Friday, 3 February 2023

Books are a Really Expensive Backdrop for Ignorance and Personality

This little red dot means I've read this book. A play on words as much as a play on the sensibilities of people who read as a general rule. But alongside my love of self-education comes a price tag. That of not being able to prove you did so. 

My best idea on how to fix that is to simply show how the sausage is made. 

First, we start with books. Hard copy as the top end of a preference hierarchy. with kindle or electronic books and audiobooks at the bottom. This is pure paranoia but not unfounded paranoia. You can render a kindle useless and an account suspended via a firmware update, you can't do that to a book in the possession of someone else. You have to deal with the book owner when attempting to remove books from them and the book owner is 6ft tall and swings a big stick sometimes. 

But having books is not enough, you need to have access to them. Bookshelves are next. And while there's really no good answer there is a perfectly practical answer to how to shelve books if you want to become a collector. 

The billy bookshelf from Ikea is a modular system that has full-height and half-height options as well as full-width and half-width options. So it can adequately cover the walls of just about every room within a 15-inch margin. This is good because no one ever starts with a massive 500+ book library when they get into reading. But they often end up there. And with a bit of foresight, you can simply keep adding as needed until you have a room full of books. For some perspective, a single 6ft high bookshelf that's 30 inches wide, or about doorway width wide, is approximately 210 books. Give or take anyways. It would take 4 years of a book a week to fill that. So, we're not talking about much when we say get a proper bookshelf because you can split the cost over multiple years for an above-average reading pace. 

But these bookshelves become kind of central and nice to look at once you get books on them and here is where the trouble starts.

There's a particular brand of content creators that fakes the prestige and hard work of reading an above-average amount of books. Ones that will have perfectly manicured shelves with books organized by colour and size and make the books and the knowledge they contain a fancy backdrop, not the tool that they are. This is more common for fiction libraries but happens to non-fiction libraries too. When all sense of organization is lost in the collecting of books the knowledge contained in them is just as lost. finding a white Malcolm Gladwell book in a sea of similarly grouped white books is harder than finding a Malcolm Gladwell book in the "G" section of an alphabetically sorted shelf. 

But there's still the issue of faking the read.

I have over 500 nonfiction books, but I've only read and processed into my commonplace system about 112 of them as of the time of this article. I could easily start posting youtube videos about my perfect and well-educated thoughts on theology, with a giant library of theology books behind me to back up my claims. And a lot of people would fall for it. 

That's because books are a kind of mental Judo. They let you know at a glance that person is more than what they may appear to be. the same way a cauliflower'd ear on a guy at a bar lets you know who you don't want to fight with if a fight breaks out. It may have been that the man got his ear hit by an object at work, subsequently crushed and ended up looking like he hits people for a living. But it's likely he just hits people for a living. 

That's what books do. They give the impression of knowledge gained from reading them. But there isn't a trendy and aesthetically pleasing way to do the opposite. To show your work and show that not only that you've read a book, but you have understood and can communicate what that book says. 

Enter the red dot.

The red dot on all my books is a mark to let people know it's been read. It's the easiest way to accomplish and counteract this claim but has to be announced to make it work. 

The second strategy would be to review every book. Even simply, 30 seconds on each book is enough to let anyone know that you've at least cracked the cover. But a formal review of each gives you the opportunity to again, show your work of reading.

Finally, there is a simple and easy way to see if the person with books behind them is well-read or just a book of the month club member. Cracked book spines. For most book collectors. Paperbacks of any size are 25-50% cheaper than hardcover books. So when you're in a pinch to fill your bookshelf. You fill it with books that can be acquired cheaply. And paperbacks are cheap. But paperbacks are only pristine and square when unread. The second you spend an hour or two with them in their reading, you crack their spine. And a careful eye can see this evidence of use. It takes effort to not do this to books.

Charles Spurgeon famously remarked about this kind of thing when he said "A Bible that is falling apart, usually belongs to a life that isn't." Similarly, a bookshelf that is dishevelled and filled with well-worn books is a likely indicator that the owner actually reads them. 

