Monday, June 18, 2012
I used to want a tattoo. I thought they were a healthy part of being an awesome guy. Not that I wanted to be part of the "cool crowd," but I wanted to know for myself that I was marked with awesomeness. Now, I've begun to see tattoos a bit differently. So, here are my current reasons why I wouldn't get a tattoo:
1) From far away most tattoos look like horrible birthmarks.
2) From close up most tattoos look like intentional horrible birthmarks.
3) I don't want any identifying marks if I ever have to flee half-naked from a crime scene.
4) People get weird diseases from tattoo parlors. Sure, most of them are pretty sterile these days, but I knew a guy who got a tattoo and a few days later he was a zombie! I tried to tell everyone, and I got responses like, "Carl's always been slack-jawed and glassy eyed," and, "Carl was biting everyone long before he got the tattoo." What?! This meant I had to take matters into my own hands. Luckily I had no identifying marks when I fled half-naked from the crime scene.
I won't go into any of the other stuff, like what the Church position on tattoos is (I think it's something like: They are permissible, but must be done for appropriate reasons... The human body is created by God, and is beautiful... You know, stuff like that). I think the reasons above should be good enough.
Friday, May 4, 2012
For a Protestant things are very different. Now, there are some people who will say, "Christian is Christian," and pick either the closest church, the church with the most inspiring speaker, the church with the comfiest seats, or the church with the best music. I have to say right out that this is wrong. There are very different things taught in different churches, but since illustrating that sounds like another topic to me, let's assume for now that I'm right: Different things are taught in different churches. You will get a different set of "do's" and a different set of "don't do's." You will be taught different things about who Jesus is, and different things about what he wants from us. You will be presented with different parts of the grace that God offers.
The point is that it matters what a church teaches, and not just how it teaches. If two churches teach equal amounts of truth, go ahead and choose one based on location or music style. Accordingly, from this point, when I say "church," I will generally mean either an independent non-denominational church or an entire collection of churches (or denomination) with a single authoritative body.
So the real problem is, how do I pick a church that teaches the right thing? Of course prayer plays a part, but prayer doesn't happen in a vacuum. We have internal and external influences of all kinds. Thus, I've known many people who have prayerfully considered which church to attend, yet they all ended up in churches that were quite different in their beliefs, from "non-denominational" (which I think of as micro-denominational), to Wesleyan denominational, to liberal Episcopalian, to Seventh Day Adventist.
To illustrate the crux of the problem: Someone I know changed churches because he felt his Pastor had been telling him he had to vote Republican. Just as easily, someone might leave a church for telling them to tithe 10%, or to avoid homosexual acts, or to give up wine and dancing. Some of these people might be right in disagreeing with their Pastor, and others might be wrong. The thing is that ultimately, the Pastor has no authority, and the individual church-goer has all authority. You see, every Pastor is voted into place by either a literal vote of the congregation or by a vote of attendance.
If we think about this it ultimately means that each person is a denomination unto themselves, and must serve as Biblical scholar, arbiter of conflicts, guardian of sacred tradition, etc.
Let's see how this matches up with the Bible. In Acts 15 we can see the Council of Jerusalem, where a binding decision is made by the Church leaders, and it is promulgated throughout the Church. This only works in an authoritative unified Church.
What happens if I looked around and finally found Last Church of Mesa, where everything seemed right, but then all of a sudden the Pastor tells us the church leaders have made a decision? Now we are no longer allowed to drink beer! I know the Bible doesn't tell me I can't have a cold one while enjoying my televised sports program, so I go across the street to Hip Fellows' Fellowship, where I'm pleased to find out about the Beer and Televised Sports Ministry.
Similarly, let's remember what Matthew 18 tells us that Jesus said regarding church discipline. First the individual confronts the one in need of correction, then a small group, and if he still hasn't listened he is brought before the church. If he will not heed the church, he is to be shunned (or excommunicated). Once again, this only works in an authoritative unified Church.
So, what happens when I go back to the Last Church of Mesa (because they do have softer seats), and I start receiving negative remarks regarding my Beer & Sports t-shirt. If I get wind of them even thinking of bringing me before the church, I'll be back in the hard (yet hip) folding chairs at Hip Fellows' before they can even blink.
If we recognize this reality, it means that churches become clubs of like-minded people, and not places where we can go to really have our minds changed, and bring our hearts more in line with the ways of God.
