Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's Hard To Be Humble

There is a country and western song, I believe it is by Merle Haggard, which goes "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble..." Loathe as I am to agree with anything country, I have in this case little choice. It isn't that I think I am perfect in every way. No one who knows me would suggest that, and I do have my two boys who, in their youthful honesty, remind me daily of my shortcomings.

No, the reason I find it hard to be humble is because I find it hard to know what being humble means. Some people seem to think that being humble means you having to constantly downplay your strengths, or at least remain silent about them. If you are not self-deprecating, or if you speak of your strengths, then you aren't humble. I haven't quite figured out why. Perhaps it is because of an assumption that self-promotion is inherently egotistical. Maybe it is because it is believed that to speak well of yourself is to automatically imply a commensurate negative assessment of others.

This is, in my opinion, neither a healthy nor a biblical view of humility. I believe that a healthy humility is one that sees a person have a balanced, sensible, and sober assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses. Both can be spoken of, and with equal ease. In the case of the strengths, they are spoken of with due deference to the Lord who gave them. In the case of weaknesses, they are spoken of with due concession that these will be dealt with by that same Lord.

Too restrictive a view of humility denies us the chance to celebrate what God has done. Let us not go that route.

Friday, February 24, 2006

No Ghosts

This week we completed our survey of reasons why it is vital for Christians to hold to the full humanity of Jesus Christ. Next week we'll be tackling the deity I think.

What we focused on this week was the resurrection body of Jesus. It is a pretty speculative question since there is really very little about it that is said. One thing that really boggled my mind though was how eager people were to see Jesus' body as being able to walk through walls. Not that I want to say that it is impossible, but really the evidence isn't there to support the notion.

If you look at John's Gospel, chapter 20, you read the following:

19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were [gathered together] with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!"

26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, "Peace to you!"
It is assumed that in both these cases Jesus body was immaterial and so he was able to walk through walls. I say it is assumed because nowhere does the text actually say that. The argument seems to be more of a rhetorical question: how did he just appear then if he could not walk through walls being immaterial?

The problem though is that the question is not really rhetorical; there are answers other than "there is no other way." In Acts you see how people escape from cells in a similar fashion, and we don't assume they were immaterial (Acts 5:19,23; 12:6-10). Further we do see how people's perceptions are manipulated so as t be unable to see things that in fact are right before them (Lk. 24:16).

In other words, the Bible provides us with precedent for other explanations. Precedents, to me , should be accepted as explanations ahead of the idea of walking through walls.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Under the Heading of "Say What?!"

***Your Five Factor Personality Profile***


You have medium extroversion.
You're not the life of the party, but you do show up for the party.
Sometimes you are full of energy and open to new social experiences.
But you also need to hibernate and enjoy your "down time."


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have high agreeableness.
You are easy to get along with, and you value harmony highly.
Helpful and generous, you are willing to compromise with almost anyone.
You give people the benefit of the doubt and don't mind giving someone a second chance.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is medium.
You are generally broad minded when it come to new things.
But if something crosses a moral line, there's no way you'll approve of it.
You are suspicious of anything too wacky, though you do still consider creativity a virtue.

The Five Factor Personality Test

How You Life Your Life

You have a good sense of self control and hate to show weakness.
You tend to avoid confrontation and stay away from sticky situations.
You tend to have one best friend you hang with, as opposed to many aquaintences.
Some of your past dreams have disappointed you, but you don't let it get you down.

Think about it

People are often predictable. They are of course occasionally surprising, but when they are so, it is usally in just how predictable they can be. One likes to think that even the most programmed thinker can rise above his or her programming, that an inidividual might show him or herself to in fact be an individual. One likes to think that. One sometimes even hopes for it and longs for evidence that it is true. One is more oftentimes disappointed.

That is, until God takes over. Then the hold of prior prgramming is broken, and suddenly a certain randomness, a free radical style of thinking comes into play. Hope is born amid new possibilities.

Some people think that giving life over to God means becomng a robot, controlled by soem outsde force. The truht is that people are robots before encountering Jesus, not after. Paul puts it well in his letter to Titus 3:

3It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. 4But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, 5he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. 6Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. 7God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come--an eternity of life! 8You can count on this.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thoughts from last night

Last night I started a study on basic doctrines. To make it a little more interesting, and to try to teach people how to think critically, I approached it in terms of a question: What's the big deal?

The topic was the humanity of Christ. I find it a fascinating doctrine because it is so taken for granted as true, yet it also so downplayed. We prefer to contemplate the glory of the cosmic Christ rather than wonder how Jesus' coped with splinters or what his personal hygiene was like.

But what's the big deal? Well, a lot of very important doctrines are affected if Jesus is not fully human, but perhaps none more so than the Atonement. In theological terms we speak of Jesus as having achieved a substitutionary atonement. Atonement refers to a covering of sin, as well as deflecting the wrath of God towards sin. "Substitutionary" means what you probably think it does; Jesus took our place, and was our substitute in paying the death penalty for sin. His death was a death for us.