I bring all these things up to let the world know, not that I've read a lot of books but to highlight there are a lot of people you know and like and listen to that have completely unfounded ideas once you start looking closely. People who draft book quotes from the quotes section and not from a personal collection of insights and notes taken from reading books. These same people will tweet these things as content to add authority to their opinions online. But when a similar action though much less attractive an option is used. One of posting pictures of your highlighted and dog-eared page instead of typing the quote. Then a person sees you spent the time, engaging with the ideas of the book before you chose to use it as content for your audience.

Knowledge can be faked these days in ways our former intellectual giants might not have ever fathomed. And a rising and important skill will be not only discernment in what's right and what looks right. But also how to spot those who write what's right and what looks right. So to bookend this post.

Books are a Really Expensive Backdrop for Ignorance and Personality.

My Alter Ego, My Twin, And My Pen Name

So I have a Twin who is one of my biggest fans. He likes my writing and is an easily bribed editor in a pinch, usually just takes a bottle of rum. And I get an honest review of anything I write. This is handy given that as it exists online there is also another guy who looks like me but isn't quite me either. 

Jon and I look the same but we are in fact quite different. I'm fatter, he's more resourceful, and we both like books and working for churches but how we come about it is often a topic of one of our frequent phone calls. 

But there's another version of our shared face out there that is often found hiding behind the cover of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. And that is R.G. Michales. R. G. whose letters do not stand for any proper nouns like Ryan or Reginald or Gregory or Graham is an entirely fictional person. Made that way on purpose to filter out my young adult writing from my non-fiction writing. I'm fairly open about this but feel it necessary to explain. Not because I don't think the people reading my work and rambling on theology can't grasp what a pen name is for, but rather what a pen name isn't for.

R.G. only exists to separate books about teenage drama and growing up in North America, from books written about the theological principles of online church and political commentary. He uses the same theological and political mind I have to write his books and imbue his characters and plots with realism and meaning, all the same. But what R.G. doesn't do, is run or help run any sort of vice tourism

Now maybe you haven't heard of the term before so here's your definition.

Vice tourism is when you use a medium like books or video games to do things you aren't morally allowed to do because by consuming the medium, you aren't actually doing the thing itself.

An essential part of the struggle I had in creating and then deciding to use a pen name was knowing what that name would and wouldn't be doing. Because let's be clear if R.G.'s avatar wasn't clearly my poufy hair behind my favourite book on writing, if it were a vaguely human anime avatar instead, then I could hide like Adam did in the Garden of Eden. And just like Adam, the fig leaves of online anonymity are a moot point with God. But you can bet your sweet apples it would work on almost everyone else.

The reason I'm open about my pen name is that not being open would be sinful. It's a kind of deception that in its plainest form could look like a card trick that works on people who don't know how to google card tricks. But there's a very big difference between the small actions of someone using anonymity as a divider and using anonymity as an alibi. Pen names should never be used to do what you wouldn't or can't do with your real name attached. Writing erotica or gore with a pen name as a Christian author is the literary equivalent of Romans 6:1. But on a real level so would writing about kittens as if you were a woman in a blue summer dress when you're actually a man in jeans in a leather jacket. 

Deception for righteousness' sake is a tricky topic to navigate. The midwives of the Hebrews straight up Lied to Pharoah when the false god-king sought to kill Hebrew boys at the birthing stool Exodus 1:15-20. Lying is a thing God hates. Listed twice in the 7 things he hates, Proverbs 6:16-19 . 

But God was kind to these liars because of what their lie accomplished.

My transparency of what R.G. is up to is my attempt to Lie in a worthwhile way. A way that honours God and his word and his world and seeks to bless other people as well. All pen names should do this. not because I choose to do it this way. But because there isn't a pen name in the world that makes it past God as editor of our lives. 

Thursday, 25 August 2022

Autodidacticism and Gatekeeping

People now have the means to put their money where their mouth is. The question will now become whether they do or not. 

At one point to be a pastor in a church, or in more subversive terms to gain the instant following of congregations as a pastor in a church, you had to go to bible college. Your degree would be essentially decided for you. A mix of theology and ministry course were formed and formulated to give you a broad swath of training for the diverse and challenging field of pastoral work. 

