Faith: February 2005 Archives

Our own Sunday School class this morning was fascinating. As part of our church's missions conference, all the adult classes met together to hear David Vila, assistant professor of religion and philosophy at John Brown University. Prof. Vila spoke on the early history of Christian missions, from the beginning through 1300. In the course of his lecture, there were three recurring themes: How persecution of Christianity led to the spread of Christianity, the importance of apologetics (writings defending Christianity to the outside world), and the all-too-frequent reluctance of God's people, from Jonah to present day Christians, to take God's message of reconciliation to hostile nations. Vila also introduced us to some Arab Christian martyrs, theologians, and apologists from the Middle Ages, some with names that link them to familiar places in present-day Iraq.

Dan Paden of No Blog of Significance posted the first installment of notes from the Sunday School class he teaches at Sheridan Road Baptist Church. He writes a bit about how he prepares to teach and how he conducts the class, and then launches into a study of Hosea 11, beginning with this intro:

Think, please, of things that can be ruined. Have you ever seen a ruined house (try not to think of the state of your own house!)? Something utterly destroyed by termites and neglect? How about a ruined car--something allowed to rust away to nothingness, or made to run without oil or coolant? Ruined books (I've lent enough books out to know that it can be done!)? Appliances? Jewelry (a painful thought)? ...

Is your life like that? Is it possible to ruin it beyond all repair? Isn't it the case that you can--indeed, have--ruined your life? ...

And the worst is yet to come: unlike your house, your car, or your 'fridge, a ruined life is ruined beyond the reach of all human efforts at repair, for all time! But is human effort all that counts? Can God forgive your ruination of the life He gave you and repair it?

Well, can He? If you missed church today, or even if you didn't, go read it. It's good stuff, and the 19-41 class is very blessed indeed.

Baby got Book


Pocket-sized need not apply: Some guys are just into BBWs -- big Bible women. (12 MB Windows Media file, via X-ATI Guy.) Lyric excerpt:

I like big Bibles
And I cannot lie.
You Christian brothers can't deny
That when a girl walks in with a KJV
And a bookmark in Proverbs
You get stoked.
Got her name engraved
So you know this girl is saved.
It looks like one of those large ones
With plenty of space in the margins.

Gene Scott, RIP

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UPDATED after the jump with links to other blog reminiscences of Gene Scott. And don't miss my multimedia homage to Doc's fundraising style.

Another UPDATE 11/29/2005: The Wittenburg Door, a Christian satire magazine, has a short video of Gene Scott in one of his fundraising rants. My parody of him was extremely mild in comparison to reality.

It was the summer of 1986. I had just graduated from MIT and came back to Tulsa to look for a job, either here or in northwest Arkansas near my girlfriend. Dad had been laid off the previous September after 20 years with Cities Service and had taken a job in Abilene, Texas. Mom planned to move down there in a few months. My sister was back home after her freshman year at OU, and I had moved back home.

Since I didn't have to be up mornings, Mom and sister and I would tune in every night to watch KSHB out of Kansas City -- Uncle Ed Muscari's "All Night Live". I'd make a pan of Orville Redenbacher, and we'd watch "Twilight Zone", "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", and the Three Stooges, interspersed with Uncle Ed talking on the banana phone, his cat Caffeina snoozing in front of him on the desk. At midnight we'd switch over and catch Letterman.

When Letterman went off at 1, if I wasn't ready to crash, I'd surf over and watch Dr. Gene Scott. I don't remember if he was on KSHB, or some other channel. He was strange, but strangely compelling, this preacher smoking a cigar, wearing one funny hat or another, shouting at his pledge-takers, showing the same ancient video of the Statesmen singing "I Want to Know" over and over and over again until he raised as much money as he felt was necessary before he continued his teaching. Another tune that got heavy rotation was "The P*ssant Song," a ditty devoted to all the carpers and complainers who criticized Scott's teaching and style.

Where was the money going? You didn't need to know. Gifts were payable to Dr. Gene Scott himself -- not a tax-exempt ministry. He could and would do with them as he pleased. He might buy expensive clothes, cigars, saddlebred horses. In his view, you didn't give for specific projects; you gave in appreciation for his teaching. The man lived large, but he also is said to have given generously.

Git onna phones!!!!


Now, the time has come for you people to demonstrate whether you value the blogging you've been receiving night after night. I'd like to blog to you about the airport investigation, the City Council recall, and the meaning of the Pyramids, but right now I'm lookin' over at the phones and not a one of 'em is ringin'. It's time for you to pick up the phone and demonstrate the value of the blogging with your tithes. I'm not doing any more blogging until you GIT ONNA PHONES!


