Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why Joe the Plumber is (dead) Wrong

Joe the Plumber, the ignorant red-neck hillbilly that earned his 15 minutes of fame a long time ago, has crawled back out of his hole to attack the parents of the victims of the mass killing in California. In his “Open Letter” he flatly stated that “your dead kids do not trump my constitutional rights.”

Well, here is why Joe the Plumber is dead wrong.

The Painting entitled "Jesus Blessing the...

The Painting entitled “Jesus Blessing the Children” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1)  All innocent human life trumps any worthless piece of paper. This is even more true when the victims are innocent bystanders, young people just beginning their lives as adults.

2)  The Constitution is a dead relic of a time that has long past. If he (or anyone else) disagrees, then he (or they) must admit that the Constitution is a living document, and if a living document, then is subject to re-interpretation and improvement. If the constitution is subject to re-interpretation then it is well past time to eliminate the 2nd Amendment, a clause that was written in the day of flintlock black-powder muskets.

3)  As a Christian my allegiance is not to some ink-stained piece of parchment anyway. God will accept no idol in his name, and that includes any fallible human contract for governance.

4)  Jesus died for all people of every nation and for every time. Greeks, Romans, Scandinavians, Germans, Spaniards, Canadians, French, Mexicans, Chinese – every people from every tribe under heaven. The cross was not just for Americans and when I realize that I can put the US Constitution in its proper context. When we say “Jesus is Lord” that is as much or more of a political statement than it is a religious one. And Jesus did not die for the Constitution of the United States.

5)  We all have the right to “free speech,” and yet the Supreme Court has ruled emphatically there are times, places and situations in which certain types of speech are illegal. You cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater and incite a riot. You cannot incite the physical harm of someone else. And, when your “right”  to own weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill and maim human beings results in the deaths of hundreds of innocent children (and adults) every year, then, sir, I respectfully submit that yes -

THE LIFE OF MY CHILD, AND THE LIVES OF THE CHILDREN WHOM I LOVE, MOST CERTAINLY DO “TRUMP” YOUR WORTHLESS RIGHT TO OWN A GUN.

 

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What Will Never Change – Regardless of the Debates

Bible believing Christ-centered Worldview

Bible believing Christ-centered Worldview (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

Over the past several days I have had some wonderful conversations regarding the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate over the science of creation. I have also read some wonderful blogs as the bloggers offered their two cents worth.

The biggest takeaway from the debate – nothing significant is going to change intellectually unless there is an underlying change of heart.

I believe it was Albert Mohler who made the case the most specific and convincing. Bill Nye and Ken Ham approached the subject of evolution/divine creation from two vastly different worldviews. The difference, at least as Mohler interpreted the event, was that Ham was fully up-front about his world-view orientation while Bill Nye seemed to project that he did not even have a world-view, he was just looking at the facts and reading them like this morning’s newspaper. Therein lies the problem and until there is a recognition of that fact there will be no significant change in the minds of those who reject God as the source of our universe.

We (as believers) can make all the arguments we want to – and there are very real and scientific reasons to believe that this world was created by a Divine Being – but as long as a person is committed to a secular world-view that evidence will simply be dismissed out of hand. As I am told Ken Ham pointed out in one of his speeches, we are looking at the same evidence, the same rocks and the same fossils, but we are interpreting the evidence through profoundly different lenses. A totally committed secular lens is just not capable of seeing God, whereas a world-view that allows for a Divine creator can accept and work within a scientific arena. What it refuses to do is accept the dogma of scientism, the humanistic idea that man is master of his own past and future, and that science is the solution to all of man’s problems.

As the old saying goes – a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

What does this all mean? Does it mean we give up with our study of science and our logical arguments? No. We must never do that.

But what it does point out is that a person will never change intellectually until there is a change in the soul as well. The heart and the intellect are far more inter-connected than we as “logical” debaters seem to think. We get sucked into the idea that all we have to do is present a logical, scientific answer and everyone MUST accept our position. I wish that were true. But the fact is the heart must be touched sometimes before, and sometimes at the same time, as the mind is being challenged.

So – let us keep up with our study of geology and astronomy and physics and biology and every other kind of -ology. But, as we do so let us also pray that God opens the hearts and the ears of those we are trying to teach. I do not just want to win a debate. I want to bring someone to Christ. And the only way for that to happen is if our creator God works either before or during our words to soften the heart of those we are teaching.

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Hitting the Target, Or Rewarding Our Mistakes

(Warning – long post. Sorry, got a little wordy today.)

The joke is told in various forms. A city slicker is driving through the country and begins to notice a number of bull’s eye targets painted on the sides of buildings, fence posts, trees – just about anything that could hold one. In the center of every single target was a single bullet hole. The city slicker was amazed by the incredible accuracy of the anonymous marksman. When he pulled into the nearest town for a cup of coffee he struck up a conversation with a local sitting alone at a table. “I could not help but notice the astonishing accuracy of a local shooter,” started the visitor. “Every target for miles around here has a bullet hole perfectly placed right in the center of the target.” “Oh, that,” said the local. “Them’s from my grandson. He loves to shoot his gun and wants to feel good about himself, so whenever he shoots and hits somethin’ I come along behind him with a can of white paint and draw a bull’s eye around the hole.”