But upon gaining your first job in church you find out the dirty little secret of modern-day church work. that is just as dirty as the sinners that the church tries to get saved. 

The foundational courses of biblical study and ministry theory you get, do little to prepare you for real church ministry. I could go into the specifics but a simple litmus test of the reader's experience is likely all you need to get you to buy into the rest of the article. 

Have you ever heard a pastor say, "They didn't teach you about (insert topic or problem here) at bible college?" Or as a pastor said that yourself?

Have you ever asked why bible colleges don't, in fact, teach about those things?

Most pastors have some of their best stories about this phenomenon,. Spending 4-8 years in schooling to be found ignorant of a situation or problem is a shock to young pastors but often teaches them the real nuts and bolts of ministry and theology in practice. But what this common phenomenon shows us is that the actual learning from a theological education happens routinely after the education is technically completed. A pastor with a 4-year bachelor's degree in theology should know what it means to do his job. a carpenter would know how to build a house with that much schooling and based on that schooling you would trust that carpenter doing that building even if it were his first house to build. 

That's because wrapped up in the paper of degrees and education is the essence of trust. We trust that places that teach, will teach, what needs to be taught. And that learners who want to learn actually learn. This is why finding out that a student cheats is so distasteful. It's a waste of guile and intelligence to cheat on a test though by the numbers that cheating often uses just as much intelligence to work out the cheating method. Where we get angry and upset is when we thought we were getting a person who learned and we got a person who cheated. got a theological degree that was filled with electives and courses unrelated to the rigours of theological teaching or the roughness of ministry reality. 

We would hate a cheater even more if they outright faked a degree. If he made a small bible college up from a prairie town and formatted a single-page degree from which we would have to sleuth our way against such to see if it's valid or not. 

a good degree from a good college gives us the certainty we need to trust a person with wages for the saving of souls and the preaching of the gospel. 

At least in church.

But what if we no longer live in a world we can trust the way the churches of our fathers trusted in the bible colleges they went to? You can peg that lack of trust on a good dozen bad things these days. Liberal drift, inflation, the current job market. you name it. The world we live in now is becoming more and more different than the world of the past and how the past managed its institutions and trust will be different than ours. So how would a pastor wannabe demonstrate the trust that a degree used to give in a world where degrees are becoming worthless? 

The answer is likely tied up not in what the pastor can do but rather in what he couldn't do. 

A pastor trying to persuade a church that he's capable of being a teacher of the Bible, couldn't be empty-handed in his bible teaching. He couldn't have an empty youtube channel or sermons he's preached, even if those sermons were preached to a camera and camera alone. He would need content to convince people with.

He couldn't have bare bookshelves. Churches need their pastors to be well-read and constantly reading. being able to distill the logic and knowledge of the times into his preaching and into his ministries. to discern what's a bible study fad and what's a bible study staple. 

He couldn't be alone. A church would want its pastor to be a part of a community or group of other pastors that could support not only him but each other as a group. 

What a pastor couldn't or shouldn't do is assume they are a pastor because they want to be a pastor but would need to show that they could be a pastor. They will do this, make no mistake, but they shouldn't.

With the rise of online platforms, content becomes a form of authority. If you create 1000 youtube videos and they are engaging and well produced and watched, you can gain a following. That following isn't just a way for you to get ad revenue, it's a way to exercise power. Every follower is choosing you over the other options that are out there, and there are a lot out there. 

I used to worry about the faking of Church, that a "pastor" in big scare quotes could just start doing the nuts and bolts of what a church does online and essentially gain his congregation in aggregate from his followers. his messages might even still be the gospel preached, his books even good theology. But the community that he teaches becomes consumers at face value and fans any deeper than that. 

The ability to self-learn is only altruistic in a space that can't allow for the commodification of that learning. A Christian in a theological library is only learning about God. But a Christian who has that theological library. At next to no cost, because it's been turned into an app. That Christian is in a different place. When that Christian isn't writing in a journal but is instead making videos to process what he learns. That Christian is now dealing in influence. And the internet loves its influencers.