This is why it is in fact impossible to choose a church. If we choose a church we are granting the church authority, and what we have given, we can take away, so the choice is by its nature impermanent. Also, we have no ground, no authority from which to really grant a church authority in the first place. And if we assume we do have authority to go so far as to choose a church, we have indeed become a church unto ourselves.
If we cannot choose a church, a church must be chosen for us. Who has authority to give us a church? Only God. Our choice would then be whether to accept what God has offered us. It must be a Church from God not from men. Certainly it will contain a lot of crazy people, but nonetheless, it did spring from a seed planted by Christ, and its roots still draw upon that source.
What would such a God-given Church look like? As I pointed out above, it should be unified and authoritative. Besides this, it must have history that can be traced to the time of Christ if it is the Church of the Apostles in Acts 15. It should show at least a little semblance of the temple-centered Jewish culture it separated from in the time of the Apostles. It would hopefully still have a strong presence in the Mediterranean, where the Apostles first spread the faith. It would probably be widely available around the world, so we could find it if we looked.
Now it would just be the icing on the cake if it were the largest unified Christian body in the world, if it had figurehead who personified its unity, if it were centered in a city mentioned in the Bible (and it would be ironic if this city was the seat of the fallen empire which once executed our Lord), if it had a Christian hall of fame and centuries of theological work to draw upon for guidance and inspiration, if it were responsible for the original evangelization of most of the Christian world, if it had decided upon the books of the Bible, and if it had painstakingly hand-copied the Scriptures for 1500 years before the printing press (and before all the little denominations which claim the Bible as their base).
If we recognized something incredible like this had happened, what right would we have to choose a church? We could only come to the conclusion that God had given us all a big shiny obvious Church as a gift, and all we could do is accept it.
Friday, April 13, 2012
A person's internal health does not necessarily correspond with their current external behaviors. A fitness instructor who just switched to a sedentary lifestyle will still be in better shape than a couch potato who just started exercising. Also a man who appears in equal health to another might secretly be dying of cancer. But the externals do nonetheless have great impact on direction toward better health or toward degradation. So it is with religion.I won't go into everything that this relates to, but I'll bring up a few points. One, there could obviously be someone who talks about eating healthy (or talks about church), but dines solely on Crisco (or doesn't even try to live a loving life). There could be someone who runs past your window, but then sits wheezing around the corner on his phone, ordering a pizza. Or someone might go to the gym just to drink protein shakes and take a nap in the sauna. But usually, someone making some effort to run or go to the gym is doing something good for their body, not just putting on a show. Similarly, the externals of religion are usually connected at least to some extent to a real desire for spiritual growth, and are a "part of a healthy spiritual lifestyle."
I do mean this to relate to charges of hypocrisy, complaints of imperfect Christians, and maybe some things I can't remember, but my main point is that the internal relationship with Jesus does relate to externally visible religious practices, just as internal health relates to externally visible exercise and eating habits, and that in many cases a casual observer cannot gather enough information to really make any kind of judgements.
On the other hand, there are still many actions which can be judged themselves to be unhealthy. If you see someone smoking a pack a day, gaining a hundred pounds in the last year, or losing a limb, these tend to be signs of poor or declining health. Similarly, boasting of sexual exploits, treating everyone as an idiot, or sacrificing children to Moloch tend to be signs of poor or declining spiritual health.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
|Photo from candyaddict.com|
I did address the religion vs. relationship issue, and addressed how the marriage-like relationship we are meant to have with Christ is expressed in our religious beliefs and practices.
Let me just examine this topic briefly from another angle, and hopefully show just how off base any claim "Jesus hates Religion" must be. Now there is an extent to which "religion" is quite hard to define, and part of the problem here is probably that the man opposed to religion means something a little different when he says the word, and because of this, I might be defending something different from what is attacking. Let's try then to at least get a sense of the word, even if we cannot define it exactly. According to Peter Kreeft, in the Handbook of Christian Apologetics, religion is hard to define, but each religion has three characteristics: "creed, code and cult," or, "beliefs, morality, and liturgy," or "words, works, and worship." Does Jesus place himself against any of these three characteristics, the defining aspects of religion? Simply, no. In fact Jesus preaches all three (And to be clear, we're using the classical definition of "cult" not the modern definition, so don't freak out on me).
