Some very interesting points. It’s only fair that Herold Weiss, whose book Creation in Scripture I publish, would disagree with some of John Walton’s views, while affirming the broader ideas about how to read an ancient text.
(HT: Allan R. Bevere)
I posted on my company’s blog today about writing to communicate, but I didn’t cover one important aspect: Transparency. Transparency isn’t a technique or a policy. It’s an attitude and a moral commitment. It says, “I’m not going to lie about how my life is going. I’m going to let people see what is real.” A speaker, teacher, or writer will be forgiven many, many faults if he or she is transparent.
I’d like you to read one of Dave’s posts today. If you are one of the many who have appreciated Dave’s ministry and teaching, you’ll want to read it for the update in any case. I have Dave’s permission to copy from his blog any time I want in marketing his books, but this isn’t about marketing, and I feel it should be read in the context where it is. Right now it’s at the top, but if it has moved (those who know how Dave blogs know what I’m talking about), just scroll down to Thursday, June 13 and then to 6:02 AM.
And follow the directions … you’ll find it worthwhile.
And do remember to pray for Dave and Becky!
Much as I don’t expect ebooks to replace print completely, but do expect them to take a huge chunk of the market, so I expect virtual schooling will become much more the norm, yet classrooms will still exist. I think for simple cost, if nothing else, virtual schooling will become much more common.
How My Online Learning Changed My Teaching tells the story of one teacher who learned how to teach better through his experiences getting an online graduate degree. But there’s something else important in that article. Notice the use of various social media and communication options to enhance his online experience. Often critics of online schooling don’t recognize the value of such options. Online learning can, in fact, give a student better interaction with a broader range of people, which is itself a valid goal in education.
My pastor, Dr. Wesley Wachob, comments on science and theology in his current letter to the congregation, though it is mostly quoted from John Polkinghorne. I wish more pastors would address these issues with their congregations.
Dave Black writes about a book on 1 & 2 Timothy and notes that Timothy was not a pastor. Historically, this is quite accurate.
I find it interesting the things that “church folks” think must be done by a pastor. At one conference where Jody and I were invited to teach, there was a call to come forward for prayer at the last session. All the pastors, i.e. the ordained folk, were invited to come forward and pray with people. We, the unordained, were not. Was it an oversight? I didn’t feel any need to be up there with the pastors, but it is a way of thinking, and I think not a way of thinking that is helpful in building the church. All the gifts need to be used and everyone needs to be involved. Prayer is certainly not limited to ordained clergy.
I want to quote Bob Cornwall, another one of our Energion authors, who is part of my editing work right now:
I would go even further and question whether ordination is something limited to only one sort of ministry, but that’s for another post.
It’s Memorial Day, which I enjoy. I’m a veteran, and I enjoy watching the war movies and the various patriotic shows. I’m going to annoy one set of friends by saying simply that I am proud to have served and that I would still make the same choice if I had it to do over again.
At the same time, something occurred to me today. I have never, not once, seen conscious objectors honored in church. Even when I was still a Seventh-day Adventist, a church that has historically stood against killing in war, the people who were honored were the ones who served. That’s mildly surprising. While I am not a pacifist, I can certainly understand the arguments of those who are. More importantly, I believe it requires an act of courage for them to stand against the tide and follow their conscience rather than the will of the current “Caesar.”
Though I believe political protest is important, I’m not referring to those who object on political grounds, and refuse to fight because a specific war is wrong. I’m referring here to those who cannot in good conscience take another life even to defend their country, or often even to defend themselves. They simply don’t believe it is, or can be, right. So they say no. I’m also not referring to those who become conscientious objectors on the tarmac as their plane is about to leave for foreign parts. I realize a crisis can bring one’s thinking to fruition, and heading off to war may be a crisis. But there’s also the simple issue of taking Caesar’s money when one doesn’t have to risk one’s life, and then backing out when it becomes dangerous. Crisis can bring out cowardice as well, after all.
Nonetheless, whatever one’s circumstances or reasons, one’s conscience should be honored in church. And I think there are sufficient scriptural grounds for those who do take a position of Christian pacifism that we ought to honor their choice.
I have a personal reason for bringing this up. This was a more risky position to take in World War II than it is now. My father spent World War II planting trees in Canada because he refused, on grounds of conscience, to bear arms. The option offered to conscientious objectors was either service in the medical or dental corps, or the Alternative Service Camps. He was not accepted for the medical corps, and so he did alternative service. My mother tells how she would have Hutterite patients, and how often others would treat them with disdain. She knew, however, that boys from her own Seventh-day Adventist Church were serving in similar circumstances, and would try to treat them with kindness. Little did she know at the time that her future husband was, in fact, serving in that way. (My family spanned the spectrum on this. I have an uncle who was in the Royal Canadian Engineers and was one of the first to land in Normandy on D-Day.)
I also remember Medal of Honor recipient Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who served in the medical corps in World War II and refused to bear arms even in self-defense. I was able to meet with Mr. Doss twice when he was living quietly on Lookout Mountain. He was an extremely humble man, and very matter of fact about his accomplishments, as I’ve noticed real heroes frequently are. They were just doing what had to be done. But I think his story stands as refutation to any who claim that conscientious objectors are cowards. Besides facing the very real anger of peers and community as they take an unpopular opinion, many faced the same dangers as any soldier, and did so without any means of defense. It is one thing to face the enemy with your own weapon in hand, though the protection may be illusory. It’s another to do what Doss did, without even a sidearm.
