Monday, January 30, 2006

On Baptism

4 Epiphany
3 Hilary

Hey everybody!

I'm sorry to take so long in responding to your kind comments; my internet connection has been very spotty over the weekend.

As a result, I studied my Greek for two hours last night instead of blogging. Hoorah!

Okay, I'm reading the comments from the weekend, and I'm counting 19 Christians and 30 baptisms. That's a much lower number of baptisms than I expected to see. I'm going to offer a few reflections.

Christians of the Catholic tradition understand baptism to be a sacrament: when the church baptizes someone, something is Really Happening, that really matters regardless of one's subjective beliefs or feelings about it. One does not get to decide one's own baptism is invalid; well, one can, but that's not a binding judgment call in God's eyes. Baptising someone a second time? There's just no reason for it, so long as it was done with water by another baptized person using a Trinitarian formula.

Except for the practice of infant baptism, I'm comfortable with these things. I guess I believe in sacramental baptism for believers, and don't ask me what that's consistant with.

Now, Baptists believe that baptism is not a sacramental act, but rather an expression of dedication to Jesus and following his way of life. Infant baptisms are ignored. This makes sense to me. The problem with calling that first baptism "invalid," is that implies it to be a sacrament, an action that really mystically does something.

This is the problem with offering people "believer's baptism" over and over again, which is a fairly common practice in Baptist churches, at least in Kentucky. If baptism doesn't do anything, why does it matter if it was done "right" or not? If someone has already made a public profession of faith as what the church considered to be a believer (even at 5 years old, which is problematic both theologically and pastorally), why do it again?

It is not by any means scriptural for someone to be "saved" over and over again.

I have known so many people in these churches who make their faith commitment, and do it over and over again, because they're afraid of going to hell anyway. I don't know what teenagers are taught to read, or who preaches to them that they need to worry about "their salvation" constantly. So people "re-commit" and are re-baptized in the hope that it "takes." That's just horrible.
...if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
And what about the ones who wound the tender consciences of the little ones, and cause them to believe they're in a state of sin all the time, so that they learn the sheer terror of Jesus, whom they can never trust to really save them, and learn to be fearful of hell?

I welcome responses and reflections to any of the above. Or, perhaps we can chat about these questions:

Imagine you're a pastoral leader in a Christian church, responsible in some way for the guidance of souls and the policies of the congregation. How would you respond to these situations, and why would you do it that way?
  1. An adult says to you, "I was baptized as an infant, and now I want to do it for real."
  2. Another says, "I was baptized in this church when I was 8 because I made a profession of faith. I don't think it was real, but now I think I'm really saved. Should I be baptized again, so it's scriptural?"
  3. Another: "My daughter is 5, and she says she believes in Jesus and wants to accept him as her Savior and Lord. Can she be baptized?"
Alright, so here's what I would do.
1. "Hey, your baptism was real. God's people did something on God's behalf, that joined you with Christ. Now you need to own that committment, and talk about how you can spend a lifetime following through with it. Let's work on making vows to Jesus - renewing your baptismal vows.

2. "You made your profession, and recieved baptism. We can talk about renewing your vows, but you need to understand that it's normal to know Jesus better and know Jesus different as you get older, and for your committment to increase and to change. The reality of that change does not invalidate your previous belief, in the same way that knowing and loving your friends better does not mean you didn't love and know them before."

I would also stop the congregational practice of baptizing people under the age of 16.

3. "No."
Anybody want to play with this for a bit? I'll reflect on "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament" a little later on.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Interactive Poll

3 Epiphany
2 Hilary

Hey, everybody. I've had a nice week, but I think I might talk about that on my upcoming Sunday podcast.

I might tell a story about churches. I've not decided yet. In the meantime, I have a couple of unrelated questions, open to any readers.

1. If you're a believer, have you been baptized? What Christian tradition are you part of, and how many times have you been baptized? I have a crackpot theory that the lower the view protestants have of baptism, the more they like to practice it.