Jesus gave us the root of our beliefs, his identity as God become man. If we reject the beliefs of religion we must obviously reject the scriptures in which those beliefs are grounded. Imagine if Jesus did reject beliefs. How can we begin to have a relationship with Christ without being able to even form an element of an idea of him within our mind, since that would constitute a belief, and Jesus banned belief?
Jesus consistently taught morality. He did not attack the Pharisees for "religion" but for immorality and related hypocrisy. He consistently forgave sins of the outcasts, but he also consistently exhorted, "sin no more." And he clearly taught obedience to the Commandments. It is clear then that Jesus gave us both beliefs and a code.
Then is worship the one problem? Off the bat this sounds unlikely. Can our method of worship be so outlandishly cumbersome that it is somehow standing in opposition to relationship with Christ? But that hardly matters as to the point, since we should find that Jesus has an opposition to all forms of worship, or else it will turn out he is opposed to none of the three aspects of religion. But, we quickly see that Jesus in fact teaches methods of worship! He sets the example of baptism, and the Bible teaches us to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Jesus institutes Communion, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Jesus teaches how to pray with the Lord's Prayer.
We see Jesus building upon and establishing a set of beliefs, upholding and elaborating upon the code of the Ten Commandments, and giving the Church its sacraments as the fulfillment of Old Testament worship.
One final thing. Who gave Moses the Ten Commandments? Who gave us Leviticus, with its collection of code and cult? Who told Solomon to build a glorious temple full of marble and gold and beautiful imagery? Come on, who inspired the Scriptures in general, which are chock full of beliefs, morality, and liturgy? God, the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! I can't imagine Jesus hating something he himself inspired.
Get serious. Tell me Jesus wants a relationship. Tell me Jesus hates hypocrisy. Tell me Jesus hates sin. Tell me Jesus isn't happy if we give him an hour a week, but shut him out of the rest of our lives. I'll agree to all that. Heck, tell me Jesus hates deep fried snickers. But don't tell me Jesus hates religion.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
|Obama the Builder|
Let's try placing catch phrases from children's TV shows with other candidates. Here are a few possibilities. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
"Go Gingrich, Go!"
"Your backyard friend, Jon Huntsman."
"Ni hao, Mitt Romney."
"Absorbent and yellow, and porous is he, Rick Santorum."
I also expect the winner of the Republican primaries to use, "Obama, no swiping! Obama, no swiping!" in his attack ads.
Oh, and I do recognize the irony of my posting in the past about the negative effects of television, while now letting my kids watch (too much) TV. As I always say, knowing vegetables are good for you, and eating enough vegetables are two different matters entirely.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”This is taken from the NAB version, which is informed in it's translation by Catholic Tradition, so the problem of the "exception clause" has already been resolved. You'd find the same to be true of the parallel verse in chapter 5. Instead of the words, "except on the ground of unchastity," found in the RSV, or the similar wording of other translations, we find the words, "(unless the marriage is unlawful)." This "unlawful marriage" is a reference to the Levitical laws regarding sex, so this translation leads clearly to the understanding of the Catholic Church, which is that valid sacramental marriages are entirely permanent, and only a marriage which was "unlawful" to begin with can be ended.
He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?”
He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”
[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Of course the problem still exists that Protestants do not use the NAB, and we really have to back to the original Greek manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel. What we find is inconclusive.
The Greek word which is variously translated as "unlawful marriage" or "unchastity," is porneia. This word is used many times in the Greek New Testament and Septuagint, and it has a variety of context sensitive meanings. Let's spend a moment on the rest of the words in the exception clauses of Matthew 5 & 19 before we return to that key word. The Greek literally translates as "except on the ground of porneias" or "excluding the matter of porneias" in Matthew 5 and "except for porneia" in Matthew 19. The Greek does not state that this is "her porneia," as translations such as the NLT or GNT convey. Still, the porneia in question could be "her porneia," it just isn't stated outright in the Greek.
Back to porneia, its most straight-forward meaning is "prostitution," but based on context, it can also refer to just about any kind of sexual immorality, such as adultery, homosexuality, fornication, incest, or unlawful relations. Thus, translations which give the word as "unchastity" or "sexual immorality" are trying to be broad just as the original word can be broad.
