May 31, 2005

Blind Mind's Eye on Christian Libertarianism

Christian blog Blind Mind's Eye has a great post on the compatibility of Christianity and libertarianism. Worth a read.

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May 07, 2005

The Future of This Blog

In case you hadn't noticed, this blog has been awefully sparse for the past few months. I had an extremely busy semester and not much time for blogging. It is now summer (that is, the spring semester of school is over), and working 40 hours a week and having Saturdays and Sundays off and not taking work home in the evenings is sounding restful. So, in this post I'd like to give some idea on what sorts of things will be influencing my topics over the course of the summer, and then comment briefly on a few issues I missed.

  • This summer I'm going to try to dive back in to some serious intellectual Bible study. I'm currently in the middle of studies on Isaiah and John the Beloved (covering his life and the four books that bear his name, but probably not the Revelation), so I'll be working (and perhaps blogging) on those.
  • I'm going to try to read as much of the New Testament in Greek as I can. I've gotten through about 4/5 of Matthew already (over the course of the last year), and I'm hoping (optimistically) to make it to the end of the gospels by the end of the summer.
  • At present, I have a list of philosophers whom I dislike without ever having read. This is bad. I'm going to try to eleminate it by reading them all. The names on the list are Wittgenstein and Hegel (for whom I have a mild distaste) and also Nietzsche (whom I rather despise). So I will be reading Wittgenstein's On Certainty and Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, and probably also something by Hegel (haven't determined what as yet).
  • I'm also going to try to eliminate what I see as some important holes in my knowledge of philosophy by reading Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals and Locke's Second Treatise on Government (and probably the first while I'm at it).

I may be blogging on any or all (or none) of these things over the course of the summer. Now, here (as promised) are the important issues I missed:

  • Terri Schiavo: This was a complicated issue; I don't think it was nearly as cut and dried as most of the Evangelical bloggers I read seemed to. We can't keep people alive on life support forever, it just doesn't make sense. If they are really gone, we have to let them go. On the other hand, removing a feeding tube is much different than turning off a heart and lung machine. The big issue, I thought, was that her "husband" fathered children by another woman while she was in the hospital. This, I think, should have invalidated the marriage leaving her in the custody of her parents. I don't believe that the ends ever justify the means - I am a non-consequentialist - and so I must condemn the actions of the Republicans in Congress on this issue as they flagrantly disregarded the Constitution.

  • Pope Benedict XVI: What a great guy. I'm enthusiastic about the new Pope. He seems solid. From what I can tell, he takes Scripture seriously and views the Church councils as a tradition of Biblical interpretation rather than an independent authority. Good stuff.

  • Beth Stroud (momentarily) Reinstated: (See the great interview at WesleyBlog). What a mess. I can't understand why there is any question about this. If an individual who claims to be a Christian and is a member of the church is unrepentant about sexual practices that do not conform to Biblical standards we are required by Scripture to excommunicate him (see 1 Corinthians 5). In fact, this is one of only two cases where the New Testament contains explicit instructions to excommunicate an individual (the other being Titus 3:10-11, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.") This is a paradigm case for Scriptural excommunication. Note, however, that excommunication is rarely, if ever, practiced properly. Jesus views it as a way of motivating people to repent, not as unlovingly excluding them (Matthew 18:15-20). The point is for the Church to show quite clearly that it does not condone the individual's actions, and in so doing to hopefully motivate the individual to repent, at which time he is to be admitted back into the Church, preferably to a celebration along the lines of the Prodigal Son. Why is this not being practised? a) People don't read the Bible, and b) people don't believe the Bible. The Church needs to start taking Scripture seriously again and practicing what it says.

I think those are all the critical things I've missed. Hopefully I can keep up on events as they happen from now on (at least for the rest of the summer)!

