Saturday, October 18, 2008


Comic Art

Heroes and Artists - Black Panther

Authur Suydam

Michael Turner

Geof Isherwood

Denys Cowan

Jack Kirby

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Friday, October 17, 2008


Finally Noticing

Keith Buehler at Mere O links to an extraordinary blog post:
Ignorance. Pity. Shame. These are all good descriptions of what she thought of Christianity. But the primary description that I felt coming from here was “betrayal.” She had been betrayed by the Church because they duped her into a belief not unlike that of the tooth fairy. When she discovered this betrayal, no one had a valid answer or excuse. So she left. She is now an unbeliever—a soon-to-be evangelistic unbeliever.
C. Michael Patton points to an article saying 31 million are leaving the church. That is a hard statistic to find when you keep reading about the growth at mega-churches. Patton defines a "path" that people take when leaving that is, I think, overly simplistic - but his description of the phenomena is right on and I think the key is the word he invokes in the pull quote above - BETRAYAL.

As he points out the church first betrays us by making a pitch that is not terribly representative of the actual product. And that is deeper than "Gee, life is still hard when you becomes a Christian" - though that is am important part of the problem. The church appears to offer us a place to belong; instead we are so often reduced to grist in the mill of making the church grow. "Well heck, isn't serving the church part of Christ's plan for our growth?" comes the inevitable retort. Which brings me to my second point.

We are called to serve Christ's church, not THE church. So often, so very, very often, we come to church to be a part of Christ's body, both serving and being served, and we find we are a part of something else. Something that serves not Christ, that reflects not Christ - something that instead serves itself, reflects modern culture and in the worst of cases reflects and serves the ego and desires of the leadership.

And nothing supports my point here more than the very model we build churches on in this day and age. That people would become disillusioned seems inevitable, the question is how to respond to that occurrence. Operating on the prevailing cultural media models, you let them go - keep focusing on the positive, deepen the audience you do have, build critical mass.

And yet I seem to recall a mini-parable of Christ's - something about leaving behind the 99 sheep to find the lost 1. We so often interpret that parable to be about evangelism, but I'm thinking it is about those already in the fold - at least for now.

Why don't we form ministries to the disillusioned?

Oh, I think the answer to that is pretty simple - it reflects back on us too hard. You see, to really meet the needs of the disillusioned, WE WOULD HAVE TO CHANGE. We would have to take this whole thing a whole lot more seriously than we do. Which makes me wonder who would really be ministered to in a ministry to the disillusioned.

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Friday Humor

English as a Second Language

Original source unknown. Enjoy these gems from around the world:

TOKYO SHOP: Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are best in the long run.

JAPANESE HOTEL: Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, pleas control yourself.

TOKYO CAR RENTAL SHOP: When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

MAJORCAN SHOP: English well talking. Here speeching American.

LEIPZIG (GERMANY) ELEVATOR: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.

BELGRADE (YUGOSLAVIA) ELEVATOR: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.

PARIS HOTEL ELEVATOR: Please leave your values at the front desk.

ATHENS HOTEL: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between 9 and 1l. a.m.daily.

YUGOSLAVIAN HOTEL: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

JAPANESE HOTEL: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

SWISS MENU: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

TOKYO HOTEL: Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing is please not to read not is.

BUCHAREST HOTEL: The list is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

MOSCOW HOTEL: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

AUSTRIAN SKI LODGE: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

POLISH MENU: Salad a firm's own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


The Empty Self

Jollyblogger comments on a passges for J.P. Moreland's latest book. Morland discusses how failure to empty oneself in the fashion that the gospel proscribes not only harms us spiritually, but emotionally:
You will have great difficulty forming meaningful attachments to other people. If you are shy, you will withdraw from people - not to find solitude to reenter relationships with solid boundaries and emotional/spiritual refreshment, but to attack them and find safety that keeps you from having to change. You will hide from others and fail to give them what they need from you to grow in spiritual formation and friendship. If you are outgoing, you will repress your fears and shame by becoming socially aggressive. You will talk all the time in social situations and not develop skills as a good listener, or if you don't know how to listen to others, it will be a front to earn the right to turn the conversation back to you at the earliest opportunity.
This is for people who are constantly seeking self-satisfaction. To this, David adds a small post-script:
I would also add that there is a spiritual version of this and that is the one who is primarily concerned with their own spiritual growth. Obviously, spiritual growth is the goal of the Christian life, but I think there is a slight change in semantics that can change us from spriitual narcissists to full bodied Christianity. Rather than being primarily concerned about my own spiritual growth I need to be primarily concerned with knowing Jesus and loving others. The one produces the other, but it is a slight change of direction that I think makes all the difference in the world. Just as I am no longer always taking my happiness temperature I am no longer always taking my spiritual temperature and getting all worked up at the many ways I fail. I just get out of myself to love Jesus and love others.
First of all, I like the term "empty self" coined by Moreland. There is a perversion, as David points out, of using terms like "self-denial" that really make it just another form of self-absorption. "Empty self seems best to capture what it is God asks of us.

