Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Importance of Young Earth Creationism 

I got an email from a friend after that last post about creationism, telling me about a debate that he went to at a local university between a creationist, a free thinker and a professor. The professor really got him wondering about a few things:
Not for everything mind you but for a few things he really had me starting to think, hmmm, how did that happen then or well I know God created everything but maybe it wasn't in 6 days or maybe it wasn't 6,000 years ago. This is not to say that I stopped believing in God even for a minute but it made me wondering if I had really looked into this enough or really understood everything I should understand about creation vs. evolution. Without getting into any details right here and now I just wanted to tell you that your post on this Genesis 1 was very timely for me. Like I already mentioned, I needed to be reminded that I don't interpret God's Word based my external knowledge about given topics.

This is the reason I'm so anxious to guard this. This is a major doctrine of Scripture which is being torn down to meet the demands of a philosophy which hates God and Christianity. And it can be extremely seductive and deceptive.

I mentioned Bultmann in the comments of that previous post. I thought you might like to hear what I was talking about. Bultmann makes the argument that a great deal of Scripture is mythological in character, describing supernatural events and perspectives that we know now to be false. But Bultmann believes that he can save Christianity from the ravages of modern empiricism, by stripping it of all supernatural or mythological elements.

Here are some quotes from _Kerygma and Myth_, by Rudolf Bultmann:
The real purpose of myth is not to present an objective picture of the world as it is, but to express man's understanding of himself in the world in which he lives. Myth should be interpreted not cosmologically, but anthropologically, or better still, existentially. (B, sec. 2)

Thus myth contains elements which demand its own criticism- namely, its imagery with its apparent claim to objective validity. The real purpose of myth is to speak of a transcendent power which controls the world and man, but that purpose is impeded and obscured by the terms in which it is expressed.(B, sec 2)

That is to say, the text's message will be enhanced and improved by removing the mythological elements (that is, anything supernatural or miraculous, anything which does not fit our naturalistic understaning) so that the meaning behind them can be more fully seen. In other words, the text should be interpreted religiously, not scientifically, according to Bultmann.

The quotes above fit perfectly with this "religious framework" interpretation of Genesis 1. But Bultmann wasn't talking about Genesis 1. He's talking about Christ.
We are compelled to ask whether all this mythological language [about the virgin birth, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection] is not simply an attempt to express the meaning of the historical figure of Jesus and the events of his life; in other words, significance of these as a figure and event of salvation. If that be so, we can dispense with the objective form in which they are cast. (Ch. 2, B, Sec. 2(a))

So, with precisely the same argument as those attacking the six-day reading of Genesis 1, Bultmann is arguing that the "kerygma", that is, the message or "religious truth" of Christ can be preserved while the "objective form" (that is, all the actual events of his life) can be "dispense[d] with". And in fact, by doing so we will enhance the message of Christ, rather than lose it.

So here's the million-dollar question for Rusty, Joe, and any others who want to defend a non-literal reading of Genesis 1- Why is the above line of thinking valid for Genesis 1, but not valid for the Gospels? On what basis can we say that the historical account of creation can be dispensed with, but not the historical account of Christ's birth, death and resurrection?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Katie's favorite music 

My dad made a CD of old folk songs, performed by him on his guitar. It's Katie's absolute favorite music. She's been listening to it and running around in circles and singing along for about a half-hour. Thanks Dad!

Her favorite is the song "Katie", naturally. Little narcissist.

A Plain Reading of Genesis 1 

I am following up to my critics for this post, which took issue with what I believed, and still believe, to be a naturalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 by Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost. What I mean by a naturalistic interpretation is an interpretation that is guided more by empirical observation than by the text itself. That is to say, if the text appears to be saying one thing but our observation tells us something different, our observation wins.

Both Rusty (in the comments) and Joe (in the original article) claim that it is legitimate to use the scientific observations of the day to inform our reading of the text. But both also claim that their reading is a reading which is more faithful to the original. But if their reading of Genesis 1 (that is, a reading which does not support a particular chronological view of creation) is more faithful to the text, why should the scientific evidence be part of the discussion? If their reading is more faithful, they should be able to demonstrate that without reference to any scientific theory at all. But this they never do. Like all supporters of non-literal (that is to say, non- 6-day) understandings of Genesis 1, it always gets back to the science. It was true in the article by Roy Clouser which originally sparked this post; it was true in Joe's analysis of that article; and it's true of Rusty's response to me as well.

