Showing posts from September, 2012

closed and centered sets in church

Update January 2016. Dave Schmelzer has addressed some objections like mine in his essay here.

This week I listened to most of a sermon from the Boston Vineyard on homosexuality from their 2011 series on hard questions. The sermon's title is Homosexuality and Churchgoing and was given by the lead pastor, Dave Schmelzer. I didn't hear the last fourth of the sermon, so he might have said what I am going to say here, but his ideas got me thinking. Basically, he appeals to a mathematical analogy for his ecclesiology, centered sets vs. closed sets.  This is nothing new, but for those to whom it is new, here is my quick breakdown. A closed set would be a circle defined by it's edge. A centered set would be defined by, you guessed it, the center. A church with a closed set ecclesiology would have some well defined behaviors expected of members, e.g. no smoking, drinking or dancing. A centered set church welcomes all who are …

Jesus' over the top sayings - dads and teachers

In Matthew 23, Jesus is ripping on religious leaders. In one part he says,
8 Don't ever let anyone call you 'Rabbi,' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters. 9 And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father,' for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don't let anyone call you 'Master,' for there is only one master, the Messiah. v 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  Taken literally, as some of us have, this results in finger pointing towards others in Christendom who do use the appellation "Father" for their leaders. At the same time, we ignore the fact that we'll call some of our leaders, "Teachers." I wonder if there are some who won't even refer to their biological male parent as "Father." Maybe they call them by their first names. Bu…

what's a loving dad supposed to do?

Controversial Christian writer and retired pastor Brian McLaren recently led a commitment ceremony for his gay son and his partner. Here are the facts. Brian is a dad, and a pastor. He loves his son and he loves Jesus. Some of his critics, and I've been one on other topics, are holding this up as an example of McLaren's apostasy, that he doesn't love Jesus and advocates for a false Christianity. Years ago, McLaren wished aloud for a long pause on the American church's dialog on homosexuality. I've been part of that conversation for that while and have certainly shifted in my approaches to the issue.

How is a dad to love his son who is gay and entering into a commitment with his partner in a state that did not legally recognize gay marriage? Protest it? Picket it? Shun the two men? Condemn them? Gather up a group of preachers, kidnap his son, and collect some rocks to throw at him? Is that what the love of Christ looks like?

I don't think so. See John 8.

I do kn…

9/11 and "never forget" and "forgive us our sins"

It's no big insight to point out that many Christians seem to honor their country before their God, even when we believe we are honoring God and country at the same time. On the 11th anniversary of the al Queda attacks by passenger jet in the US I saw many postings in my Facebook network with pictures of the twin towers in NYC and the proclamation to "Never Forget." There was no difference in the postings between patriotic believers and unbelievers. This was not a scientifically rigorous observation, but all I've been looking for is a picture of the twin towers and a quote from Jesus, "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sinned against us."Unforgiveness is extremely expensive, not just in the cost to our nation to invade and occupy Afghanistan, but also to our souls. The twin towers were picked by bin Laden not as much for the loss of life, but to damage our financial stability. Our unethical, greedy bankers were able to do that on their own, witho…

book response: The Open Bible published by Thomas Nelson

The Open Bible's subtitle on its book jacket says "Read and discover the Bible for yourself." I think this mission statement for the study bible committee is fulfilled in this type of study bible. I have and have had many study bibles. I have the kind with more notes and commentary on each page than scripture. I don't think that's a problem, that study bible committee had a different purpose. This study version stays out of the reader's way, trying to be silent as the reader encounters God through his word. The bulk of notes, commentary, and resources are in the beginning of the book or as an introduction to each book in the Bible. The verses themselves fill up most of the page, with small notes on translation with the New King James Version that they use, and cross references. Occasionally there is a key verse on an important Christian doctrine that is commented on. That kind of commentary encourages the reader to study further with reference to other verses…

book response: Darwin's Ghosts by Rebecca Stott (2012)

Darwin's Ghosts is like a walk through a garden where one stops at the prettiest flowers then flits to other ones down the path. It's enjoyable and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but it's not strenuous. The sub-title of the book is "The secret history of evolution." I thought I would learn more than I did about Darwin's forerunners, which is not to say I didn't learn, but not as much as I expected. Stott expanded on Darwin's own afterword in his later editions of The Origin of Species, which is included as an appendix in this book, cherry-picking eleven or twelve from his list. Between Aristotle and Wallace, I learned about Jahiz in Baghdad, Leonardo DaVinci, the salons of Paris, a couple odd balls, including a guy in Kentucky. I'm fond of history and biographies, so a series of biographies in a large history, was a delight for me. But with only 400 pages to work in, the depths of the biographies are adequate but not great.

In the end Stott…

the love of books and Robert Chambers

When I was about eight years old, I lived in a small apartment building. A younger kid had moved into the apartment diagonally upstairs from me and was alright to play with, but in his house he had an encyclopedia set. For a glorious hour or two, I came into possession of a couple volumes for a few toy cars. While I was delighting in the successful acquisition of knowledge, his parents started to worry about the new toys and the missing books. I didn't have them long, but while I did,  it was a taste of heaven for me. Fortunately, as I grew older, my parents brought me to the library more often, and I was able to indulge in books more and more. I'm still insatiable. While reading something from the new books shelf this weekend, Darwin's Ghosts by Stott, a collection of brief biographies of some of the people who Darwin thought as forerunners of his theory of natural selection, I encountered an even more librophilic person, Robert Chambers. He writes of his discovery of a f…