We can however, be fairly certain that the intended meaning is not "adultery," because the same verse uses the word which specifically means "adultery" twice, but does not use that word within the exception clause. But what kind of "sexual immorality" or "unchastity" can exist within marriage other than adultery? Given what Jesus said about lust in Matthew 5:28, it is hard to imagine a sexual sin which would not be considered adultery. Yet, here, Jesus is intentionally using a word that is not meant to mean adultery. And the only meaning of the word, "porneia," which actually differs from "adultery" within the context would be "unlawful relations." If a person were married in a way opposed to the law, they may or may not be culpable of adultery, but regardless, their marriage is void.
We find porneia used in a very similar situation in Acts 15:20, where James says:
"but tell them [the Gentiles] by letter to avoid pollution from idols, porneias, the meat of strangled animals, and blood."
We find porneias translated in this verse in a similar manner, as either "sexual immorality," "unchastity," or "unlawful marriage." The context of the verse is clearly related to Jewish Levitical law, not universal morality. It would make no sense to tell the Gentile converts to avoid adultery in this context; they were already well aware they needed to obey the moral law, including the Ten Commandments. The question was what parts, if any, of the Levitical law were they expected to follow. The only reasonable understanding of porneia would then be "unlawful marriage."
Thus, in Matthew's gospel, Jesus was not leaving a loophole, rather he was making clear that his statement did not apply to "the matter of unlawful relations."
Yes, at times this can be a hard teaching, but that's why our Lord's disciples said, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
While I find this argument sound, volumes have been said on the matter, and there exists a great deal of disagreement. I'll add some links to more information below:
The Church Fathers on the permanence of matrimony.
Did Jesus say adultery is grounds for divorce?
What does the Catholic Church teach on divorce and remarriage?
by Patrick Madrid
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
When it comes to inter-denominational dialogue, I am not arguing that we should fall back into inappropriately divisive patterns of prejudice and name-calling, but it is certainly not fair to claim "denominations" are being divisive while obviously holding mutually exclusive positions yourself.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
While we do know that Halloween developed out of All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, the exact details of All Saints Day's early development have been partially lost to history. We do know that the Catholic Church has often “Baptized” pagan celebrations to make them Christian Holy Days, and we know that Autumn Harvest Celebrations of different kinds have been celebrated in most every culture since the dawn of agriculture, so it is reasonable to assume that All Saints Day was placed on October 31st to take the place of those kinds of celebrations. It wasn't until recently that All Saints Day was displaced, and we developed the modern American celebration of Halloween.
Halloween is still celebrated by pagans.
Here, the connotation is that pagans have always been celebrating this “dark holiday,” and that by joining them in the celebration we are participating in their pagan religious activities.
Really, many modern pagan movements make references to ancient religions, but they can draw no real lines of continuity. This is not their holiday, it is a Christian holiday that became a secular American holiday, and the pagans are latching on to that secular holiday.
People sacrifice cats on Halloween.
While this is disturbing, it has nothing to do with my family, or any celebration of Halloween I have ever been a part of. I don't feel getting drunk and pinching people has much to do with St. Patrick either.
Teenage girls dress in sexy Halloween costumes.
Another disturbing trend, but once again, this is just one thing for parents to watch out for and avoid in their own families. Really this is a question of general modesty, not just a problem on one day.
Are there benefits to Halloween?
Yes, aside from being fun for children, I believe it gives us a good chance to familiarize ourselves with our neighbors. Also, this is the one day of the year when everyone in a neighborhood engages in sharing with each other. If only this were more of an example for the rest of the year.
Can't we just have our own unrelated Harvest Festival?
Here we go. This is the solution a lot of churches come up with. The first thing you should notice is that they are mimicking what the Catholic Church did. They are trying to de-paganize a celebration they see as pagan. The problem is that Halloween is not rooted in paganism, but in the All Saints Day remembrance of the Christians who have gone to heaven before us. By stripping this away, and making it a generic “harvest festival” they've actually taken the final step in de-Christianizing the holiday.
The real problem isn't that we dress up and share candy on Halloween. The real problem is that we forget All Saints Day. Isn't this the same thing Christians are fighting hard not to do with Christmas and Easter? Yet it was the early radical Protestant rejection of all Holy Days that led to the climate in America where Halloween would be celebrated while All Saints Day was forgotten.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Why do Catholics call Mary the "Mother of God?"
The Perpetual Virginity... what about Jesus' "brothers?"
The Immaculate Conception of Mary... wasn't Jesus the only person without sin?