Exegesis means taking from the text. That means that we go to the text and we see what it says and concern ourselves only with that. If we allow outside influences to change our reading of the text, there is no end to interpretation and confusion. We need to be ruled by the text, not the text by us. It is one thing for my understanding from nature to tell me what a sheep is and what a shepherd does re: the sheep, so I can understand the passages that talk about that. But it's another all together whenwhat I think I know from nature changes what the text says; flatly contradicts what the text says.

Yes, given the science of the day, it's difficult to believe that the world is only six-ten thousand years old and was all created in six days. But it's always been difficult. It was difficult in the time of the Apostles, as we see from Hebrews 11:3 which tells us that it is by faith that we understand that things were made out of nothing by God, instead of coming from pre-existing eternal material as all the pagans believed. It's by faith.

What is faith? Faith is believing what God tells me. And it is frequently either not supported by or flatly contradicting what we think we know- Hebrews 11:1 tells me it is the evidence of things not seen. In John 20:29 Jesus tells Thomas that he believed because he saw, but blessed are those who believe when they have not seen. I am not saying that God's natural revelation and His special revelation contradict each other. I am saying that our understanding of that natural revelation and His special revelation contradict each other all the time. Faith teaches me to rely on God's special revelation, even and most especially, when my eyes or my reason tell me that God's special revelation is not true.

This is the whole problem with the two-book line of thinking- it assumes that natural and special revelation are equally clear and equally authoritative. But nowhere in Scripture can this be supported. Special revelation interprets natural revelation. This is true right from the garden, even before the fall. Natural revelation (what Eve could see and taste and reason out about the fruit) all told her one thing; God's revelation told her something else. Only God's word could tell her the truth about that tree. And that's why it was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So then if Rusty or Joe think the text can be shown to say something other than six-day creation about six thousand years ago, let them show it from the text, with no reference to modern science. For Genesis 1 is very plainly an account about what God did over a six-day period which resulted in the creation of all things around us. It's a plain reading because that's what the text says. It's almost ridiculous to have to make this point.

Genesis 1:
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. {the light from...:
Heb. between the light and between the darkness}

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were
the first day.

Those three verses tell me something that God did on the first day. He spoke words, and the result of this was the existence of light, as well as the ordering and structuring of that light. That's the plain reading of the text. That's what the text says.

Rusty and Joe, which words above in those three verses don't mean what they appear to mean? Does day not mean day, despite the fact that the word is not only usually taken to mean a chronological 24-hour period in Scripture, but always taken to mean a 24-hour period when connected with a number in that fashion (the first day, the second day, etc)? And if that weren't enough chronological reference for you, the writer adds more chronological reference with "the evening and the morning"? So if day means something other than the 24-hour period, what does it mean? And what does the "evening and morning" mean?

Rusty brings up the fact that in chapter 2 of Genesis, "day" is used differently. But words are used differently all the time. I might use the word "father" to refer to my father in one context, or to a Catholic priest in another. But this does not mean that every time I use the word, all possible meanings are present, or that it's necessarily unclear just because in some places it's used differently. The word is not the fundamental unit of meaning in any text; the phrase or the sentence or even the paragraph is. So what "day" means in Genesis 2:4 has nothing to do with what it means in 1:5. We need to look at the clause and the paragraph in which the word appears. Genesis 2:4 begins a new section (clear from the phrase "these are the generations", a phrase repeated throughout Genesis to denote a new section, a focusing on some aspect of the previous history). Another commenter brings up the fact that the first mention of day comes before the creation of the sun and moon which determine what a day is. But again, we see the naturalistic assumption. It's not the sun and moon which determine a day. It is the word of God. He put the sun, moon and stars in the sky to regulate days, weeks and years. But the days, weeks and years were not created by the heavenly bodies. They already existed in the mind of God. So that's no problem for us.