But also interesting is the link between the emotional and the spiritual. These are distinct things, but I do think it fair to say that emotional health is not possible without spiritual health. Only Christ can provide us with a sufficient basis for emptying ourselves in an emotionally healthy manner.

I have spoken in these spaces before about the church becoming too "therapeutic." That is not because the church lacks a therapeutic role, but rather because the church confuses which comes first.

This also speaks to one of the greatest difficulties we have when we seek to evangelize. "Come to Jesus and find emotional health!" Well, yes, but if ALL you seek is emotional health, if you do not first empty yourself on a spiritual level, emotional health becomes impossible. Further, if you go through the motions of the spiritual work purely for the sake of reaching for the emotional health, the results are nil.

When people buy a house, they look at appliances and paint, floor coverings and design. No one looks at the foundation. But the best decorating in the world will still rot if the foundation is lacking. (Didn't Jesus have a parable about this?)

In the church we are foundation builders, NOT decorators. And yet, so often we work at decorating the lives of those we minister to. We seek the glamor and the attention. You know who your decorator is, but you are clueless about who built the foundation of your home.

Which illustrates that we have yet to fully empty ourselves. For were we completely empty, we would not care if they knew who we were or not.

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Illuminated Hymns

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


What We Have To Worry About Here in California



Over at CGO. Les Newsom reflected on audience reactions to The Dark Knight. As I have said before, this is no ordinary super-hero movie. Newsom sums it up this way:
Remember how the line goes, “Madness is like gravity.” The terror is in the inability to stop the evil that will come upon you if you believe in something, anything, to save you. Recall Agent Smith in The Matrix standing over a head-locked Neo as they wait on the tracks for the racing subway, “Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson?” he growls. “That is the sound of inevitability. It is the sound of your death.”
And offers hope here:
True (and little wonder) that Christian sermons first centered on the resurrection as the demonstrative proof to that evil-beaten generation that they could have tangible hope even while staring in the face of the Joker. But I don’t want to race there too quickly before I feel what The Dark Knight is saying, because it is saying something that is quite true if there is no resurrection. That is, there is an undefeatable inevitability that omni-intends your misery. If you haven’t tasted it yet, you will.
Interesting, isn't it? Our hope lies AFTER evil (madness?) has appeared to have its way. C.S. Lewis called it deep magic, Aslan HAD to die. Scripture comes to mind:
Gal 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
In order to share in the hope that Christ offers, we must join him on the cross.

Is that truly hopeful? Well, indeed it is for Christ's victory is complete, but the path to victory is difficult and fraught with pain. In his post Newsom is reflecting on the current generation, a generation that finds the Joker "awesome" and says:
For a generation like that, it occurs to me that, though absolutely true, it will not do for Christians to simply tell this culture about a hero who really will overcome evil in the world. Why? Because even in the Christian story, the answer is not expressed that tidily.
I would argue it has never been right to teach such a tidy version of the gospel. We cannot be resurrected unless we are crucified.

For a very long time we have been selling salvation, but we have neglected to point out hat salvation is very different from "happily every after." My heart grieves for the 1000's of souls the church has sold salvation that have walked away from it because what they got was something very different from what they thought they were buying. How much enmity towards the church exists becasue of this very phenomena?

And I always come back to the fact that we tend to do such a poor job of representing what the gospel truly offers becasue we refuse to face it ourselves. We hide from the difficulties, we pretend like they don't exist. We look at the cross and say "Cool!" when we should be seeking to join Christ on it.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Anglican, Denominations, and Conventions

The commentaries in the wake of the Anglican Lambeth Conference last summer were most interesting. I could not help but be drawn to reactions on the left, London Guardian, and the right, Al Mohler.

They are both looking at schism and the left was saying "Maybe we should not be there to begin with:
Maybe liberal Anglicans are waking up to the fact that liberalism and institutional Christianity are not gently compatible, as they were told by lots of well-meaning Anglican thinkers. That tradition is admirable, but it is dead. Williams is a deeply admirable man, but he has no vision for Christianity's renewal in the context of liberal culture. He is offering a slightly nicer version of Roman Catholicism – an international communion whose unity trumps all other concerns.
The right is helping them leave:
Anglican theologian J.I. Packer, who resigned from his affiliation with the Canadian Diocese of New Westminister because of that diocese's blessing of same-sex unions, once spoke of Anglican comprehensiveness as both virtue and vice. It is a virtue when it allows Christians united in doctrinal essentials to worship and minister together. It becomes a vice when it is used as a cover for heresy.
While holding my conservative principles dear, I marveled at these reactions. Both were in some sense sanctimonious, self-righteous, and smug. The left seems to be saying "We are too good to hang with you bunch anyway," and the right, "Well, I agree with the not hanging part, but certainly not the 'good.'"