We will be wading into this pool of Self Learning and Influence more and more. The internet is here and as most feared here to stay. Might as well learn how it works.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

What Actually Happens At An Online Baptism

The logistics are easy enough to figure out. A pastor likely is on one side of the camera or another and the baptizer is the same but conversely so. Which side they're actually on doesn't play into the issues that arise when you say something as bold as "Online Baptism" to a blogger like me.

Baptisms are public declarations of faith in Christ and a symbolic death and resurrection that a new Christian is participating in, among the Christians that they will be in fellowship with. 

They can happen outside of a church context, because the meaning behind them isn't church membership, but rather affinity or solidarity with Christ's church. 

The online aspect of these new kinds of baptisms is again where the Thing/Place distinction shows up. More on that later.

If the baptism is being performed to witness a new chriestian joining the church body locally, then the internet does what it does best and connects the separated person to the church via video and audio on the streaming platform of each church's choice. Is that "Together" or "At the same Time"? Before the internet, you could not baptize yourself in your bathtub and let your pastor know by letter you were doing so and have it mean what it means when you are baptized in the presence of the congregation or public in the case of open water baptisms in rivers and lakes.

What actually happens at an online baptism is a written account of the events in both directions in real-time. The happenings of the baptizer are being written into computer code by the camera, translated into different code by the computer and internet network, then translated a third time, at least, by the screen on the receiving end. Because this is happening in both directions so that the congregations can witness the baptism and the baptized person can see the congregations. we double this translation process.

If we slowed the technological quality down to introduce lag, the congregation and baptizer would start to see how the connection isn't the same as in real life but can appear to be. Would the event of a baptism be perceived differently if instead of thousands of frames of pictures paired to the audio of the vent, you only received hundreds? a choppy video of jerky movements between the questions asked of the believer's belief and trust in Jesus' Death Burial and Resurrection, and the dunk? 

What changed? What made this as unreal as it just felt? All we did was give you less of the lie.

Maybe lie is a strong word here, let's go with illusion, still too strong, how about impression? What word would you like for a commentator to use when talking about the strange thing that happens when you start a service off with a 1080p 60k streaming video of the baptism and then dial it back to 144p at 30k? All I changed was the resolution. The wires and screens and cameras are all still there but I'm no longer using them to their fullest capability. 

Is the baptism different or invalid because you can see the pixels now? Because truth is, you could always see the pixels you were just cool with it when it looked cool. When it looks dated you want to leave such practices in the past. It's 4k video for true online ministries or bust. If you don't believe me. type those bolded search terms into youtube and see how many experts tell you the bare minimum for church streaming as far as resolution and cameras go. 

Church and tech don't mix, they stack. And baptisms are a great place to see this in action. Stack anything on water and what happens to it? It sinks. What is a baptism again? It's the ceremonial submersion of a believer under water to declare their belief and join the body of believers in the church. Is that what is happening to the viewers on the screen? Well, no they are just seeing a representation of what has happened in person through the manipulation of pixels and soundwaves in unison both ways. What about the other way? Is a church witnessing a baptism if they watch a father and son in a backyard swimming pool over Zoom while the pastor asks the questions from the stage? Again, no because then they are the ones being subject to audio-visual manipulation. 

No one on either side wants there to be manipulation, but the manipulation is so good these days, that we accept it as a proxy with little to no objection. but the at-home baptist is not with their church, and you could see that by dialing back the technological speed a bit.

If a letter and affidavit stating what the baptized person said before their dunk, pictures of the dry clothes and wet cloths with dates on them, and a photo of a post-baptismal hug in the tank with their parent suffice for proof of baptism? The only difference between that compartmentalized account and the 4k live stream is the amount and quality of pictures and audio and their union in video format.

At some point we let tech past the pews and onto the stages of our churches, we did so with little to no discussion of the metaphysical and theological implications of saying something is one way when it is another. And where that brings us is a place where things meant to be done in public are now done in private. We have tragically all seen this kind of thinking before. especially in the church but not the way you're likely to think.

Porn behaves this way, just the other way around. 