2. Do you have an experience with a kind of prayer (from the Roman Catholic tradition) called "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament"? (For my protestant readers, I'll just say that it's pretty much what it sounds like.) Would you like to share any thoughts or experiences?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

More Sex. More Politics. And Just a Little Bit of Good News.

Timothy and Titus
3 Epiphany

2 Hilary

Speaking of Brokeback Mountain, I found this bit from Stan Hauerwas to be particularly provocative...
Discrimination against gays grows from the moral incoherence of our lives; people who are secure in their convictions and practices are not so easily threatened by the prospects of a marginal group acquiring legitimacy...

Gay men and lesbians are being made to pay the price of our society's moral incoherence not only about sex, but about most of our moral convictions. As a society we have no general agreement about what constitutes marriage and/or what goods marriage ought to serve. We allegedly live in a monogamous culture, but in fact we are at best serially polygamous. We are confused about sex, why and with whom we have it, and about our reasons for having chidren.

This moral confusion leads to a need for the illusion of certainty. If nothing is wrong wth homosexuality then it seems everything is up for grabs. Of course, everything is already up for grabs, but the condemnation of gays hides that fact from our lives. So the moral "no" to gays beomes the necessary symbolic commitment to show that we really do believe in something.

- Stanley Hauwerwas, "Why Gays (as a Group) Are Morally Superior to Christians (as a Group)," 1993 in The Hauerwas Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 519-20. [Emphasis mine.]
And while we're at it, here's a big hat tip to Brother Maynard at Subversive Influence for the next couple of links: "The Church, The Activists, and the Homosexual Question." Brian McLaren shares on the need for a "pastoral response" at Leadership Journal's blog, "Out of Ur."
Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements. In the meantime, we'll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably. When decisions need to be made, they'll be admittedly provisional. We'll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields. Then in five years, if we have clarity, we'll speak; if not, we'll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the "winds of doctrine" blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.


Welcome to our world. Being "right" isn't enough. We also need to be wise. And loving. And patient. Perhaps nothing short of that should "seem good to the Holy Spirit and us."

And the Internet Monk discusses the recent controversy over a (shock and dismay!) homosexual actor portraying a missionary in the new film, End of the Spear: "It Ought to be a Parable. It's That Good."
I’m starting to believe that there is absolutely no way to say that the current crop of culture warriors is anywhere close to being as committed to the Gospel as they are to doing battle with homosexual activists. Listening to the culture warriors explain their latest bout of shock and outrage is quite revealing. I don’t know how they feel about Jesus most of the time, but I sure know how they feel about homosexual activists and other political sinners.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

The Conversion of Saint Paul
3 Epiphany

2 Hilary

I went with some college friends and most of the Georgetown students to see Brokeback Mountain last week. The cinema was full. I warned one of the guys that if he actually laughed at the sight of a couple of guys in cowboy hats making out, he would get beaten down by some 250 pound queen. And I would not come to his defense.

In fairness, if I saw anybody making out and wearing cowboy hats, it would be hard not to laugh. Cowboy hats are just like that.

The film was very sad. It did not end very pleasantly. But it was a very good and well-done film.

It was particularly noteworthy that our lil' Irish friend kept complaining about the country western soundtrack all the way through:

(I'll let you imagine the accent) "Oh my goodness, the music is so horrible. Look at that guy, he's cryin.' No wonder he's so unhappy, country western music depresses everybody."

Well, yeah.

Some commentators have found it noteworthy that the religious right is throwing a big fit over Brokeback, but not Hostel, a film about torture. Rather, that depicts torture. For fun.

So let me anticipate a comment or two that I might get. Many Christians believe it important that they contribute to a culture in which people are pressured to have sex only in ways of which those Christians approve. Many Christians believe it's important to contribute to a culture that respects life and human dignity to such a degree that "dehumanization as entertainment" would never be an option. Do you rank one of those things as more important than the other? In theory? In practice?

Why do you think ancient Christians so conspicuously skipped important civic entertainments such as circuses and gladiator bouts?

