Saturday, June 19, 2010
Aswe continue through the "doppleganger" baddies form the Marvel and DC Universes, we today turn our attention to the Marvel cosmic wanna be universe ruler - Thanos. Actually, Thanos does not really want to rule the universe, he just wants everybody in it dead, since he worships the personification of death and want to bring her the best possible gift. Yes, I said her and how is that for some deep-seeded psychosexual overtones in a comic book!
As you can see form the panel at bottom, Marvel did not quite know what to do with Thanos for the longest time. (A cosmic baddie flying a helicopter? - PUH-LEEZE!) But then the ultimate cosmic writer Jim Starlin got a hold of him and in the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos really seemed to become a solid and excellent character. While the follow-ups to "Gauntlet" in the Infinity series to not match up to the original - they are recommended as some of the finest in cosmic traditions.
There is actually very little alike about the DC version, Darkseid, and Thanos - they just sort of occupy the same place in the bad guy pantheon. (It's amazing how when discussing comics books, one is almost forced into the language of mythology - is it not?) Even their look is quite different - which leads to some interesting character development. Darkseid really does wish to conquer and rule. Though driven by a sense of honor, he is a creature of the shadows. Darkseid in full light is just ugly. Not so with Thanos.
As someone who seeks to to rule, other than as a means to an end (misguided end though it may be) Thanos is very capable of, from time-to-time, taking the role of good guy and stepping fully into the light. And he looks good standing there. You find yourself almost rooting for him, even though you know he is fighting the bad guy only becasue he wants to make sure he is the only one that actually does kill everybody.
OK - maybe with that statement I've gone off the deep end a little....
Friday, June 18, 2010
When Other Christians Make It Suck To Be A Christian
I try very hard to err on the side of grace with people outside the church, or people still "feeling their way" into this whole thing, but I have a very hard time finding that graceful attitude when people operate overtly in God's name and become jerks.
I cannot help but reflect that if we really truly want to impact the world, we need to clean up our own house first.
Did you ever think that the thing that made Christ so impactful was His sinlessness?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Is A Fuzzy Line A Good Thing?
But one in three members of the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination seem to believe there's some wiggle room for non-Christians to get into heaven, according to a recent poll.I've seen posts telling us we were apostate, and even other kinder things. Just a few thoughts here.
One, none of what I have read on this discusses sampling technique for the poll. I bet I could get similar results in most denominations. This would be far more interesting om a congregational basis - and it would also provide better comparisons to other churches with looser or no affiliations. The fact is the PC(USA) is riven on a number of issues,, and I am betting you could use this survey to find the line on a whole host of them.
Secondly, I thought the whole point was to bring the unbeliever into the church. This tells me we are getting that job done. The question is, would the same individual give the same answer after a period of time living amongst us? If so, then we are indeed failing, if; however, they come in and are evangelized, well, then....
Finally, there is no way to tell the difference in this polling between a theological statement and an expression of humility. To the best of my knowledge and understanding Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, but my knowledge and understanding have limits. I would not presume to argue with God should He elect to let someone into heaven that believed differently. As much as I believe that Christ is the Way The Truth and The Life, I also believe that God can do whatever He decides to do, and I am certain He is not going to always do what I think He should.
Now, I am a decidedly conservative in the PC(USA), but the paragraph above implies that I think God could, if HE chooses, save someone apart from Christ. Out of humility, I cannot rule that possibility out. I have never received the survey, but it s multiple choice thing, not an essay. To declare with absolute, true false certainty that Christ is the ONLY way to salvation is to deny God's sovereignty - not to mention my limitations.
If that makes me apostate, not much I can do about it.
Related Tags: Illuminated Hymns
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Dealing With Emotion
The following quote is from my journal dated November 6, 1986. I had been at Bethlehem 6 years. If you have ever felt like this, remember this is 24 years ago and I am still here.What follows is a prayer of extreme discouragement. But it was his admonition that emotions are not reliable guides that really caught my attention. I think most of us are consciously aware of that about negative emotions like loneliness and discouragement. Many understand that fear is an emotion that should not guide our actions and it often comes in the wake of loneliness and discouragement.
The point is: Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides. [emphasis added]
But I wonder how many people keep such behavioral checks on positive emotions? We get swept up in the positive and declare, "God is here TODAY!" because we "feel" His presence - and we act with a boldness that can be dangerous.
I know of a church ruling board that acted on the overwhelming sense of hope they had and the church now lies in financial ruin. I cannot tell you how many broken relationships are in my life because of people, caught in a rush of positive emotion from what they perceived to be a miraculous and direct encounter with the Holy Spirit (I have my doubts because I do not think the Holy Spirit breaks relationships) they declared that I was apostate. I could go on.