Porn takes what is meant to be private and makes it public. Takes what is meant to be individually possessed and makes it widely available. It takes pixels and soundwaves and tries its best to convince you it's flesh and blood. In every flavor and position, you could think of.

Are you as uncomfortable now as you were when we were talking about the video in 144p? Maybe you should be.

The distinctions and definitions we use in our faith matter. Bread, wine, and water matter. They matter because they point to Jesus and have their roots in Jesus and are part of the instruction of Jesus. Who of all people would have known the way the internet could change the way the church does the sacraments he left for us. Yet we aren't told to interpret these practices into time and space as technology progresses. We are told to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. and that the gates of Hell will not stand against a church that does so. 

Now that we're decades into the use of these things for Christ's church's name, perhaps we should see if they're capable to use righteously. To jump into theologically deep but available waters and to declare like Christians before us Christ's lordship over all.

To make his will done. Online as it is in Heaven.


Tuesday, 7 June 2022

The Math On Being Damned If You Don't

I had a great talk with a good friend over entirely too much donair meat the other day and I realized something that has been bothering me, about the language being used by pastors. Specifically, how we talk about and recover from the last few years. 

Many pastors of all opinionated sorts are parroting the same line to explain, justify, or excuse the decisions churches have made, and have had to make these last year. 

Paraphrased, "we were damned if you did and damned if we didn't." That there was no right answer or response to the government mandating anything or viruses infecting anything and all the "anythings" started to pile up so high that we decided to do nothing in response. That doesn't mean we did nothing at all, but it was the delicate balance of doing things that couldn't be cast in binary terms or black and white light. heaven knows having real UV-killing virus illumination would have changed that a bit, but hey, c'est la vie.

When phrased as either doing one thing to offend one certain group and another to offend another certain group. It can seem impossible to do anything but the bare minimum of risk and compliance. To comply with those that comply and to bear all things like the love we espouse. But without sounding like there is a third way, there is the often neglected practice of having principles. 

A principled man is just as susceptible to wrong decisions as is a liberal or passionate man. But the principled man has one advantage. He trains for the battles of the mind ahead of time and while caught by surprise is often never caught unprepared. When we zoom in to the level of a pastor facing the decisions that they did. To open or close a church, to mask or unmask, to socially distance or gather, to venture online, or to remain in person. These decisions on the surface can seem vague enough from a moral standpoint to allow for both ways to be right enough to pursue under the guise of each being the lesser of two evils compared to the other.

But are they? A principled man would have learned about the devastating effects of facing a logical problem that isn't going to try to hit him but is going to hit him without trying. In the famous words of one of the best boxers in the world, Mike Tyson. "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Suppose the principled man knew he would get punched in the mouth and as such did nothing to stop the punch but instead used the attack to also punch their opponent in the mouth. It would be a painful choice of moves in the ring, but it would allow for effective punching nonetheless. Because as much as I want to avoid being punched in the face by a guy like Mike Tyson. I'll let someone hit me if I know I can not only survive the hit but also use it to benefit my side of the fight. To have a fist land square on my jaw to close the distance for my own uppercut.

I've thought since the middle of our first year of this pandemic nonsense, that what might be presenting themselves through this time period was some unorthodox but devastatingly powerful chance, for the church to be a kind of super relevant in the face of communal opposition. If we had stood together as followers of Christ and not as individual non-profits and denominations, we would have been the answer to so many of the wrongs and sorrows the world faced these last few years. But to say people would be mad if we closed and mad if we stayed open relies on those two options being equal which they are not. The world is a fundamentally better place with churches being open because of the death-proof gospel we proclaim there. 

Which brings us full circle to the being damned if you do part of this piece, because, at the end of the day, the founding principle of all Christendom is that we are all in fact, damned. 

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:20-26 ESV

The math of trying to save just one person from a virus only to have one other person who would have come to your church, but instead stayed home, and in doing so was never preached the gospel unto repentance and salvation, is a moot point in its sum. 

Saving a Christian's life even less so. 

