kids viewing and participating in corporate worship, seeing what a mass of adult followers of Jesus looks like when singing their praise to Him, ... The benefits are probably incalculable, to be honest.

So, if you get a chance, let me know how you see this issue. What does your local church do? What would you change about the involvement of children in the life of your local church?


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Missional training

As most of you know, I'm absolutely convinced that the church in America has messed up the very nature of Children's Ministry (CM) almost beyond repair. We have coddled them, we have entertained them, we have over-simplified everything for them. In the process we have also implicitly taught them that the local church exists for them.

One of the reasons I'm most honoured to be the Children's Pastor at our local church is the chance to change this, at least within our church family. We reached what I think I might look back on as a milestone the other day...

During our Wednesday night children's ministry, we began collecting items for our local nursing home. Children of all ages brought candies, cards, chapstick and other goodies to the church building. Then last week those same children decorated white gift bags and made Valentine cards for the residents of the nursing home.

So far, pretty standard fare for CM. What we did next has - I pray - laid the foundation for training our children to think missionally. We took the older kids from this group - a Sunday School class - to the nursing home to personally deliver our gift bags and Valentine cards. Twelve young souls - most of them in 4th and 5th grade - travelled the halls of the nursing home in groups of 6, guided to rooms of residents that could use some cheering up. The group I was with spoke with a lady recovering from the nasty cold that's been going around in these parts. She asked me to pray with her before I left the room. We were given the real honour of meeting and talking with a WWII vet, a man that was on the shores of Normandy 2 days after the invasion! We met a sweet lady that shard the same name as one of our children there that day. We spoke with a man barely able to speak.

What didn't we do? We didn't preach. We didn't insert the token gospel tract into their bags. We also didn't hide our love for Jesus. We didn't hide the fact that we were representing a local church. We wore our faith on our sleeves yet did not wield it as a weapon.

I couldn't be more proud of these, "my" kids. They shared the love of Jesus. They encouraged lonely hearts. They were - I think - challenged themselves by some of what they saw. They advanced God's glory.

On top of all that, they're learning first-hand that the life of the local church is not about being served. It's not about consumerism. It's not about what a local church can do for you. It's about service. As our Lord did, we came to serve those residents.

My great hope is that we've begun what will be a long-term relationship with this nursing home. I hope to get these children and others back to visit them regularly. We're already planning to tell the real story of St. Patrick with them sometime next month.

I know it seems small in so many ways, but I really think we're on to something here. Your thoughts?


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Monday, February 9, 2009

Words written in red

One of the more curious tendencies of the emerging church is to take the words of Jesus as somehow more important than the rest of the Bible. Reverence for Jesus has to be demonstrated by elevating His words to a higher plateau, I suppose the thinking goes. I've seen this attitude in scholarly works on EC and at the local level. It's problematic, and I know I've posted about it before, but for the benefit of a friend let's address the issue again for just a bit, eh?

First things first - the Bible explicitly tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration and all Scripture is profitable for growth in Christian character. You'd like to think that would settle it, but apparently it doesn't for plenty of EC folk.

Perhaps more to the point, Jesus Himself clearly sees enormous value in the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, He uses the text of Jonah to validate His own ministry. In Matthew 12, His detractors ask for "a sign" and He promises to validate His ministry by none other than the "sign of Jonah". The language of the text makes it clear that Jesus fully accepts both the authenticity and authority of this OT text. If Jesus Himself had such a high view of Scripture, is it not the height of folly to declare that Jesus' words are more important than other Scriptures?!

Here's another issue: the words of Jesus fail to address so many issues that other texts of Scripture deal with. If we are to limit ourselves to only the words of Jesus, we severely limit God's voice on many, many topics.

Another: seeing the words of Jesus this way is a fundamental error in our view of Scripture. If Scripture is a sort of divine self-help book, then perhaps you could argue that the "way of Jesus" is most important in the Bible. But since the Bible is, in fact, God's self-revelation to humanity, such a view of Jesus' words falls very short of adequate.

None of this, of course, means that I'm devaluing the words of Jesus. I'm simply arguing that - while it sounds terribly pious - regarding Jesus' words as somehow more important than other words of the Bible is actually a lower view of Scripture and therefore the Christ of Scripture, too.


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Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's your sign?

Church reader-boards are fascinating things, no? Virtually every church building has a reader-board somewhere ... out front, on the building ... somewhere! Any every church body wants to put that silly thing to some meaningful purpose, right? But let's be honest - how many of them really are meaningful? Not many; I know.

There are a few basic tactics that local churches seem to employ on these contraptions...