I'm starting to understand what Hauwerwas is getting at in terms of "letting the world know it's the world." Come back tomorrow. Things are going to get a little mean.

Get Religion: "Some Sins Are Okay"
Amy Welborn: "Hostel Takeover"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Toward the Theology and Practice of Celibacy

3 Epiphany
2nd Hilary

Alright, it's second week already, and I have so much to do. Been having some provocative talks with my community - provocative for me, anyway. So look for this space to get... controversial... this week. In the meantime, consider my final post on celibacy here...

I've already stated that if celibacy is anything, "it is a positive way of blessing, hallowing and consecrating the flesh." I think I’ve found a helpful interpretive key for building this theology and practice of holy celibacy:

Genesis insists that it is not good for man to be alone. This is one of the things that makes marriage good. If celibacy is also good, and a gift and call from God, it cannot mean being alone in the sense that the Trinitarian god fretted over in the first chapters of Genesis. Marriage is good. Celibacy is good. It is not good to be alone. If we can really say yes to God by joining him in those statements and build our life as the people of God accordingly in the way we pray, study, and break bread, we’ll be doing a good work.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Time for Pictures

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
2 Hilary 2006

So I thought it was time for me to post some photos of my new digs at the Old Mission Hall.

And of course, there's a Georgetown College banner over the bed.

The room itself is a kind of "split level" deal, with the desk and about half the floor space on the lower level, while the bed, closet, and the other half of the floor space are two feet up.

Those are icons on the walls. There's also a crucifix around, it's just not in the photos.
You know, in case you were concerned.

When I was staying on 12th Street the summer before last, a friend thought it was odd that I kept a crucifix on each wall of my room. He commented, "you know, I think the only person who could possibly be comfortable in here is an Orthodox priest. And I wouldn't be completely certain about him."

And here's one of the kitchens.

The Front Door.

The Upstairs Common Room.

Last night I made a lasagne and salad for six of my roommates. They volunteered to contribute dessert, drinks, and a DVD. It was great to get to know these new friends over dinner and a film late into the evening.

This place is awesome.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Obstacles to a Theology of Celibacy

2 Epiphany
1 Hilary

As long as our communities do see celibacy as some kind of second-best thing, rather than an equivalent expression of sexuality with its own unique gifts and challenges (like marriage), we are left saying that “single people” are indeed “damned” to celibacy. Note that “single” is not a word I have used or will use in this discussion, because none of us are called to be single. We are baptized to be deeply involved in God’s new community. Biological family units are only subsets of that community; they aren’t meant to serve as relational boundary lines.

One thing that this does make really clear is the foolishness of singles ministry: the horror is that they see the problem but present the wrong solution: the life of the community is meant to flow from and provide support for the whole people of God in a diversity of vocations, and that the nuclear, "natural" (or blood) family is not a primary unit in the church. As Ben Witherington and others like to remind us periodically, the family is taken into the life of God in the Church and redeemed. In the same way that the presence of family relationships are not meant to ultimately define one's place in the community any more than their absence. To endorse “singleness” rather than celibacy is self-defeating.

So while I don't like how churches teach so much and write so many books on "how to have a happy and godly marriage" - I think they'd do better to ground people constantly on their identity together in Christ and as the Church - it means that we need to explore and discuss and teach both how to live as married people, and how to live as celibates. And of course, since it is the Roman Catholic Church that has maintained celibacy as a valid vocation, they have much to teach us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Celibacy as “Space for God” : Building Blocks for a Theology

2 Epiphany
1 Hilary

In the New Testament, both marriage and celibacy are considered vocations that manifest the love of God in particular ways. I’d like to reference some works by Henri Nouwen and Rowan Williams that bring out the nature of celibacy as both testimony to and manifestation of God’s presence.

