Saturday, July 08, 2006

The flaw of silence

Awhile back, I began to suspect that there was a flaw in the theory, sometimes called the Law of Silence, that the Bible's silence on a subject is always prohibitive. I've found cases where it indeed appears to be, but also cases where it appears not to be.

I'm convinced that figuring out which is which is largely a matter of personal growth. If I adopt children into my home (as I have!), they are going to need to learn a lot of rules at first until they come to know me better and know how I think and what I want. As they learn more about who I am and what I like, they should become less dependent on explicit rules, and more dependent on their internalized knowledge of me to make their decisions.

The following eight examples illustrate the complexity of our decision-making process, and point out that my silence about something does not necessarily mean I'm prohibiting it.

Doing what we're told to do. (Good)
    I tell Ashley to put her clothes away and she does it.
Doing what we're told not to do. (Bad)
    I tell Micah not to put his old clothes back on and he does it anyway.
Doing what we're not told to do. (Could be either)
    I never tell Jaden to mow the lawn and he does. (Good)
    I never tell Jaden he could have a soda after mowing the lawn and he does. (Bad)
Doing what we're not told not to do. (Could be either)
    I never tell Alora not to mow the lawn and she does. (Good)
    I never tell Alora not to have a soda after mowing the lawn and she does. (Bad)
Not doing what we're told to do. (Bad)
    I tell Saty to draw me a cow and she draws a horse.
Not doing what we're told not to do. (Good)
    I tell Saty not to draw a horse and she doesn't.
Not doing what we're not told to do. (Could be either)
    I never tell Jaden to go to ride his bike to the store, and he doesn't. (Good)
    I never tell Jaden to help elderly women who fall down in the store, so he doesn't. (Bad)
Not doing what we're not told not to do. (Could be either)
    I never tell Sam not to get a soda after mowing the lawn, and he doesn't. (Good)
    I never tell Sam not to not display his temper so he doesn't. (Bad)
Knowing whether an action is good or bad involves having a good idea of what the authority figure wants. As a younger child, my kids ought to know that I would never want them using power tools. As they mature and learn how to use power tools, they ought to know that I'd be thrilled to have them mow the lawn as often as they want. As they mature, they might even get to the point that they wouldn't need to ask to have a soda. All of these decisions involve more complex decision-making than simply checking to see if there is a rule that can be deduced or inferred about it.

This internalized decision-making can be compared to walking after the Spirit and not being under law. If the law is now written on our hearts, it is a much higher standard than a written code. But this higher standard actually breathes new life into our obedience to God. As Paul writes, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Only from intellectuals

There are some things so ridiculous--and in fact, so evil--that only intellectuals could believe them. Like doomsday University of Texas professor Eric Pianka's intentionally shocking idea that a 90% reduction in the human population is not merely an eventuality (as headlines spin it), but a solution to the "problem" of an overcrowded planet.

Actually, the real problem, as he states it, is anthropocentrism.
    “The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism,” he said, describing the belief system in which humans are the central element of the universe. “This is that common attitude that everything on this Earth was put here for [human] use.”
Unfortunately, his philosophy goes clearly against the Biblical idea that mankind is indeed here to enjoy as well as to manage Earth's resources. While there is room in the environmental movement for Christians (in fact, all Christians should be environmental conservationists, in keeping with Adam's charge), there is no room in Christianity for self-hate and the elevation of animals to human status.

In fact, to Pianka, "a human life is no more valuable than any other—a lizard, a bison, a rhino." That is where the real evil comes into the equation. This philosophy does not just raise animals to human status, it lowers human status to that of animals. This is what Darwin's revered theory of evolution has done to the intellectual class--driven them to absurdity.

Pianka essentially advocates the intentional slaughtering of humans through ebola-like viruses. When asked if he believes nature will "bring about this promised devastation" or if humanity's only choice is to bring it on of its own volition, the story reports:
    "...Pianka said 'Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.'"
Good terrorists? It is this same type of intellectualized lunacy that became commonplace with "thinkers" like Adolph Hitler, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, and 20th century eugenics "medical" researchers. These self-styled intellectuals all accepted the notion that humans are no different than the animals, and that the survival of the fittest was the highest objective of this "game" called life.

The irony here is that in advocating mass slaughter under the guise of "population thinning," Pianka completely misses the most patent difference between humans and animals--the capacity to choose between good and evil. By denying such distinctions, Pianka just makes it easier for humans to choose the latter.

UPDATE: 04/06/2006

This is an excerpt from an article that came out today on Pianka's evil ideas:
    There's no denying that Pianka, even at first glace, seems a little eccentric.

    His office, which he has inhabited for 38 years, is cluttered with books, stacks of paper, bones and even a few beers. There's a photo of him dressed like British naturalist Charles Darwin. Scattered pictures of lizards and a copy of his semi-autobiography, "The Lizard Man Speaks," reveal his area of expertise — lizards and evolutionary ecology. On his desk, he keeps a stuffed likeness of the Ebola virus that was sent to him by students who enjoyed his speeches.

