Friday, October 19, 2018

No hierarchy here!

Contrary to what some believe, God has not fixed a spiritual hierarchy within the church that says that some Christians are more important than others or that some spiritual gifts are more important than other spiritual gifts. Instead, when seen from the perspective of the whole, every spiritual gift and every believer is of equal value. Allow me to re-emphasize this point. A believer’s worth is not determined by the spiritual gifts that the person exercises. Rather, believers should draw their identity and self-worth from Christ, not the gifts that they manifest. In light of this truth, it is essential that every believer identifies how the Holy Spirit has shaped him [or her] for ministry so that the person can develop his [or her] gift and mesh his [or her] gifting into the whole.—William Payne, Adventures in Spiritual Warfare, page 46

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Give me your rich, your empowered, those desiring to control

Oh, wait, that's not right, is it? It is supposed to be
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But, in actuality, it has never been so. Take a look at the post on the Anxious Bench today. These paragraphs are especially heart-rending:
During this period, as would be the case during subsequent refugee crises in history, Americans strongly opposed accepting refugees. In July 1938, one public opinion poll published in Fortune found that only 4.9% of Americans surveyed believed that the United States should accept political refugees fleeing persecution in Europe. In an era of virulent anti-semitism, Americans appear to have been especially reluctant to accept Jewish refugees. In January 1939, in the wake of Kristallnacht, a Gallup poll found that 61% of survey respondents did not believe that the United States should open its doors 10,000 German refugee children, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

American immigration officials were able to prevent refugees from entering the United States by relying on the immigration quotas established by the Johnson-Reed Act, but also by using an extremely stringent interpretation of public charge rules. As Stephen Porter points out in his book Benevolent Empire: Power, Humanitarianism, and the World’s Dispossessed, President Herbert Hoover in 1930 directed American consuls to apply public charge rules strictly, in response to American fears of labor competition during the Great Depression. The use of public charge rules ended up allowing the United States to admit far fewer immigrants than what was permitted under the Johnson-Reed quota limits, which were already set at unprecedentedly low levels. By restricting immigrants only to those who had wealth, the United States used less than 20% of its available immigration quotas, and immigration during this period dipped to its lowest level since the United States began keeping records in the 1830s. Importantly, the United States made no exceptions to admit refugees or asylum-seekers.

Anti-Semitic immigration officials were particularly harsh when applying the rules to Jewish applications for immigration. “Virtually all Jews applying to enter the United Staes to escape persecution abroad were required by the State Department Visa Division to have affidavits filed on their behalf by a sponsor in the United Staes promising to support the immigrant if granted admission,” Porter explains. “While other poor and potentially dependent immigrant applicants also had the affidavit requirement applied to them, contemporary refugee advocates and later observers have noted that it was applied much more strictly and systematically to the Jewish refugees, partially the result of strong pockets of anti-Semitism among American consuls abroad and their counterparts in Washington.”

Christian nation!? Hardly! We need to repent on our knees. And by repentance I don't just mean mouth a few words and feel sorry about how or ancestors behaved. I mean change the way we behave! Our descendants (if any survive!) will judge us as mercilessly as we judge others...

Character counts

The basic point is that those who would speak for God should embody and display the qualities of God in themselves, and have a concern that others too should genuinely engage with the life-changing truth of God; although recognition of people with such qualities is not self—evident but requires existential openness. At root, I argue that the discernment of claims to speak for God is a particular form of one of the most fundamental and enduring issues of all human life: How can we know whom to trust?—I Still Believe, page 209

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! And his point that it is the character of the person that counts is spot-on. Especially in these times of alternate facts and half-truths (ok, I'm being generous; wholesale lies would be more accurate), the character of the person counts. If the person's life doesn't align with scripture, then question very closely whether or not it's of God. Sure, God can and does use ungodly people, but be very cautious! If someone is living an opulent lifestyle and claims to be helping the poor, a red flag should go up! If someone puts the US flag (or any other flag!) before the cross, be very cautious of accepting their truth claims. And if someone openly brags about their sexual bravado... well let's just say, I have a real problem seeing that as anything other than childish and the sign of a very insecure person who needs Jesus desperately. And I see people who defend that behavior in the same light I view some of the medieval popes who endorsed certain rulers for the sake of territorial protection...
<idle musing>