We preach that we have no fear in death and then demonstrated fear in death at every turn. As we shut down to prevent death, distanced to prevent death, masked, plexiglass, and sanitized to prevent a death we preached that we did not fear. And while caution and fear are distinct in their execution, we openly participated in the hypocrisy of how the prescribed caution was exercised. How many singers on church stages kept their masks off to sing over and to masked congregations? Did their exceptions for performance or clarity from the stage somehow not contribute to the death we were preventing? How many more masks were improperly disposed of or stored or reused. No one actually took the mandates seriously. If we did we would be in masks and buildings that actually prevent viral transmission. 

The problem with principles is that they damn those without them. Principles of personal protective equipment and viral outbreak control were not what we were practicing. We were practicing compromise. Surgical masks don't stop viral load like full-face cartridge respirators do. They fall short of their goal of keeping the wearer safe from the virus. Just like our works of trying to do church through the means of online services, social distancing, forbidden contact, touch, and vaccination status also fall short of what's necessary for real salvation from sin and death.

This wasn't a time where we were damned if we did and damned if we didn't. 

This was a chance for the church to be the only community of people in a time of isolation. The only example of courage in a time of fear. The only place where the image of God was not covered by created things. The only place where principles existed in an ever-changing landscape of moving goalposts, graphs, and statistics. This was a time for the church to be what the church was with no apology, excuse, or compromise. Open to all but defined by one defining principle. 

What's the church at its core?

Saved from sin and death by the gospel it preaches.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Objectionable Adjectives and Voting

I took a swing at Andy Stanley earlier in the week here over what, on the surface, might seem like a trivial tweet.

He posted an image of a statement that said

"Christian is not an adjective. There are no Christian Republicans or Christian Democrats. #notinittowinit"

Which again, on the surface looks like a call for peace and understanding in hostile political times and one that is generally representative of a large swath of Christian thought when it comes to politics. 

This is all to say that Andy has likely done more for the church than most pastors out there. His ministry and content are in most churches. Andy is a Christian and an active one who is, however much people might want to disagree, contributing to the mission of God to see men and women saved. And has seen people saved, I know dozens of these people who found Christ through his work. None of that is up for debate here.

He is, however, wrong about "Christian" not being an adjective. It is. It's literally the first thing that comes up when you look up its definition in a dictionary. Because the word Christian is a literary device to represent the term "Little Christ's" that came to be a description (what adjectives literally are) of believers in Christ in the early church.

Before we start straining too hard at this gnat, I'd like to offer a principle to use. Let's "Use words like they are meant to be used."

It can be edgy and exciting to use a word in a way that is against the grain of the culture. Heaven knows that slang and colloquialisms add the spice of life that most of us enjoy. But words do in fact mean what they mean for good reasons and trifling with them only ever causes problems. Namely division. If the use of adjectives is now suspect like its cousin pronouns is in the public discourse, then eventually nouns will be under the control of anyone but yourself along with verbs as well. I think it was Doug Wilson that said it first but the culture war is going to be a war over the dictionary. And off-handed imprecise comments like Andy's will be the first shots and sabre-rattling.

The problem with saying "Christian" isn't an adjective but it being an adjective, is that republican and democrat are also adjectives but aren't losing their descriptive power alongside belief in Christ. Their scope of power and actions after a voter casts their belief in their platform, still affect the world in ways any rational person would hope their belief in Christ would also affect. 

We vote for change and stability and believe for the same reasons. So when we separate the descriptive power of belief for change we usher in a type of silent evil that we can all call good because descriptions no longer matter.

The bare minimum for the Christian faith is belief in Christ's sacrificial death for the sins of the individual doing the believing. Subjectively, Christian belief can mean care for the poor, the sick, charity, love, respect and joy. While there is a bare minimum there isn't a technical maximum in the Christian faith. When an adjective describes our faith it's placing a finite word on what will be an infinite life in service and worship of an infinite God. A bell curve that gets lost on the way up and never comes down.

But the left and right wings of politics are as finite as anything gets. You cannot be a right of center and believe that abortion is a moral good and you can't be left of center and believe money is a moral good. The issues that divide us here get stacked up and levied for political movement and clout and while each "adjective" of the political party or movement's name is descriptive, it's the issues that actually do the defining. Saying you're a liberal in Canada these days means saying you voted for what we witnessed happen over the last few years. Maybe you didn't want it, but you did vote for it. Saying you're a conservative means that you essentially just voted for Cretien a bit too late. 