    He is particularly troubled by the recent explosion in the human population. He says we now take up about 50 percent of all livable space on Earth and that people should have no more than two children. Humans, and the way they've multiplied, are "no better than bacteria," he says.
This firms up, to me, that his theology is hyperfocused on Darwinian evolution and the premise that all living things are equal. None have a right to live, and all may be casually killed, because there is no such thing as morality (other than what humans themselves create from their own philosophies).

This was the underlying philosophy of the Nazi's, and is alive and well today.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

The last shall be last

After years of trying to train my kids not to fight over being first in line at the dessert table, we recently encountered an interesting twist. They were fighting over being last.

That's right, instead of arguing about who was going to be first, they began arguing over the right to be last in line. And they apparently thought this would get them big kudos from Mom and Dad.

This new phase was only slightly better than the first. Instead of selfishly seeking the first plate of dessert, they were selfishly seeking the last. It struck me that it is possible to be selfishly selfless. How paradoxical is that? We can do wrong by doing right with the wrong attitude.

It may make a funny illustration, but it's a serious problem for Christians. Getting together with other believers can be an awesome and uplifting thing to do. But if it's done in order to check it off our list of Christian duties for the week, it's pointless. Or if it's done to illustrate how "spiritual" we are, it's similarly futile. We're doing a good thing with the wrong attitude.

In a recent discussion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, it became increasingly obvious to us that the overriding theme of his lesson was that the heart is where the real battle is. In the familiar series of "You have heard," followed by "But I tell you," we learn that the thoughts and intents of the heart are at least as important as the outward manifestations of them.

Murder is bad. But murder begins in the heart, Jesus says. Charitable deeds are good. But make sure your heart is in the right place when you do them, because if you are doing them to be seen of men, you get your reward as soon as you get the desired pat on the back. Doing them from the heart is what God wants.

The same could be said of so many of the topics Jesus discusses in this sermon. Fasting can be a good thing done for the wrong reason. Even telling the truth can be done in a boastful, condescending, or hurtful way.

This may come as a complete surprise, but even the command to love, which is the ultimate of God's commands, can be obeyed for the wrong reason. Yes, it is possible to be kind for the express purpose of irritating someone!
    Romans 12:19-21 - Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NIV)
Here, Paul is saying that showing kindness to an "enemy" will give him a major guilt trip. Now, it may be tempting to want to give our enemy a guilt trip, but that is not the goal of expressing our kindness. Of course, we shouldn't stop being kind to our enemy, but we certainly shouldn't relish the thought of heaping those coals of fire. Instead, we should relish the thought of showing our forgiveness and compassion, even if we don't believe it's being reciprocated.

In short, brothers, let's do good from the heart, not simply to get kudos from God or men. There's no point in being selfless if we're doing so with selfish motives. In that case, Jesus' axiom is turned on its head, making the last come in last right along with the first.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Dealing with one another

I don't know who compiled these "One Anothers," but they illustrate how important our relationships are with people. All of the "book knowledge" in the world can't replace the value of our one-on-one relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Knowing how we ought to behave is quite different from actually doing it.
  • be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50)
  • wash one another's feet (John 13:14)
  • love one another (John 13:34)
  • love one another (John 13:35)
  • love one another (John 15:12)
  • love one another (John 15:17)
  • you are members of one another (Rom. 12:5)
  • be devoted to one another in love (Rom. 12:10)
  • honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10)
  • live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)
  • love one another (Rom. 13:8)
  • stop passing judgment on one another (Rom. 14:13)
  • edify one another (Rom. 14:19)
  • be like minded one toward another (Rom. 15:5)
  • admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)
  • greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16)
  • wait for one another (1Cor. 11:33)
  • have the same care for one another (1Cor. 12:25)
  • greet one another with a holy kiss (1Cor. 16:20)
  • greet one another with a holy kiss (2Cor. 13:12)
  • serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13)
  • bear with one another in love (Eph. 4:2)
  • speak truth for we are members of one another (Eph. 4:25)
  • be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
  • submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
  • do not lie to one another (Col. 3:9)
  • bear with one another (Col. 3:13)
  • forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
  • abound in love toward one another (1Th. 3:12)
  • love one another (1Th. 4:9)
  • comfort one another (1Th. 4:18)
  • incite one another to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)
  • encourage one another (Heb. 10:25)
  • do not speak evil of one another (Jas. 4:11)
  • do not make complaints against one another (Jas. 5:9)
  • confess your sins to one another (Jas. 5:16)
  • pray for one another (Jas. 5:16)
  • love one another deeply, from the heart (1Pet. 1:22)
  • offer hospitality to one another (1Pet. 4:9)
  • clothe yourselves with humility toward one another (1Pet. 5:5)
  • greet one another with a kiss of love (1Pet. 5:14)
  • have fellowship with one another (1Jn. 1:7)
  • love one another (1Jn. 3:11)
  • love one another (1Jn. 3:23)
  • love one another (1Jn. 4:7)
  • love one another (1Jn. 4:11)
  • love one another (1Jn. 4:12)
  • love one another (2Jn. 5)

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thoughts on anger

I originally put these scriptures together to have a little chat with two of my kids who have been having a little temper problem lately. Then I realized they would make good reading for a discussion that our group does frequently involving all the kids. Then I realized they would be great for us adults as well. And finally, I realized they'd be great for the blog.

