Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In All Things Jesus Christ

The other day I had someone ask me what I thought of this statement: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, and in all things Jesus Christ.
This is an interesting restatement of the famous dictum (attributed to St. Augustine): “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” I think both sentiments are essentially the same or similar.
I appreciate the rephrasing of the motto in that it specifically references Christ; that He is to be the center of all things.
C.S. Lewis in his classic, Mere Christianity, observes that Christians disagree about many things and one of the things about which they are disagreed is the importance of their disagreement! I believe he is correct.
The essentials of our faith (dogma, if you will) are, in my estimation, to be limited to such things as the full deity and true humanity of Jesus Christ. That is, the “essentials” are those teachings which were and are accepted or affirmed by all Christians, in all places, in all times.
Having unity in essentials then affords us the liberty to think differently in regards to doctrines which do not rise to the level of dogma. In other words, in the Christian faith we have form and freedom. Christians may disagree—say over something like baptism or eschatology—without any lack of love towards one another.
“In all things Jesus Christ” is not only a good attitude, but also a great hermeneutic. When Christians disagree concerning certain passages of scripture (which is very often the case!) a Christ-centered approach to the text can be very helpful. The focus then shifts from disagreement over “particulars” to a more beneficial question: What does this passage or story or whatever it may be teach us about Jesus.
Suffice it to say, we needn’t be overly dogmatic in non-essential doctrines and we needn’t insist on seeing eye-to-eye on all things in order to enjoy loving, Christ-centered fellowship.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wishful Thinking

Not long ago an atheist (on a Christian webpage) posted the following challenge. 

The afterlife:

How does that work? How can you expect to see anything without eyes, hear anything without ears, and form memories without a brain? 

It seems like nothing more than wishful thinking to accept that some part of us survives death and allows us to continue to think and/or experience things. 

Note this is a challenge, not a quest for truth. How should one respond?  

First, I do not accept the notion that human beings are merely "eyes, ears, and brains." We are not less than these things, but we are certainly more. Thus the human person cannot be explained by that which is physical or material alone. 

Second, she writes: "It seems like nothing more than wishful thinking to accept that some part of us survives death . . ." 

Two things: 

1) Why do some folks make the illogical leap that "wishful thinking" is "false thinking"? Just because a person "wishes" something were true…it must be false? Isn't it rather the case that many of the things we "wish" were true are true? (Common sense gives us the answer.)  

"Wishing" something to be true (atheism for example) has nothing to do with whether or not that something is true or false. 

2) The converse seems true to me. That is, it seems like “wishful thinking” to accept that no part of us survives death. 

I am reminded of this little scenario in the experience of C.S. Lewis. A friend informed him of an epitaph on a man's grave which read: "Here lies an atheist, all dressed up and with nowhere to go." Lewis promptly retorted: "I bet he wishes that were so."  

You see, this "wishful thinking" business cannot determine truth or error—and it cuts both ways.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Heroes, Hitlers, & Homeschoolers

I know some good people are in hard times, but getting upset by bad books in gov't schools is like getting upset by nudity at a strip club. ~RC Sproul, Jr. 

Glad someone said it. And speaking out of turn to the point of disorderly conduct is not heroism. ~Joel McDurmon 

The two brethren above offered these remarks in response to the national sensation of a man being arrested at a school board meeting. 

William Baer, the father of a teen who attends Gilford High School, was arrested during a school board meeting Monday night after he continuously talked out of turn in protest of the Jodi Picoult book Nineteen Minutes. Baer was upset the school had assigned the book –- which contains a graphic sex scene between two teenagers -- to his ninth-grade daughter without first notifying parents . . .

For the record, the book is absolute filth and it contains more than a graphic sex scene. It contains several. I know this because I’ve read it from cover-to-cover. 

You see, six years ago I too protested this pornographic book being in the local school library. (Yes, I’m that far ahead of the curve, and no I wasn’t arrested!) The librarian who opposed me (and the superintendent who stood with me) received a professional award.  

(Apparently in some circles nothing garners accolade more than peddling porn to pupils…but I digress.) 

The school board knew the book was garbage. I know they knew this because after reading 2 or 3 extracts aloud to them, they—shocked and red-faced—requested that I stop reading. Even so, they caved to outside pressures, brought to bear upon them by ominous letters from the ACLU and the ALA, and allowed the book to remain.  