And that's where Andy's post falls short because when challenged by some very real problems the church at large found out the things they described themselves by, really didn't mean what they said they meant. We had Churches across the board that claimed in their publically available statement of faith, that the church was the local gathering of the universal church and that such was how the bible was interpreted at their respective church buildings. These same churches closed their doors and claimed online church was equal to and sufficient in an unprecedented time like we had. Saying one thing and meaning another.

Or maybe it's put better this way. Ecclesia (the word we get church from) means "the gathered", but we decided it means "the connected" real quick, like inside a month once a government mandate landed on our doorsteps. Because you cannot gather online because online is not a place it is a thing. You can be connected online but connected is not gathered. The words mean different things.

So when it comes to the adjective nature of "Christian" as a word there's a very real problem with saying there aren't Christian liberals or Christian conservatives. Because the adjective Christian lines up to actions that can be observably applied as descriptions of a person place or thing. Only a major problem when claimed for actions that would contradict a claimed description instead of an accurate description. 

Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

English Standard Version

What if you can't accurately call yourself a Christian if you vote liberal and support a platform with left-leaning political views and policies. Sure the care for the poor lines up and the social justice too, but it takes a sharp left turn when abortion and sexual liberation rear their ugly heads. If reduced to simple fractions, is a Christian still a Christian if they are on public record as voting for 6 policies of which only 2 line up with Scripture, while the other 4 are objectively described as sin? (another adjective by the way.)

What if you vote the other direction on the political spectrum, and instead of the score reading 2-4 for sin's and gospel-alignment's teams, it reads 4-2. Is one party by default more Christian than the other?

And I think that is what Andy is addressing here in avoidance instead of confrontation. It's great to have a saviour that saves you from sins, so in the face of choosing between sinning 2 out of 6 times and 4 out of 6 times, why not allow for both and nail both to the cross. It's literally what Jesus did. 

But then like all principles in Scripture we find ourselves challenged and helpless when a guy like Paul comes along and says.

Romans 6:1-4

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

English Standard Version

We can stumble out of the baptism tank, with salvation in hand and sin in our actions, or we can wince with every step, as our sinfulness was atoned for as we work and wait for Christ's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

If it was only a matter of the lesser of two evils Andy might have a leg to stand on. But it's his indescribable faith of no adjectives that damns both the left and the right for the very same reason. It's the scandal of our need for sin's sacrifice that makes the left's need for abortion and the right's need for capitalist greed, both nails in our saviour's body. And it's only in the proclamation of Christian anything that the world begins to point toward Christ. 

So yeah, "Christian" is an adjective and that's why I wonder about Christian Liberals but wonder less about Christian Conservatives, but know both are a far cry short of what it will look like when all there are, is Christians, and a King named Jesus. Doing a better job than any party, president, and prime minister ever born, ever did. 

As he makes all things new. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

In Search of Our Somethings

In search of the somethings we noticed we missed.
The songs we've not sung and the lips we've not kissed.
Something as vague and solid as doubt.
Something we know that we've now gone without.

Maybe the something was orthodoxy.
Ridged and structured and easy to see.
Maybe the something was caution and fear.
Shifting and vaporous and easy to hear.

Maybe the something is how we once felt.
Hands raised up high and knees in a knelt.
Maybe it's context maybe it's spirit.
Maybe it's sense if you're willing to hear it.

Something we want to have just like before.
Something familiar and just a bit more.
Something we lost when we let something win.
Something amiss in the service of Him.

Stop using "Something" to hide from your choice.
Nothing's as clear as a choir in voice.
Say what you chose to forsake and what for.
God knows the motives, the reasons, the score.

Knows what you said, what you did, what you meant.
Knows how the news read, and who pays the rent.
Knows all the cattle and one thousand hills.
Knows what was sacrificed, knows who to kill.

You're not missing anything you didn't put down.
Not treading in water you said wouldn't drown.
Not walking waves and no roosters crowing.
The something you're missing is you plainly knowing.