Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Unfiltered if you please.

Posted: December 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

There is nothing the matter with having favorite texts. There is everything the matter with denying the scriptural truth because I prefer it not be there. There is nothing wrong with having a preferred way to phrase or summarize sacred truth. There is everything wrong with dropping my jaw when someone uses the sacred terms and categories to speak. Such a reaction shows that it is the word I have been conforming to my conception, and not my conceptions to the word.
Scripture is timeless. Fads are not. Therefore, when I first started listening to old sermons and heard a preacher refer to the children of Satan, all sorts of caricatures of  what my generation calls “religious people” (a phrase that had a positive sense in English until the last generation) who have no idea that our God is a god of Love comes to mind.
How are we to reconcile what we find in scripture with a God of Love? After all, can we not simply dismiss any text that seems unloving as wrongly interpreted because “God is love?” Sadly this is the default approach that tends to be taken. But if we are finding scriptural ideas that we have to reconcile with our idea of Love, it is our idea of Love that must be adjusted and not the word of God. I do not get to define Love in my own way and then alter my idea of God to fit that. God’s testimony about who he is and what he has done, if the Bible does summarize his character as love, must change my idea of what love is.
Instead, we find ourselves in a soft universalism. Hardly anyone will actually say every person is redeemed and going to heaven, but they will speak and teach as if that is what God is trying to do and is only prevented by some outside force. It allows us to believe that this is a God who saves anyone and everyone he can… but he just can’t.
I choose to call it a mystery, because I can’t handle what love is. But no longer can I resist the force of it. I have not dwelt the mysteries of the universe, but I think they may not be mysteries at all. At least for the most part. The answers are straightforward we simply do not like them and resist.
But I digress. It is not only that the idea I had of love does not match what I read, nor does it match what I have experienced. How long will I walk in this real world with a real God who has not responded as I believe a loving God should, and not realize that his idea of love must be radically different than my own? I can either continue to keep believing that there is some profound mystery, that God loves me as I define love I just need to wait for some deeper understanding. Or realize that.
Look, this is not a triumph. But one day praying for the millionth time… and since it has been many times an hour every day since I was a teenager it may well be a million… I realized I may be at a crossroads. I am caught between two options. The God who is and my idea of God. God as I want him to be and the one who knows me.
There is no other God. There are not as many Gods as there are ideas of Love. It is one idea Love that is correctly applied to He who Is.  The God who raised pharaoh up just to show his glory by destroying him: the God of love. The God who declared that Judas was destined to perdition: the God of love. The God who bore with vessels of wrath just  |to more abundantly make known his glory to vessels of mercy, the God who at those very moments I thought surely if God is anything like he is, he would act now, he did not. That is real Love, the love at the basis of all reality.
That is the choice, I can keep believing that the God I want is there and just hasn’t shown himself yet. Or, I can decide that I must have wrong ideas about him and decide to follow the reality. There is a comfort in holding on to the belief that the world or God is as you want him or it to be, despite all evidence. But it is a numbing comfort, and I just can’t keep it up. I’m sure the worst parts of me will try to, but I don’t get to design a God I like to believe in no more than I can any other part of reality.  It may give me some emotional comfort, some disconnection from the emotional impact reality has like fantasizing in my head that I can fly,  but is useless for any real growth towards eternity.

I’d rather use a list
-If Romans 13 means we can never stand against a government, we cannot stand against the vast majority of injustice throughout history or in the world today
– Authority is given to other entities as well (church, family) and in none of these cases is it explicitly stated the limits of that authority. Yet rare is the person who argues a church or family can demand whatever they wish of its members.
– The two things given that government can do that would be sins for other people are taking money and taking life. The argument for the extent of one exegetically implies the other.
–  I agree that Romans 13 gives the state has the right to take life or property at times and for reasons where it would be immoral for other entities to. The question can they take property or life for any reason they decide and it never is immoral.
– The two listed reasons for Government is the punishment of the wicked and rewarding of good behavior. Arguments that see these as only examples and that a Government exists to do well beyond that import these ideas in.
-The exceptions that even the most strident defender of absolute rights of states, such as that we should not stop worshiping, or that we should inform on house churches, is in no way explicit or even implied in this passage. If the authority taught is limitless, any limits one thinks belong on it must be theological and not biblical and thus are open to the same arguments others make.
– Paul’s command “to not resist” needs to be exegeted, it is more likely he is saying do not rebel as the zealots were doing. There is a far cry between not forming a militia against the Roman Government and giving them overt support.
– If the authority is limitless in scope because explicit limits are not given, though positive duties are listed, we must keep in mind limits are not explicated placed on the Church or Family either. Why then can these entities not take over the state’s role?
– arguments that the churches authority over their members (or husbands authority over wives) are limitless because no explicit limit is given are unheard of.
– the church and family are given authority without any implication of where specifically that authority lies, yet we limit it. The state is given authority WITH clear delineation (carrying out God’s wrath against the wrongdoer)
– Those who argue for full submission in payment no matter what, yet that we should abandon male headship because there is a history of men using it to abuse their wives should be honest about history. Has not the State claiming ultimate authority to do anything they want led to far more harm? Can the numbers even compare to the atrocities that would be excused if it is argued that the state must be submitted to no matter how extreme and for any reason, rather than only within her justifiable authority, the roles given it in scripture? If there are no limts to her what she may do and not sin, let’s stop wining about any “injusitce” done by countries to their citizens.