Theory A: Use the board for informational purposes. These are the reader-boards that simply list times of service or some upcoming event. Safe play, for sure. But is that really effective? I have my doubts. How many people are going to see that sign and think, "You know, I've always wanted to visit that church but didn't know when they met - now I think I'll go"? In this day and age? - zero.

Theory B: Use the board to be funny. Everyone wants others to think they're witty or funny, right? [I certainly do!] So use the board to say something clever, like "C H _ _ C H; what's missing? U R". Cute, but like most of the witty signs, they pretty much play to the home crowd. In other words, it's pretty much just other followers of Jesus that are going to "get it" and laugh. Not that there's anything bad about knowing you're brightening the day of some Christian that happens to be driving by ... but is that the best use of the reader-board? I don't know.

Theory C: Be attractional. These are the signs that attempt to invite people in with some tempting message. The most generic (and pathetic) would be the classic "Everyone Welcome". Those passing by are surely glad to know that - I'm sure they thought you needed a special invitation and a secret handshake to come visit this Sunday, right? One I particularly hate: "We have something for everyone". What's the implicit message here? That local churches exist for you. In other words, you should choose a church based upon what you get, what's in it for you, what goods and services they can provide. Sound consumerist? That's because it is consumerist, kids. To all reading this with the power of a reader-board: please stop using them to promote consumption of "Christian" stuff. Please.

Theory D: Be controversial. These signs will get you noticed in the marketplace, for good or for ill. A local church in our area had the audacity to put something on their reader-board just before the last presidential election claiming that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Absolute nonsense, but it made them infamous for about a week. Not a good plan, if you ask me. Another classic? "We still use the KJV!" - about a sure a way to keep all but the most hardened Pharisee from coming to your assembly... Or my personal favourites [and, incidentally, the reason I should never be given the power over a reader-board]: controversial signs that make you think! For example, what if your reader-board said something like, "Why the hell weren't you here Sunday?!" ... Reminiscent of Tony Campolo's famous rant/sermon, and definitely worthy of a double-take, it'd have the community talking!

Theory E: Tear it down! Why not? Why not get rid of that big, unsightly thing and plant a tree or some flowers? If you aren't putting it to good use (and admit it, you're most likely not) do the community a favour and take down an internally lit florescent eye-sore, eh?

I'm not saying any of these are necessarily wrong uses of a reader-board, nor that any are necessarily the best. Let's just stick to basic Biblical principles and attempt to be wise in how we use these things, or turn to Theory E.

What say you?


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Book Review: Addicted to Mediocrity

When a man you respect tells you that three books have most impacted his life (aside from the Bible), then suggests you read one of them ... you read it!

My senior pastor asked me to read Franky Schaeffer's Addicted to Mediocrity. [Yes, that's Francis Schaeffer's son.] He apparently read it in the mid-80s and found it revolutionary. Knowing that I was going to be preaching on the subject of Christians and the arts, he recommended it to me. He even lent me his copy; how could I not read it?!

I think I understand why he found the book such a challenge to his thinking...

I remember what the late 1980s were like in the bubble of evangelical Christianity: anything not explicitly "Christian" was often deemed bad. "Christian" as an adjective ... !!! Another post, someday soon...

Anyway, in that climate any art that didn't portray overt, explicit imagery of Jesus was frowned upon. Sad. Silly. Ridiculous, to be honest.

In that climate, I can understand why this book we be revolutionary. In today's, I'm happy to report that it's not so outstanding. This is a good thing! Schaeffer would - I think - be happy with the progress we've made in this area. [Franky Schaeffer's personal journey is a whole different matter ... ]

If you grew up - like me - in an evangelical world that belittled anything not "Christian" than you should read this book. If that's never been a struggle of yours, pass on this one.

One specific quote I liked: "When our Christianity is allowed to become merely spiritual and inward without the incarnational and outward expressions of God's presence in the world, our faith is no longer meaningful in all areas of life. This indeed is what happened to Christianity during the twentieth century." (p.28)

I'll leave you with this - arguably the funniest endnote I've ever read: "In looking at the diversity of the Scripture in its content and form, one can hardly imagine that the Bible has anything to do with the present narrow theological sloganeering aspects of evangelical Christianity. It seems to me that if the Bible had been written along the lines of what much of evangelical Christianity represents today, instead of being the full comprehensive wonderful Book of diversity, beauty, knowledge, truth, wisdom, it would be a three-page pamphlet printed probably in words of one syllable, preferably on pink paper (because pink sells), possibly with a scratch and sniff section on the back to stimulate some spiritual experience while reading it. In contrast, the real Bible, the Word of God, is solid, human, verifiable, divine indeed." (p.20, endnote 1).


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