Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Evolution Debate Continues...

After several months of silence someone found an article I wrote back in May of 2009 on Dr. Francis Collins and the issue of Evolution and decided to leave a comment, which I was notified of via email. This led to a bit of a 'dialogue' on the whole issue in the comments section, which may still be continuing as I wait to see if more comments are yet posted. I bring this up to any of my readers would might be interested in the subject, as you would not know of this (since it is a past article out of view) and I wanted to see what any of you thought of the recent conversation. These 'conversations' have happened in the past on the Northwoods Seelsorger, and it is interesting to witness the mood and emotions of the debate from both sides of the isle. Without becoming too defensive, I seem to sense a bit of condescension on the part of evolutionists, especially as they try ever so deftly to inform those of other views that they are somehow illogical, backwards, narrow-minded and misinformed. The debate is closed, they claim, and the conclusive vote is in: evolution won hands down (it even was decided in a court of law, no less!). So why are we still debating it then? Why do they even care what we think? Inquiring minds want to know....

Even the Crystal Cathedral Is Tightening Its Belt

This past year our offerings declined noticeably at our rural church, yet such a decrease in giving hit many churches in a down economy. It even hit the mighty Crystal Cathedral, the 10,000-member shrine of Dr. Robert Schuller. After decades of seemingly unlimited growth and outward success, the Cathedral is now forced to tighten its financial belt to ride out the economic slump. Lay offs, selling of property, and cutbacks in the airing of the once popular Hour of Power all signal a turn in the fortunes of a ministry many once looked upon as the model church growth congregation. According to a recent AP article the Rev. Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman, Dr. Robert Schuller's daughter and the church's recently appointed leader, admitted that "the era of blockbuster televangelists is fading and viewership is declining even as the age of the average viewer creeps upward." "I can't imagine anybody younger than 40 watching some sort of televangelist," she said.

Indeed, it is the passing of an era. In some respects one might applaud such a passing, considering the incredible impact these televangelists had on the rank and file membership of our churches streaming into the privacy of their homes through their TV sets. Consider the countless Lutherans, for example, who had their personal outlook on faith shaped by such TV giants as Baptist Billy Graham and his signature altar call with "Just As I Am" lilting gently through the massive stadium. Dr. Schuller's impact on Lutherans was equally damaging as he preached pop psychology and led so many from the arms of Christ to trust instead in their own confused hearts. Synergism and Pelagianism replaced good theology at every turn. It was virturally impossible to stem the tide of their influence.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Articles at Jesus First Web Site

I'm not sure why, but in the last year or so I have been promptly reminded by Jesus First via email each time they update their online newsletter. Perhaps I'm on a synodical mass mailing. At any rate I pass on to you a note that they have once again published a couple of articles, although I don't see anything too worthy of comment. It seems mainly 'boilerplate' material for them - trying to remove any suspicion about the efforts of the current administration, especially with regard to the colossal restructuring of the Synod slated for the upcoming convention this summer, and Charles Mueller's usual labeling and categorizing for LCMS churches and pastors. His latest effort concerns how LCMS churches approach "change." The theme addresses the upcoming convention also. Putting the best construction on his words the appeal seems to be for civility and open minded discussion about matters to be discussed. That's certainly not something against which you would want to argue. On the other hand, having witnessed convention politics at its best (and worst!) in 2004, and having also witnessed the very tactical attacks and maneuvering of the Jesus First political machine, forgive me if I am skeptical and a bit wary.

Voices/Vision Web Site No Longer to be Found

Could it be yet another sign of the waning of the far left in Missouri? Voices/Vision, the 'voice' of those openly promoting women's ordination in the LCMS, once located at http://www.voicesvision.org, seems to be no more. Or their website is no more, at least not on my server. Is all this simply going 'under ground' or may I dare hope for a new day? We'll see.....

Friday, January 8, 2010

DayStar Is Back - Again

Since the beginning of the year the DayStar Network site was once again down. They had been down around mid-October of last year as well. Now they are back. As I had reported before, the lack of updates and frequent disappearances seems to indicate a waning influence for the liberal left on the web. Or maybe it's just DayStar. I'm still wondering.....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Empty Prayer for the New Year

When a daily newspaper asks a pastor to share a prayer for the new year, one might think that such an offer gives a unique opportunity to present a clear witness to the Gospel. Unfortunately, in our PC world such opportunities are too often reduced to empty words saying little of value. Take this prayer by the Rev. Stephen Hamilton Wright, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Wausau, Wisconsin [which is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)] recently published in the January 3 issue of the Wausau Daily Herald:

Source of All Hope, Fill us with hope in the new year, and lead us to live accordingly.
Teach us to listen calmly to our neighbors, and those with whom we disagree.
Inspire respect for the sincerity of those who practice different faiths, who also seek to serve others.
Show us that there is more truth than any of us knows, and make us eager to listen for it, even from unexpected places.
Teach us peace, in our hearts, homes and world.
Let us to generosity, and help us end poverty everywhere.
Send us to serve the sick, the lonely, the broken in spirit and all others in need, and fill us with gratitude for all that is good, praying in the name of all that is holy.
Amen.

Too bad the name of Jesus could not be mentioned - at all. I guess that would not be respectful of the "sincerity of those who practice different faiths." Too bad the real gifts of grace are missing as well. All law, all about what we do instead of finding comfort in what God is doing and has done for us in Christ. And what does he mean by "there is more truth than any of us knows"? And where am I expected to "listen for it"? I'm afraid I'm more confused after this prayer than before it.