So enjoy, and I hope these verses challenge you to handle your anger better. I know they help me.
    Psalm 4:4 - In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. (NIV)

    Psalm 37:8 - Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. (NIV)

    Psalm 103:8 - The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:28 - The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (NIV)

    Proverbs 22:24 - Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered. (NIV)

    Proverbs 26:4 - Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (NIV)

    Proverbs 29:11 - A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:33 - For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife." (NIV)

    Ecclesiastes 7:9 - Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 12:20 - For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger… (NIV)

    Ephesians 4:26 - "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (NIV)

    Ephesians 4:31 - Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (NIV)

    Colossians 3:8 - But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (NIV)

    James 1:19-20 - My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (NIV)

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Silence is Divine

Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where it’s silent. This has long been my motto, but I have not always lived up to it. Like many reformation denominations, which with one mouth subscribe to the Nicene Creed, and with another mouth sing a different tune, I too have given lip service to my motto without being true to its ideals.

The motto, I believe, is a good one. If the Bible speaks on an issue, I ought to speak where it speaks, always in love, of course. But the hard part is remaining silent when the Bible is silent. That goes against my human desire to have an opinion on everything, and to feel free to share my opinion.

It’s true that we’ve been given everything that “pertains to life and godliness.” But does every question that arises “pertain to life and godliness?” If so, the Bible is silent on nothing, so why is there a need to be silent about anything?

But if the Bible is indeed silent on some things, I ought to be careful that I’m not preaching my extrapolations about the Bible’s silence in place of the Bible’s actual silence. In short, I ought to actually be silent on the issue, not fill the silence with my own human-derived rules and assumptions.

I have to allow for the fact that a question under discussion simply may not pertain to life and godliness. God’s opinion is not always binary—meaning “yes,” or “no.” Sometimes there is a third answer embodied in His silence on the question.

Filling this silence can’t be done without some fairly extensive forays into fallible human logic. For instance, the Bible is silent (in my opinion) on the issue of church-owned places of worship. We find examples of the disciples renting rooms, meeting in public places like gardens and synagogues, and meeting in believers’ homes, but we never find examples of them pooling their resources for a building fund.

So whether I insist that we can or can’t own a church building, I’m in essence speaking where the Bible is silent. I ought to simply acknowledge the Divine silence. Let every man be convinced in his own mind.

Of course, I may form an opinion and live by it. On this particular question, I believe that it is probably a matter of indifference to God, but that more genuine fellowship can be achieved by simply meeting in our homes whenever feasible. But my opinion must not be mistaken as firm Biblical exposition. If I present it that way, I am violating my motto of remaining silent where the Bible is silent.

That is what the Pharisees did when they tried to fill in all the gaps in interpreting the law for the masses. “Surely,” they thought, “if we cannot work on the Sabbath, and walking long distances is work, there must be a maximum distance one can walk on the Sabbath.” They proceeded rather logically from the letter of the law, but ended up “teaching doctrines which are the commandments of men.”

That is the danger we are in when we try to fill in all the gaps by interpolating and extrapolating God’s will from the information contained in the Scriptures. When we rely on a series of assumptions (for instance, that the Bible’s silence is evidence of disapproval), and proceed to make rules for everyone else based on our conclusions, we are indeed teaching doctrines which are nothing more than the commandments of men.

It’s so much more scriptural, yet takes so much more self-restraint to just let the silence sit there. It’s fine to develop opinions from Biblical silence. But we can’t impose our opinion of what the Divine silence means by trying to fill it with our own fallible voices.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

One of these days

I just thought I'd post the words of a song that really resonated with me recently. I've done a search on the Internet and can't find the songwriter's name, so if anyone knows, please leave a comment on this page. I heard a beautiful rendition of it done by a group called Smalltown Poets, and spent some time on the computer arranging it for four-part harmony to sing in group settings. But I'm pretty sure from the sound of it that it's an older song going back a few generations at least.

The reason it really struck a chord with me (sorry for the pun) is that it is a very hopeful and optimistic song anticipating a day when "love and peace" come face to face. I pray for that day when Christians lay down their swords against their brothers. Patience, folks.

Here it is:

    One of these days
    When time shall slip its cog in place
    And spin its line of lovely lace
    Then love and peace come face to face
    One of these days

    When sorrow can nowhere be found
    And greed shall lay its weapons down
    And hate give up without a sound
    One of these days

    When love by tender instrument
    Through circumstance and incident
    Shall peace and love again invent
    One of these days

    To see this from within the soul
    We must be patient and consoled
    To know the joy that’s ours to hold
    One of these days

    And so with earnest inward eyes
    We man the post where duty lies
    And seek to win the precious price
    One of these days
    One of these days

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