However, according to Sproul, Jr. and McDurmon, I shouldn’t have been “upset” by this and there was nothing heroic in my stand. Nevertheless, I was rather “upset” and I do specifically remember being called “hero” by a few folks—and “Hitler” by others.   

(While McDurmon is likely correct that I am no hero, I recall that at the time I very much preferred “hero” to “Hitler.” But again…I digress.) 

I’m sharing my story in the interest of full disclosure: I fought against this book and my children attended public schools, as did I. Though I don’t regret these things, I realize such facts produce nothing but disdain in many homeschooling Christians.  

The reaction of certain homeschooling Christians to this story (and mine) is incredibly predictable. For many—but certainly not all—the conversation begins thus: “Do your children attend government schools or are you a Christian?”  

Yes, this is an exaggeration, but just barely. It seems for some, homeschooling is essential to their Christian identity. (I’m not suggesting this is the case with Sproul, Jr. or McDurmon.) 

But while I am no fan of compulsory education or of government schools, neither am I an advocate for homeschools. I’ve seen homeschooling done well and I’ve seen it done poorly. Furthermore, I’ve known Christian children in public schools and I’ve known non-Christian children in homeschools. The same could be said of teachers (this is disputed by some).  

In other words, students or teachers in any school may or may not have a Christian worldview. I and my children had several Christian teachers and never once did we leave our own Christian worldview at home. 

But the issue isn’t necessarily individual students or teachers per se. Perhaps we should think of the underlying philosophies of the schools. Is any given school’s philosophy godly or godless? What is the goal or aim of the institution? What type of student, what kind of mind, does it want to help shape or produce?  

It seems to me that public schools in general operate within godless parameters. Does this mean Christians are sinning against God when they work and/or send their children there? Some will offer a hearty “yes” to that question. Others are less dogmatic.  

The reality is I didn’t send my children to public school in a vacuum. We discussed the things they were being taught. Not all things were to be eschewed and not all things were to be endorsed. We applied scriptures to their subjects—even their sports. They had, and still have, a Christian worldview. 

In the end I fully support homeschooling (if done well or adequately) without denigrating those who do otherwise (if done attentively).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Words Speak Louder Than Actions

[T]he sophists placed great emphasis upon the power of speech . . . The sophists were interested in particular with the role of human discourse in the shaping of reality. Rhetoric was the centrepiece [sic] of the curriculum . . . a staple of sophistic education. . . . Aristotle suggests that the sophists tended to reduce politics to rhetoric . . . As Hadot eloquently puts it . . . ‘traditionally people who developed an apparently philosophical discourse without trying to live their lives in accordance with their discourse, and without their discourse emanating from their life experience, were called sophists.’

The Sophists were at first widely admired. . . . Sophists were more concerned with rhetorical effectiveness than with truth. Hence the meanings of "sophist" and "sophistry" today.

Not long ago the soon to be former owner of the LA Clippers, 80-year-old Donald Sterling, was expediently hanged, drawn and quartered for racist comments he made to his beloved 31-year-old girlfriend (not to be confused with his wife—presumably not as young or beloved). 

Perhaps “hanged, drawn and quartered” is a bit of an overstatement.  

Actually, he’s been “banned for life” from the NBA (Seriously, how long could that be?), fined 2.5 million dollars, and will most likely—upon a vote of other NBA owners—lose his team. (When I say “lose” his team I mean he’ll have to sell the team he bought for 12 million dollars for around 800 million dollars.) 

Does anyone feel sorry for this guy? I certainly don’t. 

But here’s my beef: He’s being punished, not for something he did—though he’s certainly done plenty (see here)—but for something he said 

In American culture today it seems that words speak louder than actions. Be it the White House, courthouse, or schoolhouse: rhetoric rules the day. Sophistic elites in government and media (that should probably read, “government-media”) manage, manipulate, and manufacture our national narrative. 

That is, we are relentlessly conditioned via words and images in regards to what is or isn’t acceptable thought, belief, and expression. The mantra is simple: Some people can’t say or think some things.  

Who these “some people” are and the “some things” they cannot think or say is determined by our handlers. And truth has nothing to do with it. Such is always the case in a nanny-police State. 

Fact. Fiction. News. Entertainment. No lines, just blurs. We’re all Sophists now.