I consider celibacy to be a way of “making room” for the presence of God. Remembering that healthy relationships always have some manner of boundaries, I’d like to suggest that in the life of any person, there are public and private “spaces” – areas of the soul that are meant to be shared by friends, areas for a mate, and some parts that are private, where God alone is invited to dwell. (Not that God is always invited!) Whatever those spaces might look like, those parts of our lives are something we owe to one another in love and service. Our friends have a certain claim on us because of our baptism and shared life in the Church. (I write about this often.) Our spouses would have another kind of claim, while there is other space that is for God alone, consecrated to him. Celibacy would mean that a significant part of our “space” is reserved for God alone, to the exclusion of other persons. That is not “holy” as opposed to “unholy” but a particular kind of holiness.

I don’t have it to hand, but I think I was thinking along these lines after reading from J.M. Henri Nouwen’s Clowning in Rome.

In his essay, “Resident Aliens: The Identity of the Early Church” (In Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church, The Sarum Theological Lectures, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005, 32-40)” Rowan Williams describes vocational celibacy as the successor to martyrdom as a channel for God’s presence and power in the community.

Christian identity was understood in terms of both affirmation and negation: Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, and the ekklesia (“public assembly”) of “resident aliens” (a common phrase in the early Christian letters) consists of a people who owed their citizenship and ultimate allegiance to a Kingdom other than Caesar’s Empire. While the roman civic cult was pleased to add some gods and practices, Christian religion was exclusive: the believer belongs to God alone, and so does not participate in many aspects of civic life. Martyrdom bore witness to the power and ownership of God that made the Christian community distinct, and was a channel of that power. This is why the letters of Ignatius and the Martyrdom of Polycarp are pleased to use Eucharistic language to describe their deaths:
The martyr consecrates his body to be a holy place exactly as the bread and wine of the Eucharist become the place where sacred presence and power are to be found. The expulsion of the Christian from the would-be sacred order of the Roman city or the Roman emperor is the very moment in which the holiness of the Christian is perfected: holiness, in the sense not of exceptional goodness but of the active presence of a holy and terrifying power, is indeed identical with marginality in the terms of the empire. The holy place is the suffering body expelled from the body politic, Polycarp uttering his great thanksgiving as the flames are lit (36).
In short, martyrs were considered conduits of God’s power because the manner of their death offered a space (and a sacrifice) that was offered entirely to God in an ultimate denial of both self and the claims of any other persons or entities. It was a testimony of this power because of its public and communal nature.

Williams doesn’t discuss it at length, but he sees the same motifs regarding “virgins” in the community after martyrdom ceased to be a common danger. I think it a worthwhile line of inquiry to suggest that the same concepts apply to a celibate vocation It is an expression of being owned by God and the Community alone; the “family” obligations are different. It is also public, because it defines the boundaries for the individuals relationships with everyone else. It is a can also bring power because of the larger “empty space” for transformation.

Next: Obstacles to a theology of celibacy.

Update: now this is the kind of thing I'm trying to talk about.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Holy Celibacy: More Than Absence

2 Epiphany
1 Hilary

What do you think of when you hear the word "celibacy"?

In a recent series about sexual ethics, we explored the problems caused in evangelical communities by an insufficient theology for celibate vocations. Those communities very often implicitly affirm and sometimes explicitly declare that a state of “not marriage” is a kind of “second-best,” lonely and unhappy state of Christian discipleship. Sometimes folks in other traditions talk up the celibate vocation as a kind of idealized, super-spiritual state. Both are wrong. And do you know what? Lies are bad for you.

If a celibate vocation exists at all, it cannot (as a gift of God) be simply the absence of a good, but must be a positive good in itself. Just as marriage is a way of life to which we are called for the love and service of God and other people, so is celibacy a way of life to which we are called for the love and service of God and other people.

A.W. Richard Sipe defines it as
“a freely chosen, dynamic state, usually vowed, that involved an honest and sustained attempt to live without direct sexual gratification in order to serve others productively for a spiritual motive” (Celibacy: A Way of Loving, Living, and Serving, Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, 1994, 40).
First, note that the absence of celibacy is that of “sexual gratification” and one-flesh union. It is not the absence of deep relationships or even of “family life” in a community. I’ll come back to this point.