But if Jesus was not human, then he could not really be our substitute. One of the faults of the Old Covenant was that the animals that were sacrificed were insufficient to achieve true atonement. Only a human being can substitute for a human being.

But it could not be just any human being. The human being had to be perfectly righteous. In a substitution, a pair of exchanges take place. One is of course that we exchange places. The other is that we exchange positions. We get the righteous standing while the substitute takes on our status of condemned.

So in the exchange between us and Jesus, where does the righteousness we receive come from? Many might think that it comes from Jesus' nature as God. I believe that it comes from Jesus' human nature. Jesus was perfectly obedient to the will of God. Where the first Adam failed, Jesus, as the last Adam, succeeded. His obedience was the means by which he acquired, as a human, the righteousness that gets credited to us.

Take away the humanity of Christ, and there is no righteousness to be credited to us. We might have our sins forgiven, but that doesn't give us in itself the right to stand before God. To be in God's presence you need to be righteous, not just forgiven. So we would not really be any better off if Jesus were not human.

That sounds complicated. It is in a way. It takes into account a lot of different scriptures. It actually touches on a lot of other related issues. But it all works, and it just shows me how awesome God really is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

As Good As It Gets

I suspect that in terms of my health, things are as good as they are going to get for a while. It is just going to take time for my energy and stamina to get back to where they should be.

It is Valentine's Day today. It is one of those days I like to get some historical background on. I am such a romantic. If you are as romantic as I, then feel free to go here.

My kids have their valentines to hand out to their classmates, and a few selected others. They are of course asking questions like "What's a secret admirer?". They are only 7 and 8, so its a bit of a challenge to give then age appropriate answers. Thankfully their interest is pretty superficial. There is one girl who asks my oldest who he loves. I told him to answer that he loves his family and he loves Jesus. I figure that will either shut the girl down (she isn't on the list) or it will confuse her. Either way I hope she will leave him alone.

I told the boys today they don't have to worry about girls because they aren't allowed to date, nor will they be allowed to date. They actually looked relieved. Good for them!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reports of My Death

are only slightly exaggerated. When I feel better, I'll post more. I really hate pneumonia.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My Spidey Sense Tells Me...

our results:
You are Spider-Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Making Mountains Out of Mole Hills?

I have been keeping track of the discussion over "The Homosexual Question" I referred to in an earlier post. I have to say its been fascinating and illustrative.

McClaren has been gracious, if less than direct, with his views. At first I thought he was just being pastoral in his dealing with homosexuality. That is a concern I can say I share, and I think my post in response reflects that.

However, I have started to think that in fact McClaren is not being pastoral for its own sake, or because being pastoral is the right thing to be when you're a pastor. Instead, I have begun to think that McClaren is being pastoral because it is consistent with his more postmodern mindset.
Postmodern/Emergent types are generally loathe to say what they actually believe. They can't; positions are incompatible with the dialogue or conversation that emergent prizes.

That much I knew, but reading McClaren I am beginning to think that emergent actually goes out of its way to make it hard to even reach positions or conclusions. The constant invoking of questions would seem to point in that direction. Most interesting though is McClaren's appeal to scholarly debate on the question of homosexuality. I am familiar with those debates, and, while the conclusions one reaches on the finer points would certainly have a significant impact, the fact is the debates themselves are very often tempests in teapots.

Let me explain: scholars, in a bid to mine the mind of God, will ask all kinds of questions, and raise all kinds of issues. They will be significant in that the answer will have an impact on the understanding of a passage under consideration. However sometimes scholars will ask questions which are almost moot. That is, they will raise the possibility of an alternative explanation for something that is possible, but highly unlikely. The result is a scholarly debate that produces a lot of light, but little heat.

Such debates are good for the academy in that they help maintain the integrity of academic rigor. They may even lead at some point to a significant contribution to the life of the Body of Christ at large. Most often however they do not; they raise questions rather than provide answers. For the average person who is looking for guidance for life, debates ad nauseum on points ad absurdum is not helpful may actually be harmful.

For emergents, those people who want to continually converse, such debates are useful in that they provide reasons to not reach conclusions and continue conversations. But to the extent that such conversations can be harmful to the Body at large, it is a method that is actually antithetical to a truly pastoral approach. This is in fact what McClaren does. He appeals to complexity as a basis for not making pronouncements. The fact that the complexity is to an extent fabricated and over issues which are themselves unlikely is not mentioned.

This leads me to the conclusion that McClaren is in fact not being pastoral at all. He is just being postmodern. That he confuses the two, either intentionally or otherwise is worrisome.

By the way, I am not arguing for a return to anti-intellectualism in any way. I support academic thoroughly. I do believe however that when we are using academics in the context of pastoral ministry, and communicating issues which are in debate in the academy, we need to do so while also evaluating the "weight" of a given debate. If a debate is only 1% likely to really end up impacting our understanding, then ought we be raising it before the people in the pews? I don't think so. I was taught to "not preach our doubts." There is a pastoral wisdom there that postmoderns, and McClaren in particular, seem to forget.