Their argument about Genesis 1 fundamentally rests on the idea that the text is not intending to answer scientific questions, but religious ones. And again I ask, on what basis do they separate the two kinds of truth? Clouser says that Genesis 1 (and all of Scripture as well) is about the creator, and man's relationship to that creator in covenant. I agree. But the fourth commandment seems to say that creation itself was provided as a model for one very important aspect of that relationship- Sabbath rest. Our week is based on the creation week, and the Sabbath was based on God's rest. And the commandment says, "... For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth." Again, if that doesn't mean that God created the world in six days, what exactly does it mean?

And that leads us to the big problem. If "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth" doesn't mean what it says; if "the evening and the morning was the first day" doesn't mean what it says; what precisely in Scripture means what it says? What truth of Scripture can we definitely rely on, that won't be one day proved wrong by science?

In response to my statement about the resurrection of Christ, Rusty says that the resurrection can be falsified, but it hasn't. He says, "Christianity stands on the fact that it can be falsified and that it is not based on blind-faith." But Rusty, who became a Christian because they examined all the possible evidence about the resurrection and decided it was conclusive? Maybe a few, but the vast majority have not. And the Word tells us that it is the Spirit which teaches us these truths, and that they are impossible to understand by the natural man with his natural eyes (1 Cor 2:14). The resurrection is theoretically falsiable in the sense that it's an actual historical event, but there is no evidence that anyone could present me with that would prove that my God is not my God, and that my savior is not risen. If your faith rests on your ability to determine the truth of Scripture by external evidence, then your faith rests on quicksand. Because my understanding and the opinions of men can never be weighed against the word of God

And I know what you're saying- it's not the word of God you're questioning- it's one particular understanding of the word of God. But if "...in six days the Lord created the Heaven and the Earth" isn't clear, then nothing in Scripture is clear.

More Sermons 

I have uploaded several new sermons, including the first five in my series on the second half of Acts, and my sermon on the occasion of Gracie Clark's baptism, entitled "What Must I Do to Be Saved?" This sermon compares the Rich Young Ruler of Luke 18 and the lawyer of Luke 10, who asked Jesus the question what they could do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus' response to them, and the Philippian jailer in Acts 16 who asked essentially the same question, but received a very different answer. They're all on the sidebar link.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Encyclopedic Assumption- the Canard of the Naturalistic Hermeneutic 

Joe Carter from Evangelical Outpost analyzes the views of Roy Clouser on Genesis 1, and finds them acceptable. They take the view that to read Genesis 1 as teaching scientific truth is just a sophisticated version of the "flip-and-point" method of exegesis. They assert that it is to read an interpretation into the text that Moses never intended. Clouser calls this the "Encyclopedic Assumption", which means that the reader assumes that the Bible is intended to answer all sorts of questions, like an encyclopedia.
The encyclopedic assumption may not go so far as to think that the answer to every question is in Scripture, but it does suppose Scripture to contain answers to all sorts of nonreligious questions. It ignores the Bible's own central theme and purpose, and instead of trying to ascertain the literal meaning of the text (where "literal" means the intent of the author), it tries to force the text to yield truths about matters which never crossed the minds of its author(s).

I'd be interested how they know what intention Moses had. It appears to me that he intended to tell us how the universe came to be, how long it took and how long ago it happened.

Joe asserts that the text is about "teleological order", rather than chronological order. But how does he know that? There sure seem to be a lot of chronological references in there. Joe says that Genesis is not intended to tell us how old humanity is. And yet there is chapter after chapter telling us that x lived so many years, begat y children, and then died. Why all this detail if it is not the intention of the author to communicate these facts?

This is just the same old chestnut we've heard a thousand times before. When Joe started talking about overly simplistic interpretations of Scripture, I knew right where he was going, because they always go to the same place, which is that Genesis 1 isn't really saying what it's saying.