Bull's-eye

Bull’s-eye (Photo credit: GravitysAppleNZ)

What does that story have to do with theology, you ask? I’m glad you did.

I fear we have created (or perhaps been sucked into) a culture of theological reflection in which we shoot our gun, and if we happen to hit something, we run over and paint a target around the hole and then congratulate ourselves for having achieved perfect execution.

I have been accused (perhaps rightly so) of being hyperbolic, excessive, crass – snarky even. I hope I can avoid those descriptions and pose some questions to those who feel we must overturn hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of years of traditional understandings of Scripture just because our culture has been able to hit a new “target” of inclusivity and egalitarianism. My immediate focus is on those who have decided that male spiritual leadership has somehow become oppressive and spiritually demeaning to females; but my questions should also have validity to anyone who seeks to “re-imagine” or “re-invent” church as we know it. I have three questions that I believe deserve serious reflection.

1.  What is your view of Scripture? It has become meaningless to say one has a “high” view of Scripture if the definition of “high” is not further explained. Do you view one passage as being more “spiritual” than others? Do you view some passages as being “spiritual” or authoritative by virtue of their being generic or “timeless,” and other texts as no longer having any kind of authority because of their specificity or “cultural” baggage? Do you attempt to take one passage of Scripture as being authoritative, and then measure other texts according to that one “meta” text? Or do you believe that within all of the concreteness and “givenness” of any text there are eternal principles that can be learned from these “situational” texts? Do you intentionally seek to find unity among the written texts, or is it more advantageous for you to discover “disunity” and therefore contradictions among the writings of Scripture, which then allows you to place these texts on a sliding scale of authoritative on one end descending down to purely situational and cultural on the other end?

You see, all of this matters, and matters significantly. If I can take a text, decide on totally extraneous criteria that it only has meaning in one “cultural” context, and therefore I am free to ignore, or at least to significantly modify it, then I have made myself the arbiter of the truth of Scripture. I do not stand under the text, I stand over the text as master and judge. I no longer have a “high” view of Scripture, no matter how valuable that description might be in my current work environment.

2.  What is your view of mankind (humanity)? Consider the difference between a geocentric and an heliocentric view of our solar system. The geocentric view has certain positive values: for one it is the most easily observable and explainable. The sun clearly does appear to rotate around the earth. We even have texts in Scripture that refer to the rising and setting of the sun. But, as any 9th grade science student (and hopefully younger) has learned, the earth does indeed rotate around the sun, as do all the other planets in our solar system. The explanation is more complex, and deserves a longer answer than just “go outside and watch the sun,” but the fact is that truth is sometimes more complicated than a 30 second sound-bit will admit. So, as with the solar system as with man. Is man (generic, not a male) the master or servant of this world? Is man the created, or the creator? Is man the judge, the jury, or the accused?

Solar system

Once again, the answer to this question is critical. If in a theologian’s view mankind is the focus of the debate, then the answer will of necessity place mankind as the answer to all the questions. If, however, God is the focus of the debate, then any answer that suggests that mankind as the answer will be unacceptable. The center of the theological universe is not man – it is God. When we try to answer theological questions by positing a humanistic answer we will fail just as positing a geocentric explanation of the movement of the planets will fail. In scientific terms, I do not study my theology to explain and justify my anthropology. I use my anthropology to enlighten and serve my theology. If I worship God so that He will bless my humanistic conclusions, I have created an idol.

3.  What is your view of sin, the “fall” of mankind, and of redemption/salvation? Is the ultimate definition of sin the broken relationship of human to human, or is sin the broken relationship of human to God? The anthropological view says we sinned against each other (male against female) and therefore fell from a relationship with God. Restore the relationship between the genders and the relationship with God will be healed. The theological view (brilliantly exposited by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I might add) is that humans sinned against God and therefore we lost our relationship with each other (including, but not limited to, gender differences). The only way to fully restore the broken relationship among humans is to completely heal the relationship with God. This will, in one sense, never be possible; as created beings we constantly fall short of the glory of God. However, in another sense the breech has been healed but not in the full sense of the original creation! In the garden male was created first, and was given the spiritual protection of the female. This has never changed. The fall did not change those relationships. What changed was that after the fall all humanity was affected, and we became seekers of self instead of participants in communion with God and each other! It was not just the difference between the genders that was broken; our relationship with all things was broken, both created things and the divine Creator. What has changed by the blood of Christ is that all humanity (regardless of nationality, gender or socio/economic background) has a path of forgiveness and reconciliation with God (Gal. 3!). If we look at the Genesis story theologically we can see this – if we look at the Genesis story only through the eyes of anthropology all we see is the battle of the races, sexes, and economics/politics. And, if we get the question wrong, we have no hope of getting the answer right.

In my mind this discussion inevitably flows back to the question of the serpent in the Garden, “Did God really say…” Of course God said it, but did he really mean it? Or did he have some subterfuge in mind that you as humans can overcome by expanding your knowledge of good and evil?