Play "I Wanna Know"!


I.... I wanna know...
(I want to know that Jesus welcomes me there)
I do not want...
(I do not to be denied)
Well.... I wanna live (let me live) in that city so fair
That's enough (that's enough) for me to know.

I do not know (doot-do-doot-doot)
The day my Savior will come
I must be (doot-do-doot-doot)
Prepared to go-o
If from earth I know he'll call me, O Lord,
That's enough (that's enough) for me to know.

I want to know (a-know-know)
That Jesus welcomes me there,
I do not want (a-want-want)
To be deni-ied.
Let me li-ive, in that city so fair,
That's enough... for me... to know!


All right.... [click, click, puff] There are still five, six, seven Voices of Faith that aren't talkin' to one of you on the phone.

Play it again!!!! And GIT ONNA PHONES!

That's more like it. Now before we get to more blogging, I've got some video of my saddlebred horses at a competition....

Confused? See next entry. Hat tip to the Daffy Net for the audio and images. And (updated 11/29/2005) if you want a glimpse of the real thing, the Wittenburg Door has a short video of Dr. Gene Scott in full rant.

Do not adjust your set....


Some of you will get the next entry (above), and some of you won't. If you don't get it, just skip it.

In memory of w. euGene Scott, a pioneer of satellite television and religious broadcaster sui generis....

Cat-ma and dog-ma

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Today was the first day of our church's annual missions conference. This is not the typical missions conference, with slideshows about specific missions work in specific countries. Instead, the aim of the conference is to shake up our understanding of the purposes of God, the central message of the Bible, the main point of the Christian faith. The aim of the conference is to help us replace cat theology with dog theology.

What's the difference between dog theology and cat theology?

A dog says: "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me. You must be God."

A cat says: "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me. I must be God."

The old joke is that Presbyterians sing "Que Sera, Sera" for their hymn of invitation. Discoshaman explains why this isn't so -- why Calvinism isn't fatalism, and how it can be some of the greatest evangelists of all time were men thoroughly convinced of the Reformed doctrines of grace:

God is working everything that happens in the Universe according to his own divine plan and will. But He's chosen to work out this will through means. No Calvinist believes that God makes robots of us. The Westminster Confession itself says that God does no violence to our wills. Instead He works through our own actions -- both good and evil ones.

So how does this work out practically? Take prayer as an example.

God has ordained that prayer changes things. When I pray, God really does hear and respond to it. But if God has a purpose to be accomplished, there WILL be prayer for it. God ordains both the ends, and the means to accomplish it. Far from fatalism, I have the comfort of knowing that my prayers fit perfectly into the gracious plan of God.

Evangelism is the same. God has ordained the foolishness of preaching as his primary means of reaching the lost. So I can never say, "Ah, no need to evangelize. God'll save them anyway." No, He won't. I'm responsible to preach both in season and out. But it is true that if God has ordained that someone will hear the Gospel, it WILL invariably be preached to them. Again, both means and ends.

A commenter challenged Discoshaman to list some of the practical implications of being a Calvinist, and he promised to post a reply.

A great book explaining, in layman's terms, Reformation theology and its implications for the Christian life is Michael Horton's Putting Amazing Back into Grace. We used it some years back as the basis for a small group discussion. Horton came to Calvinism from a form of revivalist evangelicalism, with its emphases on lists of dos and don'ts and exclusive focus on man's responsibility for salvation -- the discovery of the doctrines of grace, as clearly set out in Romans and Ephesians, indeed throughout the scripture, revolutionized the way he lives out his faith.

One of the most comforting and challenging aspects of Calvinism is its understanding of providence. We learn to see God's hand in everything, that God not only works through direct intervention but more commonly through the ordinary workings of cause and effect. God even works through our sin and folly to accomplish his purposes.

I have a strong tendency to wallow in regret, to look back over foolish decisions, some of them made decades ago, some just days ago, and say, "if only." Ancient follies can make me blush or cringe as if I had just committed them. Recent follies even more so: I saw the doctor a while back because my heart would start racing from time to time. I checked out healthy, but then I realized that I would induce the condition every time my mind turned to what I had done to inflict apparently irreparable damage on a once-close friendship.

The doctrine of providence teaches me that, however I got to this point, I am exactly where God, in his goodness and mercy, wanted me to be at this point, and my task is to be thankful in all things and to be faithful to his calling in my present situation, not to continue to flagellate myself over what I did, or carry bitterness over what others did, to get me to this point. Acting on that knowledge goes against the grain of my personality, but I am called to believe that God works all things for good. Christians who believe that God is somehow handcuffed by the choices we mortals make cannot share in that comfort.

Dawn Eden is like an oyster...