Ironically, looking at the website for the PCUSA, this is what they say about the core of their theological beliefs:

Some of the principles articulated by John Calvin remain at the core of Presbyterian beliefs. Among these are the sovereignty of God, the authority of the scripture, justification by grace through faith and the priesthood of all believers. What they mean is that God is the supreme authority throughout the universe. Our knowledge of God and God's purpose for humanity comes from the Bible, particularly what is revealed in the New Testament through the life of Jesus Christ. Our salvation (justification) through Jesus is God's generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments. It is everyone's job - ministers and lay people alike - to share this Good News with the whole world. That is also why the Presbyterian church is governed at all levels by a combination of clergy and laity, men and women alike.

The prayer above obviously doesn't reflect this statement, and one wonders how much of it is reflected in the denomination's churches at large. Too many so-called Christian denominations today give mere lip service to the Gospel while bowing to the altar of generic spirituality.

Too bad they had to begin the year with such an empty prayer....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Homosexuality and the New Testament


Recently I dropped in on Dr. Ed Schroeder's Crossings website and found an interesting Q & A regarding the whole question of homosexuality and the Bible and the ELCA decision regarding openly practicing homosexuals in the active ministry. Many within the ELCA willingly accepted the liberal drift of their church body, and even the older set tolerated and learned to enjoy the adoption of female clergy. However, it seems that the homosexuality question was a 'deal breaker' for some in this otherwise acquiescent crowd. Finally opening their Bibles they were faced with a fundamental dilemma: how do we explain away what seems so clear in God's Word?

Well, the counter-reformation troops have been hard at work developing answers to just such questions, and one appeared as of late on the Crossings site. It is written not by a theologian, but a laymen. Still, it is inspired by Schroeder's hermeneutic of Gospel reductionism which helps to explain how one can take clear passages of scripture and suddenly find them so confusing and empty.

Dr. Peter Keyel, in response to the charge that there appear to be passages in the New Testament that condemn homosexuality, writes:

It is unlikely that the words arsenokoites and malakoi (used in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10) are correctly translated "homosexual" (for example, Luther translated arsenokoites as Knabenschaender, which means "child abuser"). The end of Romans 1, though, does appear to directly address homosexuality. However, in order to properly put this in context, we must remember that Paul employed the same method of reading the Bible that Luther and the Reformers did. Romans 1 is an excellent example of the first half of this method. Paul walks the reader through the outward sin, which stems from internal sin, which results from rebellion against God. Here, Paul identifies homosexual intercourse as the outward sin, homosexuality as the inner sin, and idolatry as the fundamental problem. In this diagnosis, Paul is entirely caught up in the first century Jewish ZEITGEIST-that homosexuality was completely incompatible with being a Jew, and indeed, the phrase "homosexual Jew" would have been an oxymoron. While Paul's method is correct, today we understand that homosexuality is not correctly assigned as a result of idolatry. Therefore, in this light, we see that this is another example of " Juden-sachsenspiegel," even though it is in the New Testament, and the same-gendered relationships spoken about today are understood very differently.

If I were an ELCA layperson, which is who this response was crafted for, I could only respond with "what did you just say?" At the the risk of attempting to interpret the English of this response, I would suggest that ultimately what Dr. Keyel is trying to say is simply that what we find in the Bible is relative. It's meaning, although appropriate and helpful for people then (First Century Jewish context), is inappropriate and harmful for the enlightened folks of our time (21st century). We simply know better. Sin is a constantly changing theme. What was wrong then might be right now. It just depends on what you know. The only absolute is God loves me.

You can read the remainder of his Q & A and see the rest of his thought process when it comes to justifying the ELCA's decision regarding openly practicing homosexuals in the ministry. It's really an interesting attempt to run circles around the plain and simple truth. Postscript: Although I didn't address his first change regarding the meaning of the two Greek words in question, I think it only fair to say that his brief treatment did not prove his point. Without any documentation to back up such a claim I think that he needs to provide more. I could do so, but perhaps in a later post if someone is desirous of needing to know.

Friday, January 1, 2010

One of the Biggest Religious News Stories of 2009

According to the Religious News Service one of the biggest religious news stories of the past year was President Obama's address to the Muslim world at Cairo University on June 4th. The entire speech is located here on the White House site. Overall I see the address more as a policy presentation than as a religious statement. In short the president sought common ground between practitioners of Islam and the west, and to dispel stereotypes.

One statement in his speech needs further study and clarification, however: "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance." Now certainly the examples he gave were indicative of the point. However, unexplored in this statement and speech is the entire history of Islam, starting with its genesis as a movement of dominance by force. Also, his selective quotes from the Koran (sorry, Mr. President, I'm not ready to preface this book with "holy" since I reserve that for the Bible) fail as well to adequately explore the statements calling for violence against unbelievers (of Islam.) It stands to reason that exploring these topics would not have engendered the applause he received that day. Still, they need to be discussed before we will have any real understanding of the impact of Islam on the west and before we can truly talk about complete coexistence and peace.

Recently I had the opportunity to view the 2006 documentary "Obsession" that was aired in the past on both CNN and FOX. Very chilling. Naturally the presentation focused, as did the President's, on "radical Islam." However, are we facing up to just how extensive the "radical" expression of this faith is? Is it really the very small minority so often claimed? Questions continue.....

Is DayStar Down Again - or Blocked?

Occasionally I drop in on the DayStar website to see what new articles are there. A while back the entire site was out of circulation since the host was apparently behind in renewing it. Now, while trying to access the site today I received this message:

Forbidden

You don't have permission to access / on this server.

Curious.....Not sure what this means. Oh, well. Perhaps someone else knows what is going on here.