Realistically, we can shoot at anything, and assuming we hit something, can run over and paint a target around it and then give ourselves an award for outstanding marksmanship. We can do this with theology just as easily as with firearms.

But, is that hitting our target, or rewarding our (possibly sinful?)  mistakes?

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Children’s Church, the Entertainment Culture, and the Story of God

Paul Smith:

I have been interacting with others related to this subject. The author of this post is Todd Hall, and it appears on Scott Elliott’s blog “Resurrected Living.” This has been reblogged by permission.

Originally posted on Resurrected Living:

face-in-the-shadows-1329822204Q5x

Each Sunday morning, churches throughout the U.S. engage in a simple ritual. After a few songs and prayers, the children of the congregation are ushered out of the auditorium, accompanied with “Jesus loves the little children,” to their own gathering for the remainder of the church’s worship. As I understand it, this practice serves two functions: the kids have a worship experience “at their level,” and the adults receive a moment’s respite for undisturbed worship—usually the Sermon, and often the Lord’s Supper. The reasoning behind this is that it seems far better for our kids to “get something out of worship” than sitting in pews drawing or expending their vast amounts of energy distracting their parents and those around them. If the church’s worship is intended to be formative of Christian character and worldview, however, I wonder what messages the church’s institution of a separate, more entertaining worship gives kids.

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Shout Out To WordPress!

I have always enjoyed my blogging experience with WordPress. But they recently updated their program and now I can say it really rocks!

From an improved Dashboard, to an easier to use tool bar – everything just looks better and cleaner and, for this blogger, just way better. And it was great to begin with.

So, if you are unhappy with your current blogging site, or if you are interested in starting your own blog – Fly with WordPress. Everyone else is just trying to catch up.

Tweetable Advice For Preachers and Congregations (#3)

For both – “Once a job is first begun, never finish ’til it’s done; whether the job be great or small, do it well or not at all.”

Paul Smith:

This post, as well as the previous one from David Smith (no relation that we know of) is excellent. For those who are unfamiliar with David’s work I present these two posts for your consideration and growth.

Originally posted on preachersmith:

V-for-violenceHow did Christ’s original apostles (excluding the one who betrayed him, Judas Iscariot) respond when confronted with violence?

As we seek the answer to that question, let’s consider most closely Simon Peter and John. Why? Because Peter was the one our Lord chastised and snubbed for displaying and suggesting the use of weapons. Peter was the one who Jesus rebuked for attempting to defend him and who took off a man’s ear with an errant swing with a sword. If there was ever a follower who had proven himself ready to use deadly force to defend himself and those he cared for, it was Peter. Consequently, we’d do well to note how this man behaved following his Lord’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

Similarly, let’s pay close attention to John for he was the one whom Jesus loved like none of the rest. It was John who stood close to…

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Paul Smith:

I do not use other people’s material here often (maybe I should) but these posts from David Smith (no known relation) are outstanding. I want my readers who may not be familiar with David to have a chance to read these posts.

Originally posted on preachersmith:

 

V-for-violenceTwo thoughts. (1) Violence in our country. It’s the topic of the day these days. (2) Jesus Christ. My Lord and Savior, every day.

One question. How did Jesus respond to violence?

Let’s find out.

The government ordered his death and sent soldiers to kill him … so his parents, rather than standing their ground, fled the country with him.

Surrounded by men who wanted him dead … he stood his ground, and armed only with reason, he reasoned with them, and disarmed them.

On another occasion, they tried to lynch him … so instead of standing his ground, he eluded them.

When one of his disciples understood that his life was in jeopardy and displayed weapons with which to defend him … he chastised the disciple, turned, and walked away.

When as intruders in the night they came to haul him off to murder him and a friend…

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To My Readers – Thanks For A Great 2012!

Just a final post in 2012 to thank you all for reading my sometimes disjointed, sometimes cantankerous, and sometimes even coherent posts. This has been a good year for Instrument Rated Theology, and all of you have had a part.

What I have been particularly happy about is that this blog set a “reads” record in 6 out of the 12 months this year. That shows increasing interest, and I am humbled.

Right now my monthly totals would be a horrific daily total for some blogs – but I can tell from my stats from WordPress that my readers are pretty consistent – and that is another reason I am humbled. That someone would come back to continue to read is high praise.

I hope to increase my quality of articles – and I would especially like to hear from you – if you have a question or if something I have said interests you further.

So, on behalf of me and the fine editorial crew at Instrument Rated Theology, thanks for a great 2012 and I look forward to an even better 2013.

Paul

On Second Thought…

Okay, that was short.

I thought I could hang up the pen. Not even close.

When I finished my last post I was done – fried, melted, and scorched.

But then the thoughts just kept coming – faster and faster and deeper and deeper.

I guess I’m not done yet after all. Maybe in a little while, but come to find out there was a little steam left in the engine.

I may hiss and spit more than make any forward motion, but I guess it will be my hiss and spit.

Welcome back Freightdawg – and you are cleared for take-off.

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