What celibacy emphatically does not offer is protection from the uncertainty, pain, and exhilaration that will come with living in friendship with other people. The lifestyle is a way of positive “redirection,” and never meant to be the “destruction of sexual instinct” (Sipe, Celibacy, 41). Being in relationship with other people, and learning to love well and accept their love in return is always a full-time job and a universal call, whether one is married or celibate.

I’ll reiterate. Celibacy is not the aimless absence of relationships or even of sexual gratification. Abstinence is different from Holy Celibacy, because holy celibacy is for God and for others. (Actually the same could be said of being merely “partnered” – what is commonly called “married” and living in a state of Holy Matrimony.) Celibacy requires conscious planning and discipline, cultivation and community support, just like marriage. Godly celibacy is never a path of fear and hiding from sexuality or relationships, or a life of selfishness and self-centeredness. It is a positive way of blessing, hallowing and consecrating the flesh.

I'm posting this as a "talking point," and I'd enjoy your opinions. Do these notions seem provocative to you? What has "celibacy" meant in your own faith community, and your own journey?

I look forward to interacting in the comments, and I've got several more posts on this in the queue, so check back. Next: Celibacy as “Space for God”

Thursday, January 12, 2006


1st Epiphany
0th Hilary

Today I am:

jetlagged. My eyes hurt!
nursing a mug of tea, oh precious caffeine!
perusing the theology lecture list
moving my "kit" into my new room
catching up with friends
reading a book. Don't know which one.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006


I knew a priest once who would tell people he was a mystic. And I mean everyone.

And I'd kind of think, "Shouldn't that sort of disqualify you?"

"Hey, everybody, I'm a mystic. That's right. I apprehend the hidden life of God in the midst of humanity to such a depth that I can hardly stand it."

I remember what it was like the first time I realized this was true about myself. I really felt bad for the rest of you, and wondered what it was like for y'all. Poor dears.

Josh's response:
Isn't being a mystic sort of like being in Fight Club? The first rule of being a mystic is that you don't talk about being a mystic. The second rule of being a mystic is that you don't talk about being a mystic. Third, if this is your first night, you have to fight...
Hmm. Probably. Check out his take on the recent airing of The Book of Daniel, if you're interested in the show...

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Heretics: Watch Your Damned Language

Alright, let's talk about language a little bit more. I've done a little bit of blog skimming over the break, and run into something almost as disturbing as communing the unbaptized. But still not as much as "liturgical dance."

So I don't have many friends among the far right. I don't know if that's because I hang out with the wrong people, or perhaps I can be a little off-putting (cough, cough), but that's just the way it is. As a result, I'm not "hip" to what the other "angry young conservatives" are doing these days.

I'm young, not as angry as I used to be, and it should be noted that I rarely recieve the compliment of being labeled as liberal or conservative. I should note that the other side doesn't talk to me much, either. Nope, nobody here but us moderates.

Anyway, the kids love to throw around the big emotional religious words. Heretic. Heterodox. What the hell is all of that? Can we just start with a very basic premise, girls and boys? Baptists do not get to call other people heretics! That's like me telling Alan to cool down the sarcasm, or Josh to be less contrarian, or Noakes to be less dramatic. The pot does not get to call the kettle black (cliches? What?)!

When you want to talk about heresy, or heterodoxy, or orthodoxy, first realize that in a post-reformation, modern, post-modern, pre-United Federation of Planets, post-Darwin or post-whatever-you-want-to-call-it (so you sound like you know something when you don't) there is no universally agreed-upon body of Christian teaching that we get to label "Orthodoxy." Sorry.

If I managed to gather in a room, Al Mohler, Brian McLaren, Benedict XVI, John Zizioulas, Rowan Williams, Donald Miller, John Piper, Kendall Harmon and just for fun added Ambrose of Milan, Clement of Rome, Lord Jesus the Christ, Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther and John Calvin and asked them each to make a list of the absolute boundaries of Christian orthodoxy, it would be a pretty diverse and often (I daresay) mutually exclusive collection of bullet points.