He plays right into the hands of the naturalists by creating a division between "scientific knowledge" and other kinds of knowledge. He approvingly quotes Clouser who says, "The encyclopedic assumption may not go so far as to think that the answer to every question is in Scripture, but it does suppose Scripture to contain answers to all sorts of nonreligious questions." The exact length of time that the earth has been here, and how it came to be, is a "nonreligious question" ". Well thank you very much Immanuel Kant for your continued influence on our thinking. It was Kant who firmly ensconced in our thinking the extremely unbiblical idea that some knowledge was knowable by our senses and experience, and some knowledge was mystical and mysterious in nature, and religion was the topic of the second kind of knowledge only, and not the first.

All issues are religious issues. If you think the question of creation versus evolution is a nonreligious question, then you've got more in common with Pharyngula than you do with Christianity. You've just divided truth into things that are important to know God, and things that don't matter. You're just like the Israelites who said, Jehovah's a great war God and so we worship him on Sabbath but Baal's great for getting the crops in so we'll listen to him the rest of the time. You are, in short, committing syncretism. You are combining philosophies, saying that Christianity's good for some things but that we have to turn to naturalism for others. But when Jesus appeared to Thomas and called on him to believe, he showed him the nailprints and invited Thomas to feel them. The natural world always supports the Bible, and if we think the natural world contradicts the Bible, it is our understanding of the natural world that needs to change rather than the plain statements of Scripture. This I would ask of you, Joe: How much scientific evidence would be required to overthrow your belief in the resurrection of Christ?

Creation NEVER interprets Scripture. Only Scripture interprets Scripture. And when you bring up that old "two-book" stuff again, you assume that we have somewhere written down for us in never-changing form what the book of nature says. But there is no such book. So what you've just put on a par, Joe, is the eternal Word of God and some scientist's interpretation of how old the world is, which will change by next week.

It's not hard to understand Genesis 1. It's not a mystery. It's only a mystery because you think atheistic scientists have something to tell us about what the Bible says. Your rebellion against the text is what makes it hard. But the text is clear. God made the earth in six days, about six thousand years ago, and then rested the seventh day. You make it hard because you want to believe something else.

Joe and Closer want to say that this is an essentially interpretive issue. They say that they understand Genesis 1 better than we do, since they put this fancy gloss about "teleological purpose" on it. But big words don't change the fact that they've denied what Genesis 1 says. They have stood the meaning right on its head, as I go into in more detail here. And they always give the game away in the end, by their assertion that the natural world informs us that the plain reading of Scripture must be wrong. It is the "science" of the issue which always drives them to say that six days must mean something other than six days. If Joe had stuck to plain Scriptural interpretation then I might have a tiny bit more respect for his position. But he explicitly states that it is the popular interpretation of the natural data which drives his understanding of Scripture and not the other way round. And Roy Clouser begins his article by introducing it as an attempt to resolve the conflict between Scripture and evolutionary theory.

I'll give you a hint how to resolve that conflict- one of them is true and the other is a lie from the pit of hell.

Hebrews 11:3- By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

I'm sorry if this is tough language. I like EO enough to have it in my blogroll. But if we don't give up this nonsense about scientific truth versus religious truth, then we might as well fold up shop, because the naturalists have already won. This post by Joe is the argument of a naturalist. Let's start making the arguments of Biblicists. Let's start submitting purely and simply to the word of God.

UPDATE: I guess I want to back off the tone of this post just a little. I really am very concerned about what Joe is expressing in his post, but I certainly don't need to imply that Joe is less than committed to the truth of Scripture. So I'm sorry for the tone of the post, but I stand by the substance of it.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Someone asked me a while back for a pic of Titus, my son. I forgot to put it up for some reason probably related to me being a terrible father. But here's a pic.

The Normative Early Church 

Via Jollyblogger, an interesting post from Deeper Thoughts. The thrust of Deeper Thoughts' post is that it's very difficult to look to the early church as proof that the church ought to be this way or that, since it's clear from the New Testament that many of the earliest churches had fallen into serious error even within the lifetimes of the Apostles.

From Deeper Thoughts:
There is very little in the primitive Church in Corinth that we might want in our modern congregations. Similarly the “foolish Galatians” don’t provide much in the way of example. There was the perennial problem of “Judaizers” seeking to impose a Jewish identification on the church and there certainly must have been entire congregations which reflected those ideas in their central character. Of the churches listed in Rev. 2-3 several were seriously in error.