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The joys of (not believing in) inerrancy

OK, I confess that I've never been a fan of inerrancy, going all the way back to the original Battle for the Bible, always seeing it as a distraction from really grappling with what the text is saying. For one thing, everyone defines it differently. And my experience over the years is that the proverbial person in the pew thinks it means oral dictation, which it definitely is not—and that's about the only thing inerrantists will agree on! So, this little excerpt from I Still Believe was refreshing:
It is a liberating experience for a biblical scholar to be free of the a priori affirmation of inerrancy. Not only do a host of problems dissolve, but new options become available and at the same time the Scriptures become more alive. Without having to hide or ignore something, one can enjoy the feeling of honesty.—I Still Believe, page 111
<idle musing>
Several years ago I was reading Greek with another person just for the fun of it. We would take a book in the New Testament and spend about an hour just sight-reading it. If we got stuck, we'd pull out the lexicon. After we had been doing this for several weeks, the person I was reading with told me how freeing it was to let the text just speak without coming to it looking to confirm a belief! I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised, as I have rarely (I wish I could say never) come to scripture that way. I don't believe in inerrancy, but I certainly do believe in inspiration, and to use scripture as a weapon to prove a presupposed belief is to me a form of heresy! But on reflection, it helped me understand the approach to scripture among some people.

Lord keep me from that attitude! May I ever come at scripture with an open heart and mind, seeing what you have for me that day!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I Still Believe

I built a new bookcase yesterday&mdaah;I was out of room in the other ones. In the process of rearranging things, I came across a book that I had read about three years ago now and never excerpted; my yellow stickies were still marking the spots. So, for the next three days, I'll pull three excerpts that jumped out at me three years ago when I read I Still Believe.
I grow disheartened when I see the Bible hijacked and turned into a sword of hatred instead of a ploughshare of love. Although I do not imagine that biblical scholarship is single—handedly responsible for the thin gruel offered as the gospel in too many congregations—across the spectrum of the church’s life—neither do I see that biblical scholarship is serving to challenge and enlarge and instruct as it might.—Berverly Roberts Gaventa in I Still Believe, page 89

Monday, October 15, 2018


I wish I could get the adult males in this country to give as much consideration to their own souls as they give to the standings of their particular sports teams.

How would our country change if we could get people to spend four hours considering their own souls and their lives and their future with the concentrated attention they consider the strikeouts, the stolen bases and the rest of the baseball game?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 168

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hard words

The only way to help the world is to stay free from its brainwashing. The man who has adopted its ways can never help it. It is by standing aloof from its ways that we can help it. The aloof man is the only man that can do any good. You can only help a sinner by going contrary to him.

There is only one way to bless mankind, and that is by opposing mankind. For wherever mankind is wrong, and wherever he is different from God, it means that brother must be divided from brother and husband from wife and children from parents. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). You must be sober and prayerfully beware the world’s propagandas. Do not sell yourself, and do not allow yourself to be slowly reasoned into wrong by the counsel of the ungodly. Better to be a radical on the right side than weak on the wrong side. Better go too far than not far enough.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page.—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, page 163

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Babylon, here we come : (

What is it going to take to wake up the Church . . . to keep the world from using the Church to achieve its own ends? I wonder what kind of Babylon and beside what waters we are going to sit bitterly and hang our harps and refuse to sing? I wonder what Ezra and Nehemiah will be sent to lead us back to the land again, purged of our idolatry and washed this time by the blood of the Lamb?—A.W. Tozer, The Dangers of a Shallow Faith, pages 162–63