I'm starting to suspect that "orthodox" just might be a word that people apply to themselves so they can pretend to be something they're not, and "heretic" or "hetrodox" are words applied to adversaries so they can pretend that those folks are something they are not.

Now here's what we might be able to do: perhaps we can agree to deal with the Scriptures in some way (sometimes referred to as "believing in the Bible"), the ancient ecumenical creeds (you know, the Nicene-Cosmopolitan one, the Chalcedonian Definition, things like that) and quit pretending that petty little party lines that spring from our own private little philosophies have anything to do with Christian orthodoxy. And then maybe we can call that orthodoxy.

Can people accidentally be heretics? Probably not. For my money, people only get to be heretics if they blatantly disclaim something that the Bible or the Creeds are pretty clear on as the accepted belief of the Church. Like, the ancient and universal one. And sorry, if we do that, we're kept from being too specific and detailed about what's "orthodox." 'Cause you know what? If you're the only one who thinks your particular interpretation is the clear teaching of scripture, you're wrong.

And hetrodox? It means different. Unconventional. As in, "gee, we hadn't thought of it like that before, maybe we should think about it a bit and see what we think about it." Without a little heterodoxy, we can't form our orthodoxies. We'd be stuck parroting the same faith formulations for generations without learning what they mean or claiming them for ourselves.

And people who throw around those words at their opponents? I would ask, "Are you really so grounded in the ancient and broad traditions of scriptural interpretation, so formed in the faith of the New Testament, so deeply immersed in the Jesus stories and schooled in mystical encounters with the risen Lord, so empowered by the Holy Spirit and so well schooled in every stream of Christian theology, that you can tell the rest of us what's properly heretical or not?"

I mean, really. Such arrogance.

This is a question I try to ask myself from time to time.

'Course, I usually answer, "Well, yeah."


Captain Sacrament

Now let's go fishing. Ahem.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why "Liberal" Really Is a Dirty Word

2 Christmas

Lately I've been listening to folks throwing around words like "liberal," "heretical," "heterodox," etc. It's irritating. It contributes nothing to reasonable discussions, even when those labels might have some degree of accuracy.

When I hear somebody using the l-word, it is almost always an arbitrary distinction. My opponent's position is liberal, simply because it differs from mine, which I like to call conservative. Just because. The reverse can also be true, if it serves my purpose. "Conservative" and "liberal" are always a question of what spectrum you're using, and where you think you sit on it. Those words aren't descriptive at all, because definitions vary from one discussion to another.

It keeps people from focusing on actual ideas and really learning something because we're so tangled up in rhetoric instead. If somebody calls me liberal, I think they're stupid, because it demonstrates that such a person lacks the good sense to describe a position they disagree with to any degree of nuance. I think the whole point of such words is to shut down debate by putting up an emotional smokescreen.

Never mind the fact that "liberal" and "conservative" are never words that I use to describe myself in repect to any issue.

I know that in politics that those words can to a limited extent describe an attitude of "maintenance" or "progress," but that still doesn't say much about particular issues. In regard to theology, it might look more cut and dry: if it seems to you that people used to believe something, and you see people arguing for something different, there must be a conservative and a liberal position.


Many Christians fail to realize that a great number of their beloved practices and teachings that they consider to be traditional and orthodox are actually inventions of the last two hundred years and are built to a considerable degree upon their local cultures. Attempts to engage the biblical narrative and to read history? Folks calk that liberal.

Let's look at some examples:

The Rapture. Oh yeah. We see the first stirrings of this with William Miller's group in 1844 on the American Frontier. Scofield's Bible popularized dispensationalism around 1908, whereas it has previously been much maligned and denounced throughout the history of the Church. We can thank the Enlightment and Scottish "Common Sense" philiosophy for the Western (but mostly American) insistance on treating the Bible like it's a strange hybrid of a mathbook and Nostrodamus' prophecies.

Altar Calls. So many evangelicals only understand conversion in the context of a highly emotional and individualized way of thinking about salvation that emerged on the American Frontier (is there a pattern?) during the Second Great Awakening, beginning at Cane Ridge, circa 1801.