I could not help but wonder if there was not a better way. Some of this is embedded in the structure of these organizations. The highly structured nature of Anglicanism makes schism sometimes the only alternative. The non-binding convention nature of Baptist union makes schism somewhat impossible, but denies anything approaching an actual unified voice. I thought about a post I did a while back on structure and wondered if those ideas would help.

Then it dawned on me, it seems that no matter how we organize ourselves, we end up with garbage. See the problem is not the structure, but the people in it and running it. The problem here, frankly is the lack of humility on both sides and the sanctimony on both sides. In other words, we have failed to grasp the gospel once again.

The gospel changes us. not the world - US. The world changes, but only because we are changed.

So what is the answer to the Anglican dilemma, or the similar one my PC(USA) faces? Not sure I know right now, but one thing I do know - EVERYBODY needs to shut up for just a minute and drop to their knees in confession. Confess their hard-headedness, confess their self-righteousness, confess their utter lack of humility. Neither side has a pipeline that direct to the will of the Almighty - and they certainly cannot build one while they are busy telling other people what they "know" it is.

Look, I know sometimes people leave churches over issues. Heck, I have done it and contemplate it all the time. But there is a big difference between storming out and screaming "Don't let the door hit you on the butt as you go," and the kind of respectful agree to disagree while leaving the door wide open for reunion that I do believe ought to happen.

I think Jesus wants us to learn how to handle conflict better, not necessarily settle the conflict. I mean we do live in the "already, not yet."

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Kitty Kartoons

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Monday, October 13, 2008



In one fell swoop, Glenn Lucke manages to take on the to extremes of the current Christian spectrum:
The Gospel does not only get one "in the game," after which people walk out their faith animated by discipline and obedience. Rather, the Gospel gets one in the game and is the game and is what brings a believer all the way Home. The discipline and obedience practiced by Christians flow from the Gospel, not as distinct-from-the-Gospel human work that engineers the favor of the Lord.

Naturally, it’s not appropriate to disclose in public the specific ways the Lord has applied the Gospel to individuals in our Austin small group. Generally, though, I can report that most of us have been changed, and at least one in our midst has experienced dramatic transformation. Here’s what we’re learning—the Gospel is multi-faceted. It is not merely Four Spiritual Laws. In fact, the Four Laws communicate only one half of one facet of the Gospel.
WHAM, take that "Evangelicals." Then:
There is no one passage of Scripture that details all facets of the Gospel. Our understanding of the Gospel comes from disclosures in multiple sections of Scripture. When TR ‘experts’ make lists of all the components of the Gospel that they claim are essential, they cannot point to Jesus, or Paul or Peter or anyone who actually communicates their (the TR’s) composite Gospel in one instance in Scripture.

Let me say that again in another way. What TRs claim is the pure Gospel message appears no where in its ideal form in Scripture. It is a composite from multiple passages of Scripture. It's not technically, literally, "biblical" but rather a theological formulation based on many passages of the Bible.

To say this again in still another way, I'll ask a question. Did Jesus ever in recorded Scripture articulate the Gospel that the TRs say is the Gospel? Did Paul ever say it verbally to another or write in a letter? Did Peter?

Answer: we have no biblical evidence for this. Is it strange that TRs will vitiate a brother in Christ like pastor Tim Keller or singer/songwriter Derek Webb for not articulating the theological formulation of the Gospel in every instance the way the TRs do? By the standards of the TRs, Jesus, Paul and Peter are liberals or heretics.
BOOM! There go the "truly reformed." Now, if he had only taken a swipe at Pentecostals the man would have a hat trick on his hands.

This really is a superb post, read the whole thing. I want to talk about his concluding sentence:
The Gospel is multi-faceted. It is Justification, and Redemption, and Adoption, and rule and reign of God in His Kingdom, and more.
The Gospel is MORE - it is always MORE! Meaning the converse is also true - WE DO NOT KNOW THE WHOLE GOSPEL. In fact, I would argue that we cannot ever, in this life, know the whole gospel. So, what does that say about how we approach being a Christian?

It means first approaching it with the attitude that we can never master it. In other words - humility. Secondly, it means we approach it hungrily - always looking for the next morsel.

Blogging has brought something back to my life that I had long since let slide. The joy of being a student. Of discovering in what I learn how much I still have to learn and then seeking it out. For the last several decades I worked on my knowledge base, but that was a utilitarian sort of thing - "I need to know this, so I can do that, so I can get paid." That's not what I am talking about.

I am talking about the sheer joy of the hunt if you will. And how, slowly, subtly, it changes you. As when I was an actual student, you tend to grow up more, just by virtue of the process.

Makes me wonder, perhaps it is less about what you know, and more about learning.

We always seem to want to find the end of something, but being a Christian can never be an accomplishment - it does not end. It s a process the only end of which arrives when we, at least as far as this existence is concerned, end.

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