While there are other passages in the New Testament and many in the old relevant for this discussion I focus on Romans 13. Old testament passages are less explicit in that the state and church are essentially one in such commands. Likewise, many of the commandments are based on Israel being God’s covenant people, and so would really fit better under one another commands. The best question I see being raised from these is if a certain thing was not under the control of national Israel, a theocracy, the most expansive form of involvement in people’s lives (political and spiritual combined), it is hubris for modern states to assume to go even further. Passages where Jesus interacts over the payment of taxes are very situational. When asked about Taxes to Caesar, he is not being proposed with an honest question and gives an answer that denies the ability to trap him. If his answer had meant 1) Nothing belongs to Caesar, everything belongs to God, the Jewish leaders could have gotten him in trouble with Rome. If his answer meant (as many today assume) that anything Caesar wants belongs to him, the Zealot Jews would have turned against him. As it is, his answer did not give any ammunition for either side nor does it define what belongs to Caesar or to God. Merely that there are things, at least financially, which belong to each (and thus one could not claim a monopoly) Other passages are also only inferential. Zacchaeus repents and pays back 4 times what he had “cheated” people of. Cheating people is impossible if a tax collector had the moral right to take as much as he wanted (and he certainly had the political right as far as Rome was concerned.)  Something like this is seen again when the tax collectors ask John what they should do, and he tells them not to collect above what they need to.
The main point is that the right to tax is not limitless. In fact, the purpose for taxing are given
for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
We pay taxes in order that they can attend to “this very thing”. This very thing is not everything and anything they want but appears to be the bearing of the sword. For those who want to make “because of this you… pay taxes… (so that they can attend to this very thing” mean “anything and everything” I simply challenge them to see what the text is talking about. Their job is “to bear the sword” and “to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” If someone sees beyond maintaining of protection and order in these, it must be imported in from elsewhere.
The Government’s right to take taxes and life are not limitless but are restrained to their proper role for which God ordained them… to carry out his wrath on the wrongdoer. And exegetically to make one limitless (taxes) one must also make the other (taking of life) so that no matter who they state punished they were never in the wrong.  If we say they can take any amount for any reason, and their authority has no restrictions, then we must say the same for the church and family who are also given authority without specific restrictions. Yet we do not, and yet when the church or family challenge the state over some area, people are told “Romans 13!” and the church and family are expected to abandon their claims.
Certainly, there were times in history where the family and the church tried to take over the States rightful domain. One thinks of the Hatfields and McCoys, forgoing the state to meet out justice on their own terms. And this has been played out numerous times in society. Or of the Church in the middle ages punishing criminals. Even if they did a fine job of it and their courts were just, that is not the role of the church. But nowadays it is the State who is infringing, seeing itself as the prime character in the spiritual formation, education, and upbringing of everyone. Unless we would be okay with a Church raising an army or families holding anyone whom they had a grievance against prisoner, we must admit that the state has these rights with the limits of her authority and not without limits. And those limits are determined by God, not subject to any modern idea of the state no matter how universal. However, if we take the positive affirmations of these different institutions as implying what their role is, we come away with a state whose job is maintaining of order while the role of spiritual formation, education, and taking care of one another are done by church and family. And for one of these to try to take over the other’s God-given authority is immoral, just as it would be for a dad from Norway to suppose he has the authority to discipline and raise your family in Nebraska.

A full repentance

Posted: January 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

Martin Luther interpreted the command to “repent” to indicate a new way of life. Not a one time repenting, but a life full defined by repentance. Even this can fail to go far enough if we only repent of those mistakes we make in our own plans of being good. A full repentance goes beyond confessing my failure to live up to the values I adhere to. It is a realization that I’ve not only failed at what I was trying but what I was trying was messed up. And I don’t mean slightly off, I mean. Well.
What I mean is I have woken up some days this year and realized, I’m a jerk. Not only am I a jerk, but I justify it as if I have a passion for truth. It’s not been a slip from my good motives to care about people, it’s been my modus operandi.
It’s come out in various ways. My conversations are attempts to push an agenda, not because I care about that issue but want to be seen as more right than others. If not desiring this my goal was jokes, a desperate desire to be seen as funny at any expense.
So I have to repent of Who I am. I am sure some theologian would say “that’s true of everyone” but I don’t think that’s true, at least not like this. I’ve realized that my beliefs, my faith, has all been… I haven’t been trying it right and missing the mark, or having an imperfect approach, it’s a full example of what not to do.
So what is it I need to do? I tried praying and saying “hey, just change me” and that didn’t work. Should I change my theological beliefs entirely? Yes and No. What I made important and why I made it important are the problem. I made details important so I could feel superior to other Christians. Or I held political positions so I could stand in judgment on people.
What will this full repentance look like? I don’t want to just be the exact opposite of what I’ve been. It will probably be a lot of habits I have to break, once I do automatically that I’m not even aware of. And it will take feeling deeply the way I have let others down. Wish me Godspeed.

Hello world!

Posted: June 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

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