Dualism. Physical existance is somehow equated with what Paul calls "the sinful nature." People await the liberation of their souls from these terrible bodies... to an ethereal existance in "eternity." Nope. They've been reading Bibles, but preaching to themselves from Plato. This dualism, this hatred of the body and physical existance was part of the Gnostic heresy that emerged in the late first century and has plagued the Church ever since.

Alright, now take notice of how those three theses are the beginnings of arguments, and so just a little bit of thought put into them.

Now check out this sentence:

I insist that people who believe in and promote these three ideas and practices are liberal innovators, pushing heresy into the faith once delivered to the Church.

Do you see how that wasn't an argument? I just slapped a whole bunch of people with emotionally charged labels that didn't add a bit of substance to my argument. It works great to distract people from the fact that my actual arguments (as presented) haven't been fleshed out. If I can get people on the defensive, it's a lot easier to pick apart their objections than to present a strong argument myself.

Do you see why I don't bother?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


This is a present for my British friends, I want to make sure you know about this song.

It's so... patriotic. And beautiful. I mean, how can you not love America?

You need to realize that this song was extremely popular when it was released in the early days after 9/11.
Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)

American girls and American guys will always stand up and salute;
Will always recognize
When we see ol' glory flying,
There's a lot of men dead,
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our head.

My daddy served in the army,
Where he lost his right eye.
But he flew a flag out in our yard 'til the day that he died.
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy in the land of the free.

Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack.
A mighty sucker punch came flying in from somewhere in the back.
Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man we lit up your world like the Fourth of July.

Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly,
And there's gonna be Hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell!
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!

Oh, Justice will be served and the battle will rage.
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
'Cuz we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way.

Repeat chorus. Like, a hundred times.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why, no...

2 Christmas

...I'm not terribly worried about "sin." It's just not a big deal to me, not as such. I was never really excited to sit around and use that word for it's own sake, as I never had the opportunity or interest to use it on people.

I think Christians often would define "sin" (if they were honest) as "anything you do that bothers or inconveniences me." Properly, that's not very theological, because it certainly has nothing to do with any god. Sure, they'll talk about "offending God," but that's not what they really mean.

Folks who run around talking about "sin" as if it were always acts of rebellion against God that in turn separate people from him really believe in "sins" rather than "sin." They're also in law-keeping mode, and that's very unfortunate. May I direct you to something I wrote last year?
Our previous enmity with God emerged because of rebellion, not brokenness. He does not despise the weak. Not all sin is symptomatic of rebellion, but rather a manifestation of deep brokenness – some part of the personality still in need of Christ’s redemption. Perhaps we can differentiate between sin (as a condition of rebellion) and sins (as symptoms of brokenness or rebellion). This speaks to the insistence of some Christians that their sins yet separate them from God.

They do not.

Rebellion needs to be forgiven, but weakness requires an infusing of grace and strength. Sins (understood as symptoms) cannot separate the individual Christian from God, because in baptism one is sealed with Christ. The righteousness of the Messiah is imputed to the Messiah’s people, after all. As Athanasius illustrates, our restoration and healing are a matter of God’s honor: he has redeemed us, and there is a big sign at the trading post that says “no refunds.” (Groan) But it’s true.

If the God who knows to expect so much more failure of us than we do ourselves has already accepted us in Christ Jesus and sealed us in him through baptism, we don’t require more forgiveness just because we are more aware of our brokenness. I do all kinds of sinful things I don’t know to be sinful (just ask my friends!), but they don’t separate me from God, or my community. We confess to be known as sinners, and to appropriate healing and restoration in the dark and lonely places of our souls.

Jesus does not despise the weak. He does not find us lacking and so cast us away. He knows what we lack, and so has stood for us, and does stand, on those parts of our lives where we are unable.
And I don't think my opinion has changed much since then. If you like, check out both posts:

Reading Athanasius:

Oh, and Happy New Year.