Without getting into all of the rest of Deeper Thoughts' analyses, which are interesting, it's clear that we ought to be very careful about throwing around any period of history as normative for the church, and this includes the very earliest periods available to us. Tradition has value, but there is no shortcut to doing the work of finding out what the Bible really says, and sticking with it.

Warning- the linked posts contain statements by NT Wright which I agree with. If you find this disturbing, close your browser now, call your ISP and cancel your internet connection.


You know, I think everyone knows that I've been as big a supporter of the Iraq war as you could really ask for.

But I say, the minute they pass an Islamic constitution, that's the minute we pull all the troops out.

Or maybe instead, that's the minute we take that constitution and use it for birdcage liner, and say, "Nice try boys. Get in there and give it another shot."

I did NOT support this war so that we could have another religious dictatorship in the Middle East. I'm not sure if that's what we're going to get, but I've heard some disturbing reports along those lines. It seems to me that ensuring that Iraq has a secular democratic government set up in place of the dictatorship they were under is all part of finishing the job. I really hope we don't leave without finishing the job. But if we're going to let them set up a government run by Islamic principles, then we shouldn't spend another penny or another drop of blood over there.

Update: If this is right, maybe I don't have as much to worry about as I thought. It's an interesting article at any rate, and also touches on federalism and oil in the new Iraq.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Not Eating your Seed-Corn, or, The Value of Stay-at-home Moms 

I have discovered that many of the stay-at-home moms I know struggle with understanding their self-worth. This seems to be affected frequently by the way that we talk about women staying at home. Often they feel selfish, that they are a financial drain on the home. And often it seems we talk about the reason for mothers staying at home in terms of purely non-economic, emotional benefit at the expense of financial gain. We say that we as a family must sacrifice economic benefits so that the children can be nurtured in an orderly stable environment, the husband can feel cared for and the mother and wife can feel fulfilled as a full-time mother. And the way that we discuss this contributes, I believe, to these struggles with understanding their value that many stay-at-home moms seem to feel.

I don't want to deny or downplay the emotional benefits of having a stay-at-home wife. For me, they're huge. But I think we miss a big part of the picture, and that is the purely economic benefits. To rephrase the "one lesson of economics" of Henry Hazlitt, to understand the economic value of any activity, we must look at the impact on everyone and over the long run, rather than just the impact on a few people over the short run.

Any economy is fundamentally based on workers. We sometimes talk about the number of workers who are required to support economically unproductive members of our society, such as the disabled or retired, when we live in a welfare state. But the fact is, whether we live in a welfare state or not, unproductive members of society will need to be supported by someone. In a welfare state, that cost is evenly distributed over the whole society, whereas outside of a welfare state those costs tend to fall on the close relatives and community of those needing support. We need workers to provide the wealth to support those that cannot work for themselves, to raise the next generation, to save for hard times, to fund research and development for future growth, and to generally keep the wheels of economy rolling. A society without workers dies, and one of the major problems that is confronting developed nations and that only looks to get worse in the near future is the shortage of workers. It is because we are facing a shortage of workers that social security is becoming such a problem.

I'm not sure what the actual statistics are, but I'm guessing that not many will disagree with me when I assert that mothers who stay at home tend to have more children than mothers who work. It's quite taxing to raise children, and the two-income families I am familiar with tend to have two or three children, or even less. Single income families, on the other hand, seem frequently to have multiple children- four or more. Simply looking at this trend alone reveals something important about what a mother contributes to her society. Mothers who bore their husbands many children used to be praised. And there's a simple, straightforward reason- those mothers were adding a great deal of wealth to their society and to their families. The mother herself could add only her own direct productive capacity to the wealth of her family and her society. But by procreating, that mother can multiply that productive value two, three, or four times. But here's the kicker- she does not add that value to her family immediately, and the value to her family and society will be diffused as a wider general benefit instead of a benefit focused only on her immediate family.