Here’s his Medal of Honor citation:
I must tell a brief story from my first visit to Mr. Doss. One of my aunts (I honestly can’t remember which) was visiting our family in Wildwood, GA, and wanted to see this war hero. We contacted him and were invited up for a visit. She wanted to get a picture and so he came out to the porch where there was better light. Suddenly he said something. My aunt heard, “I’m going to go call my half.” She understood this as “better half” and assumed he was going to call his wife to be with him. She said, “Oh, I was hoping you’d do that. He came back with a comb in hand straightening out his hair. What he had said was “comb my hair.” After much laughter as my aunt explained her error, he went and called his “better half” and my aunt got her pictures.
My father did not face combat. Nonetheless, despite the Canadian government’s decision not to make him a medic, he later became a physician and served as a missionary, where he had opportunity to prove that even men with guns were not sufficient to deter him from what he believed was his duty. And even when those men with guns threatened his life and his family, he refused to bear arms.
I think of Desmond Doss and of my father when we’re feeling patriotic, and I honor their choices as well as my own. I believe they were both men of courage and integrity. They, and those like them, deserve to be honored.
There have been a large number of blog posts following John Piper’s pair of tweets regarding the tornadoes in Oklahoma. Examples include Rachel Held Evans, Chaplain Mike, and Energion author Joel Watts (From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls). (Energion is my company, so that’s my commercial plug for the day/week/etc.)
I want to comment briefly (don’t laugh) on the idea of explaining suffering, and what comfort such explanations can bring. The answer is that explanations are inadequate, and very little comfort results from the explanation. Nonetheless, we seek explanations, and when we’ve found them, we often find it impossible to resist “helping” others with the profound knowledge we’ve gained.
Well, I have some knowledge gained from experience, and my knowledge suggests that all this knowledge may be less helpful than we think. Am I saying that my knowledge is better than your knowledge? Not precisely. I’m saying that I’ve come to realize that both my knowledge and your knowledge about tragedies will often not be helpful at all to others. Sometimes it’s most helpful to admit our ignorance. After all, we don’t really know the why of every event.
It took me some time to learn this. The key event was experiencing loss and living with grief together with my wife. You see, Jody and I find very different things comforting. I’ll admit to one similarity between us. We both tend to try not to bother the other with our grief. But beyond that we seek different ways of dealing with grief, we are bothered by different things and at different times, and yes, you guessed it, we explain troubling events differently.
I see God as sovereign, but in a much different way than Reformed theologians do. I believe that God in his sovereignty has decreed freedom. God had created freedom into the universe itself. There are events that cannot be explained as having some sort of specific purpose. Those events did not result from God’s specific will other than that he willed that the creation have such freedom. Tornadoes, in my view, are the result of simple physical cause and effect. I prefer this explanation. It’s as comforting to me as an explanation is going to get. I don’t have to think about angry gods hanging out waiting to swat me (or anyone) down because of our sins or other annoying behavior.
As a result, explanations that say “It’s God’s will” don’t do anything for me. Of course it’s God’s will. But God’s will was expressed through scientific laws and the freedom (randomness, perhaps?) that God has willed in the universe. Thinking of it as specifically God’s will, as in God rewarding or punishing the behavior of certain folks simply gets on my nerves. This is not because I think God couldn’t do that. Rather, it’s because of the truly ridiculous contortions people go through in order to explain how this particular person, building, or locale was more deserving of God’s wrath than any other. Explanations that suggest how we all deserve to be killed, but God simply chose to kill a certain group, sparing the rest of us, raise for me the specter of a fickle and unreliable God.
My wife, on the other hand, while not being Reformed, likes to think of the good that is brought about through a tragedy. She believes God puts limits on tragedy and then works to bring out good results from the bad things that happen. This is not the same as saying that God caused a specific tragedy to happen.
Yet for some people, the most comforting thing is to think that God is controlling everything. What this provides is the assurance that things won’t run out of control. This is why, I believe, that John Piper can think of his posts as comforting. To some people, they are comforting.
There can be a nasty side to this when someone decides that they are safe because they are one of God’s special friends, and therefore are not subject to tragedy. Life usually gives the lie to this viewpoint, which can be tragic in many ways. Sometimes friends, like Job’s friends, decide that the once “holy” person must have offended God in some way so that tragedy struck. In this case the “it was God’s will” explanation may be used not as comfort but as a means of separating oneself from the tragedy. “If it happened to you because you committed some sin, then I am safe from it because I didn’t commit that sin,” is the thought.
But I think that most people simply present an explanation that makes sense to them, and that comforts them, in the thought it will comfort others. If you’re attempting to take that approach, think carefully. Your best explanation may be totally unhelpful. Listen, be prepared to help, and let people come up with their own explanations.
… by not doing this. Maybe some of those states’ rights advocates could apply some states’ rights to the issue.
I want to call attention to a post I read this morning, Can a Dying Church Find Life? Six Radical Steps to “Yes” (HT: Allan Bevere).
Then I want to call attention again to a series of responses to a set of interview questions given by some Energion Publications authors on renewing mainline congregations. The two are coming from different directions. The interviews assume a leader who is determined to find renewal, while the article above does not. It indicates that one of the needs is a determined church leader. I don’t think this leader would have to be the pastor, though I suspect there would be problems if the pastor isn’t on board.
In any case, I think these links are worth checking out.
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