...she takes the painful grit of her own past and turns it into pearls of God's grace. Here's the latest example. Go read it.

" give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."

On being an X-er


X-ATI Guy's latest entry explains why his site speaks to more than just those who were once involved with Bill Gothard's Institute of Basic Life Principles or Advanced Training Institute. Ordinarily I'd just put up an excerpt, but you need to read the whole thing:

X-ers hold a unique place in Christianity. Whether one's background is IBLP or some other Christian subculture that emphasizes individual performance over Christ's grace, we've endured a level of spiritual scarring--a hardening of the soul. Some of us don't make it, and they become the spiritual washouts, the reprobates, the backslidden untouchables. Others of us realize the problem was in the system, and once we exit the system, we begin the rehabilitative process of discovering God's grace for the first time.

But leaving the program is not enough. The residual effect of the indoctrination controls our perception of God in unhealthy ways. Freeing yourself from years of harsh judgment and performance-based Christianity is a messy process; it is often accompanied by rage, substance abuse, moodiness and long nights of inner reflection. Exiting the Matrix is not pretty. At times, our suspicion of systems of though[t] makes it difficult for us to assimilate truth. Which, of course, provides plenty of ammunition for those still in the Matrix to condemn the X-er. "He has left us because he was not one of us."

God's love is powerful, though, and eventually we discover the joy of a life redeemed by Christ.

For those of us who have unplugged from the system, there's no going back. Supporters of the system label this abandonment as "rebellion," "anger," "pride," and "judgmentalism." If we speak out against the system, we're told to forgive those who have offended us--to go and share how we were damaged. We're advised to move on and get over our hurts. We're frequently told that we're bitter. But you're talking bitterness, and we're talking freedom.

We're told that unity in the Christian world is more important than individual suffering. But since when was the program we left interested in Christian unity? Systematic conformity is more like it.

Our intent is not to judge people, but to judge error. And we make no claims of a special insight into Scripture or a unique connection with God that sets us apart from other believers.

Have we been hurt, misled and damaged? Yes. Are we healing and experiencing God's grace? Yes and yes. That's the ethos of the X-er revolution.

I've never been involved in any of Gothard's ministries, but through college I was a FAT participant in Campus Crusade for Christ. FAT stood for faithful, available, and teachable. "Faithful" meant if your staff discipler asked you to do something, you did it. "Available" meant you didn't get involved in other campus activities or even allow your studies to absorb your free time -- your time was reserved for ministry activities. "Teachable" meant you didn't question the Biblical basis for what was presented; you didn't challenge what you were being taught.

Why would I put up with this? I longed to fellowship with other Christians who were serious about living a dedicated Christian life -- something I didn't see in my home church. Recently I read through Whittaker Chambers' explanation, in the book Witness, of why he, or anyone else, would become a Communist. From my Crusade experience, I could understand the desire to be dedicated to a cause worth living for and worth dying for.

As a committed Crusader, I thrived on the affirmation I received for jumping through the prescribed hoops. Jumping through those hoops had some value. I studied and memorized Scripture. Leading singing at Friday night meetings built my confidence in front of a crowd. Leading small group Bible studies forced me to deepen my own knowledge of scripture. Going on summer missions projects forced me out of my comfort zone. But the affirmation that I was becoming a "man of God" and a "spiritual giant" was what kept me going.

I came to trust my staff disciplers, to believe that they had my spiritual best interests at heart. Looking back years later, I can see that their principal concern was building me into a useful tool for the movement, at whatever cost to preparing me for a lifetime as a Christian in the real world, and all the decisions that entails. (UPDATE: My wife, herself a Crusade veteran, suggests that I don't mean it quite the way it comes across, and she's right. My staff disciplers were not cynical manipulators seeking to use me for their own ends. They simply couldn't distinguish between the best interests of the institution and the best interests of the Kingdom of God. I will add that my first discipler, a senior student, was more focused on building in his disciples a foundation for living the Christian life, less focused on building the Crusade organization.)

One of the things that comes toughest to me as an X-Crusader is believing that I can trust a mentor, that someone out there would be able to help me sort through my options without steering me in a direction that fulfilled his own agenda.

I like X-ATI Guy's comment: "At times, our suspicion of systems of though[t] makes it difficult for us to assimilate truth." Crusaders were sold a systematic approach to the Christian life that only works within Campus Crusade. It makes it hard to buy into any attempt to apply scripture and define the normal Christian life. Cynicism is an easy reaction.

It's a long process of recovery, learning how to live a life motivated by grace instead of the desire to please others.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from February 2005.

Faith: January 2005 is the previous archive.

Faith: March 2005 is the next archive.

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