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December 16, 2004

More on Christianity and Homosexuality

For those of you who don't know, there was a major controversy recently over a United Church of Christ ad which the major networks rejected, advertising the church as "open and affirming" (i.e. pro-homosexual - one of my goals in life is to discuss highly sensitive political issues without resorting to the fallacy of emotional language). A post at Wesley Blog quotes the following statement from a UCC pastor, which was published in the Charlotte Observer (reg. required):

"What concerns me about the commercial is the implication that gays and lesbians attending UCC congregations can expect that their sexual desires and practices will be excused from examination under the light of Scripture. The ad's bold message is that because homosexuals have been excluded and victimized, we will offer a blanket indulgence.
No sinner should be excluded from hearing and responding to the gospel or from joining the journey of faith in Jesus Christ. But no area of life should be cordoned off from scrutiny. All sins must be exposed -- the sins of homosexuals and heterosexuals, of whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians, of the rich and the poor, of liberals and conservatives. Until every thought, word and deed is captive to Jesus Christ and the Word of God, no one gets an exemption from self-examination and repentance."

That's what I said. It's great to see that even in the more liberal denominations we have clergy who place a high value on remaining true to the Word.

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December 07, 2004

An Internal Critique of the Beth Stroud Case

You may have seen in the media a recent tumult in the United Methodist Church over the disordination (the New York Times article refers to it as a "defrocking" - is that even a word? Do Methodists really call it that?) of a Lesbian pastor at a church in Germantown, here in Philadelphia. Rumor has it a Daily Pennsylvanian editorial on the subject, authored by an uber-liberal friend of mine, will be published on Wednesday (shh! I didn't tell you). So here I am responding with an internal critique of the matter. Internal, that is, to Christianity. Before I start, allow me to point you to a critique internal to the United Methodist Church over at a site I just found called Wesley Blog.

Ok, so here goes: The United Methodist Church did the right thing ... Sort of.

First, let's recap what actually happened, and dismiss some misinterprettations that are bound to circulate: A jury of 13 eastern Pennsylvania UMC clergy members voted 12 to 1 to convict Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud of "violating church law by living in a lesbian relationship" and voted 7 to 6 to "defrock" (what a bizarre word) her. However, her church, the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, has decided to keep her on staff as a lay minister to continue her youth ministry.

What the church did right: Churches are groups of people who come together because of common beliefs and the common goals and practices associated with those beliefs. One of the beliefs associated with Christianity is the authority of Scripture. Scripture has a lot to say on the subject of ethics, and, while the Bible teaches love and mercy and inclusion, it also teaches that there are absolute standards of right and wrong, and if we are to teach the Bible we must hold at least our leadership to those standards. Some of the Bible's moral standards deal with sexual ethics. Scripture defines marriage as between a man and a woman only, and any sexual activity outside of marriage as sinful. Period. Regardless of what anyone says, Ms. Stroud was NOT condemned for "who she is" or the temptations she experiences, or the way she was born. The church took the steps it did because of her actions. I sincerely hope and truly believe that the church would have acted in exactly the same way if it was a boyfriend, rather than a girlfriend, she was living with. However, I fear that there actually would have been less division in the church were that the case, which is positively ridiculous. In the Biblical view, fornication is fornication, regardless of the genders of the persons involved.

Another thing the church did right is to "welcome practicing gays to the pews but not the pulpit," as the Times puts it. Anyone is welcome (and strongly encouraged) to come to church and hear the message of Christ. That message may (does) include things offensive to some (many) people. This message says that none of us are good enough, that we all screw up, that we all do the wrong things sometimes, and furthermore that it's NOT just ok for us to screw up, but rather that divine justice demands a price beyond what we can possibly pay for our sins, and that in order to save us from our sins an innocent Man was tortured to death. Everyone who hears the message of Christ should be convicted, because everyone is a sinner. We shouldn't shrink back from mentioning specific sins, in order to avoid offending certain groups of people. Conversely, we shouldn't focus on any one sin, harping on it constantly and making people who struggle with it feel like they're worse than the rest of us, as though Christ's sacrifice weren't enough for them too. No one should be told that he can't sit in the pews. Everyone should be accepted and loved. But by the same token, no one should be exempt from being brought by the church to the knowledge that he is a sinner and needs to be saved. In the words of a longstanding Evangelical cliche, "the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints."