Societies have often recognized the value of people engaging in activities which benefit the society as a whole but benefit the individual either negligibly, not immediately or perhaps even cost him. So our society encourages people not to litter, because there is a small cost associated with not littering (the time required to find a trash can) and that cost is borne directly by the individual. On the other hand, the benefit of not littering, while large (a clean community), is not immediately seen and not borne only by a single individual, but spread out. One person littering does not hurt anyone much. But a thousand people littering hurts everyone a great deal. And so society praises the one who does not litter and condemns the one who does, to try to encourage people to behave in ways that benefit everyone, even if there is a short-term sacrifice. And that is why motherhood used to be praised. Mothers add a great deal of wealth both to their families and to their societies, but this wealth is diffuse and long-term while the sacrifice is focused and short-term. But somewhere along the line we lost sight of that benefit, and stopped talking about it. And instead, we encouraged mothers to leave their home and go out and work, for the immediate and focused benefit that they could gain, instead of staying at home and raising lots of kids for the long term, community-wide benefit that could be gained.

This argument I'm making here only addresses the quantity of workers produced by a stay-at-home mom as opposed to a working mom. It doesn't even address the issue of the quality of those workers which I think is likely a factor as well.

There is an old proverb about not eating your seed corn. A farmer would buy corn to grow a crop, but perhaps in the immediate present there would be a shortage of food and he would be tempted to eat his seed corn. But if he did, it likely meant the end, because then there would be no crop. The farmer would gain an immediate benefit (food) but at the long-term cost of the loss of the harvest. And so the farmer instead ought to try to somehow scrape by so that he can plant the corn and reap the harvest in the future.

I am afraid that America and the west, over the last generation or so, has been eating our seed corn. We have encouraged women to work instead of raising chldren. We reaped the immediate economic benefits of their labor, but we are raising fewer and fewer workers for the next generation. And now there is some very thorny economic problems looming on our horizon as a result. We need to stop eating our seed corn and start thinking about the whole society and the long term, instead of focusing only on our own immediate benefit. And the easiest way to start doing that is to start recognizing the high value of our stay-at-home moms, and telling them so, frequently.

UPDATE: One thing I want to make clear- I know that there are a lot of different situations that people are in that require a lot of different approaches. I'm not saying that every woman ought to stay at home, or that every couple should have four or more kids. I'm just saying I think we should recognize the value of those who do.

Friday, August 19, 2005

This is kind of Amazing and Scary 

See what the digital life can get you, if you're not careful. I knew a lady that was kind of like this, only she died before I think there was Ebay, and a good thing too, because she already had like forty years of newspapers and magazines saved. But she had nothing on this house.

I am going to commit a great injustice and neglect to tell you where I got the link for this site from, as it might reflect poorly on me.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Whither now the ELCA? 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ELCA voted down both of their pro-gay proposals. A brief hesitation in their slouch to Gommorah. But the fact that such things even reached the floor, let alone garnered the support of largish minorities, says plenty about the state of the church. I simply do not understand why all the pro-gay proponents don't just go off and join a like-minded denomination such as the UCC, instead of constantly causing schism and turmoil in their own denominations. Actually I'm pretty sure I do understand it. It's the same reason that they've progressed from not enforcing anti-sodomy laws, to "tolerance" movements, to anti-hate crime laws, to positive instruction on the gay lifestyle in our schools. They do not want simple tolerance. They won't be happy until every voice raised against them is silenced. But the voice they most want to silence of course never will be silenced. Their conscience, the voice of God's image within them, will continue to accuse and condemn them for their wickedness, and it doesn't matter how many denominations they wreck.

They always deny the slippery slope, but any denomination that ordains women to church office soon finds itself with no language to condemn any immorality. Having walked away from the authority of the Bible, we are left only with our own feelings and the popular consensus of the day. Those ELCA members who voted against the pro-gay movement ought to do some soul-searching about the "yes" votes they've cast in the past that allowed these abominations to gain such prominence in their churches.

Only 75! 