God has made us whole creatures. We are not to be Vulcans, hiding our emotion. But we are not to be victimized by them either. God acts in and through our emotions, but they are no more or less reliable than the other means by which He acts in our lives. They must be subjected to our reason and to verification by others and by scripture as would any other "push" that we might feel.
That's a tall order, sometimes emotion does not wish to be subjected to reason or analysis. And that is the hardest part of all. Sometimes, we must simply let it run its course - and trust God to meet us at the other side. We just cannot let it make us do something stupid while the journey proceeds.
That is an act of faith. Do we have enough?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
How The Gospel Wins
Conceive a man to be standing on the margin of this green world; and that, when he looked towards it, he saw abundance smiling upon every field, and all the blessings which earth can afford scattered in profusion throughout every family, and the light of the sun sweetly resting upon all the pleasant habitations, and the joys of human companionship brightening many a happy circle of society - conceive this to be the general character of the scene upon one side of his contemplation; and that on the other, beyond the verge of the godly planet on which he was situated, he could descry nothing but a dark and fathomless unknown. Think you that he would bid a voluntary adieu to all the brightness and all the beauty that were before him upon earth, and commit himself to the frightful solitude away from it? Would he leave its peopled dwelling places, and become a solitary wanderer through the fields of nonentity? If space offered him nothing but a wilderness, would he for it abandon the homebred scenes of life and of cheerfulness that lay so near, and exerted such a power of urgency to detain him? Would not he cling to the regions of sense, and of life, and of society ? - and shrinking away from the desolation that was beyond it, would not he be glad to keep his firm footing on the territory of this world, and to take shelter under the silver canopy that was stretched over it? But if, during the time of his contemplation, some happy island of the blest had floated by; and there had burst upon his senses the light of its surpassing glories, and its sounds of sweeter melody; - and he clearly saw, that there, a purer beauty rested upon every field, and a more heartfelt joy spread itself among all the families; and he could discern there, a peace, and a piety, and a benevolence, which put a moral gladness into every bosom, and united the whole society in one rejoicing sympathy with each other, and with the beneficent Father of them all. - Could he further see, that pain and mortality were there unknown; and above all, that signals of welcome were hung out, and an avenue of communication was made for him - perceive you not, that what was before the wilderness, would become the land of invitation; and that now the world would be the wilderness? What unpeopled space could not do, can be done by space teeming with beatific scenes, and beatific society. And let the existing tendencies of the heart be what they may to the scene that is near and visibly around us, still if another stood revealed to the prospect of man, either through the channel of faith, or through the channel of his senses - then, without violence done to the constitution of his moral nature, may he die unto the present world, and live to the lovelier world that stands in the distance away from it.How do we show people "some happy island of the blest" where "burst upon his senses the light of its surpassing glories, and its sounds of sweeter melody"? I read things like this and I become quite melancholy. AS a believer I want to see and experience those things. But it seems like all I am presented with is a reality little different, if at all different, from the reality experienced by non-believer, but I have some palliatives. That falls far short of the mark that God has intended for us. It all so puts us in competition with others that offer palliatives, when in fact what we offer is so outstanding that there should be no competition.
We, by failing to live the life that God intended for us, by failing to take full advantage of the benefit of our salvation, fail to make the glory of the gospel apparent. We are not in competition with alternate viewpoints, we are in competition with our own sin and our own failings.
The gospel will win the world when it truly wins us.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Niether Fish Nor Fowl
Frankly I have run into too many ordained clergy who think: 1) it is their job to do most all the ministry (though they complain bitterly they are over-taxed and under-appreciated); and 2) instead of "equipping the saints for ministry" they have in fact disabled, discontinued, even destroyed the ministry of those who are not, like them, ordained clergy. What is all too often put in the place of every member a minister is the pastor-American idol syndrome, the pastor super-star model, which feeds on America's love of the cult of personality. ...It's not always about ordained clergy anymore, it may just be about paid staff, but the idea is the same.
Before I get too deep into this - there is a chicken-and-egg thing going on here. Often the "laity" does not step up to the plate which generates a frustration and a panic in the clergy that results in this sort of stuff, but I think it all relates to the same problem.
We focus on running organizations when we should be focusing on ministering to people. The consumer age has reduced us, and we have willingly gone along, to cattle to be moved through some process. We are marked demographically, sorted accordingly and manipulated appropriately - very successfully for the companies and organizations involved. Any wonder the church has adopted the model? And that calls for pros.
But here's the thing - it is vaguely dehumanizing - perhaps not so vaguely. We are more than the sum total of our statistics. Isn't that what Christ affirmed when He fulfilled the Law?
I have little doubt that if we adopt the model Witherington discusses here church will be small and oh so chaotic. But I wonder if from the chaos there will not emerge a harmony of the Spirit?