What the church did wrong: You left her on as a lay minister to continue her youth ministry? What?! Can you imagine the kinds of mixed messages this sends to parishioners? "She's a bad role model and she engages in a lifestyle the Bible says is wrong, and she claims that what she's doing is morally acceptable, contrary to the Bible, so we're not going to let her serve communion, but she can still BE THE FACE OF CHRISTIANITY to a group of kids and TEACH THEM HOW TO LIVE THEIR LIVES." This is ridiculous. By the way, the above statements about being open to all notwithstanding, there is a Biblical precedent for excommunication. See Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5 for instructions. There are also a couple of examples elsewhere in Paul's epistles, which I don't feel like taking the time to locate right now (but please don't just take my word for it, this is the Word of the Living God we're talking about: Look it up! If you can't find it I'll be glad to help you out). Note that I've never actually witnessed a church perform an excommunication in the proper Biblical fashion. Most who do practice church discipline do it wrong. The biggest mistake is the belief that excommunication is forever. As you can see from the Matthew passage, excommunication is a disciplinary tool used in the hopes of convincing the individual to repent.

Secondly, the Bible isn't actually in support of having female clergy in the first place, but that's another post. Perhaps if these few lines of text actually get read and generate a bit of uproar I'll take the time to write justifying this view. On the whole this second thing is not particularly important, I just had to bring it up because it seems to be somewhat relevant to the situation I'm talking about.

Thirdly, how did it come about that 6 clergy members believe that what she did was wrong, but she should be allowed to continue being a pastor? She has no remorse, she doesn't believe she's doing anything wrong, and she is going to continue to live with this woman and commit homosexual acts. If a pastor is doing anything which his church believes to be immoral and he does not agree that it is wrong and has no interest in repenting or changing his behavior, he should not continue to pastor that church, and there shouldn't be any debate about it. What's the deal?

In conclusion: I applaud the United Methodist Church for standing up and being counter-cultural and not politically correct in our time the way the authors of Scripture were counter-cultural in theirs. However, they don't go far enough. For the record, a pastor friend of mine was nearly disordained by the United Methodist Arch-Diocese of Washington (state) some years ago for siding with the national organization in opposition to homosexuality over and against the diocese. He ultimately switched denominations (his conference in the other denomination recently split over the issue. The Church universal is in a real mess over this issue.). The United Methodists, and most major denominations, could do much better by consulting the Bible FIRST and everything else LATER. And that's all I have to say about that.

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March 06, 2003

Youth Bible Study!

The youth Bible study I have been asked to teach is on for Thursdays at 7:00 PM beginning March 20, 2003 at Palouse Community Chapel (on Church street in Palouse) in the "Berean Room" (upstairs, just behind the sanctuary). I have not yet determined what we will be studying. I would prefer to go with either James or the Sermon on the Mount, but if no one likes these I also have notes ready on Ephesians and I will be finished studying 1 Timothy by the time the bible study starts.

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March 02, 2003

Teen Center News

I'm going to miss the next three weeks of teen center. This Friday I will be up at Ross Point having student leader training for the upcoming Spring Retreat. The following weekend I will be on a Chrysalis, and the weekend after that is the Spring Retreat at Ross Point. This Friday Bobbi and Tim and Courtney will be there (Shelly is going to be gone too). Mark Sawyer will probably be around one of the other weeks, and Shelly should be around for the other two. I'm hoping to find one more person who can fill in.

In related news, a band called PUREjOY should be down from Mead, Washington some time in May. Disciple (get their mp3s here, and be sure to buy their new album, "Back Again", that came out last Wednesday!) may be coming next fall. I still haven't heard from Lystra's Silence, but I'm working on booking them also. Should be fun!

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