We had good services today. It was cooler, for one thing, and I know it makes me terribly superficial to say that such a thing matters to the quality of the worship of God. But let's just be real for a moment, and recognize the fact that the enjoyment of the service declines somewhat when one is busily fighting off heat stroke. I was rather ill for about a week and a half after my trip, and while the first Sunday was really just a blur of agony (mostly for my congregation, watching me struggle through a service the color and consistency of Mozzarella cheese, standing in a warm puddle of my own bodily fluids), the second Sunday I had mended enough to notice the ridiculous temperature. It was about ninety eight degrees, hot enough for me to swallow my pride and remove my suit coat. The second service that I preside over starts at about 12:30, so we really hit the peak right about ten minutes into the sermon. I don't really notice the heat much once the sermon starts. But there's a point about halfway through the preparatory Scripture reading when I feel like a small squirrel has made a burrow between my shoulder blades, and when it's hot like that it makes the squirrel bad-tempered.

I'd like to tell myself that the congregation doesn't notice the heat much once the sermon starts. But I'd like to tell myself a lot of things. The heart of man is deceitful above all things.

So when the temperature never broke 75 today, it made for a much more pleasant service, I thought. And the moisture puts the ranchers in a good mood too, so there's another plus. The fair went well, I'm told, beef is still high, so all is well in agriculture-land for the time being.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Imago Dei 

Andrew is thinking about the image of God, and the implications of denying that image on our treatment of ourselves and others.

Of course, we could always be selfishly arbitrary and declare man's right to peaceful existence simply because we are men, and it is to our personal advantage, but there is no transcendent basis for the claim. If man is not the very image of the transcendent Being Himself, then why, praytell, should I treat my fellow man with dignity? Why should I not malign and mistreat him as I see fit?

History bears him out. Christian nations have of course committed their crimes, but they are nothing compared to the crimes of nations who deny that concept. I know that there are those who will try to pin the Nazis on the Christians, but I just don't have time to educate everyone, if they can't bother to educate themselves.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I have uploaded four new sermons to the church website. These four sermons are the last sermons on my series in Genesis. The link is on the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Jury Duty 

I had jury duty today. I ended up getting released quite soon, along with the rest of the pool, because of a technicality in the case which forced a delay.

But I had some time to think about it while I waited around. Most people there, and even the bailiff, talked about it as if it were an inconvenience that had to be put up with. We watched the tape that described jury duty, and they had a lot to say about civic duty and safeguarding our democracy and the like, but most people just regarded it as hokey propaganda.

But without getting into the specifics of the right of trial by jury, it got me thinking about the general lack of a sense of civic duty in this country. It seems that few people make decisions based on how it affects the rest of society, and just think of the inconvenience to them. But for our society to function as constituted, it is necessary for the populace to be civic minded. How can we recover this sense of civic pride?

In the Philippines, when I would ask questions of the locals about the state of local politics, I heard the sentiment more than once, "The Philippines needs a dictatorship." There are more than a few there who pine for the days of Ferdinand Marcos, when at least, they say, they had discipline. This is another way of saying that the average Filipino lacks a sense of civic pride, civic duty. They feel a great deal of loyalty and responsibility to their family and close friends, often going far out of their way to help each other. But this sense of responsibility does not often seem to extend to the society or nation as a whole (please correct me if I'm wrong, any of my new Filipino friends).

But America was built on such a sense of civic duty. And something such as jury duty ought to be regarded as a privilege, an opportunity to participate in our wonderful system. Instead we regard it as an inconvenience, and try to get out of it. Or all too often, when we do serve, we view it as an opportunity to assert those selfish priorities and "stick it to the man", awarding ridiculous and outrageous awards to the "little guy" at the expense of some corporation, with no regard for the damage that this does to the society as a whole. Instead, too many of us relish the vicarious pleasure of helping some individual reap a huge windfall at the expense of a faceless public, indicating what we ourselves would do if given the chance.

When every individual is thinking about how he can benefit at the expense of the society as a whole, it is the end of democracy. Democracy only works when those participating are willing to look beyond their narrow interests and realize that their welfare as individuals depends on the welfare of the whole society. And taking a little time off to help the jury system function is a small price to pay to live in a country where we are guaranteed a trial by a jury of our peers.

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