September 29, 2020

Twenty-Five Sortof Random Things I Do and Don’t Believe

Relax. It’s not a meme. Nor should it become one. Though, I feel divinely led to tag….

1. I don’t believe gay marriage is the biggest threat to the family. Not by anything approaching a long shot. I’ve worked with thousands of students in my life, and the messed up kids were messed up by divorce, absentee parents, sex, substance abuse and greed. I’ve met maybe 10 students in my life who were affected by anyone’s homosexuality.

2. I don’t believe America is a Christian nation. I actually don’t believe there is such a thing, and if there were, America wouldn’t be one. Not on paper, not from the founders and not now. We’re a secular republic and I like it that way.

3. I believe that Christian publishing does a lot of good, but I also think it does a lot of harm. All in all, we’d have to say that for all the good done, we still have a monstrous collection of lame, dangerous and outright perverse results from the various money-making adventures of the people who publish gems like “The Prayer of Jabez.” Without Christian publishing making a lot of nut jobs legitimate, things in evangelicalism would be a lot less wacky.

4. I don’t like or use the word inerrancy. In my context of working with non-Christian internationals, it’s simply too complicated to teach the complicated special definition of “no errors” that goes along with this view. The Bible truly tells us what we need to know. It has the authority of God. (Plus, I’m tired of seeing people like Peter Enns labeled as weak on scripture.)

5. Sunday night and Wednesday night church services ought to be against the law.

6. I actually believe the NLT is a really fine translation. I use it more and more all the time.

7. I don’t believe that thinking Biblically means you are an expert on every detail in the Bible. No…overdosing on Bible study can make you pretty useless in many situations.

8. I believe the exalting of “verse by verse” preaching is a lot of flag waving. There’s a much better case for preaching large segments of scripture- like chapters and entire books- and for topical preaching.

9. I believe it’s God’s Word, but I really struggle with some of the crazy stuff in Leviticus, especially when it’s done to women.

10. I have no problem with female preachers or pastors. The relevant passages are in the category of cultural accommodation (i.e. similar to the passages on slavery), and I’m nowhere close to being convinced by the arguments for male primacy some come up with from Genesis.

11. I’m going to be in trouble now: I believe the blindness towards the general bias against women and the actual mistreatment of women is a failure in evangelicalism that far outweighs the issue of racism. Evangelicalism has a lot of men who respect and love women as Christ did, but it also has a massive amount of men who don’t like women, disrespect and mistreat them.

12. I don’t believe there’s all that much good about institutional Christianity. It exists, has to exist and always will exist, but Jesus started a movement, not an institution. (And definitely not a business or a club.) Christianity is a cross-cultural, evangelistic, church planting movement. It’s all about taking the Gospel to individuals and cultures first, then practicing what it means to be Christians in whatever context we live. I can be pretty annoying about this.

13. I’d like everyone- infant baptizers and children baptizers- to own up to the fact that evangelism has badly suffered because we baptize children. Even if you believe it’s right, you still have to contend with the effect all of this has had on evangelism. (In fact, refusing to own up to our lack of evangelistic focus is a primary problem with theological types.) And no, it doesn’t have to be that way, but you figure it out.

14. I believe in an educated ministry, but I don’t see much reason for traditional seminary. It’s expensive and inefficient to a fault. We need mentoring, apprenticing, church-centered programs, etc. The seminary product is about to become the buggy whip of evangelicalism.

15. I believe people who have left the faith have a lot of useful things to say to us, and we need to listen. We also ought to apologize and make a lot of things right. We’ve heard and driven off millions of people, and then we’ve mostly blamed them.

16. I believe too much technology has screwed up preaching to the point of a three alarm fire. We need Bible preachers with very basic communication skills, not cool guys with gadgets. We have been stupidly naive about how much technology has helped us communicate the Gospel. Remember “the medium is the message?” Well….that’s apparently quite true. I don’t believe that the world’s technogeeks and marketers have the wisdom we need for preaching, teaching and applying the Gospel. The Gospel is not about a product or a brand. Carson on I Corinthians. That’s what I’m talking about.

17. I believe evangelicals have a fetish of wanting preachers to know everything and to tell them what to do. In fact, when the Washington Post said, years ago, that evangelicals were “…easily led,” they were more right than wrong. I’m not into the Roman Catholic view of church authority, but among what group of Christians are you more likely to be told during the sermon what to think about politics, economics, child-raising, science, psychology, literature, entertainment and education? Who’s more likely to have a series of 300 Life Principles that tell you everything including where to buy your vitamins? Yeah, that’s right. Everyone say “Baaa.”

18. I believe in creation by God, but I’m not a young earth creationist. I’d really rather you try to sell me Amway or insurance than try to change my mind on that one.

19. I believe that while Protestants are right on the issue of grace in salvation, at the level of how we practice the faith we’re actually far more sympathetic to the other team than we admit, and if we actually advertised what the reformers cooked up in the Reformation, a lot of Protestants would take the bus back to Rome in the morning. The grace of God in the Gospel is radical, revolutionary and not at all compatible with entrenched religious interests and power plays. If its control of a system you want, Gospel grace is going to blow up your lab.

20. I believe the Biblical position is the pro-life position, but endless proclamations of abortion rhetoric make me wonder what’s actually going on here? Without backing off my pro-life convictions at all, I can’t honestly say that evangelicals are consistently and practically pro-life on all the issues where the sacredness of life is at stake. If pro-life is the Word, then be a doer, not just a hearer, writer or talker.

21. Moralistic busy-bodies, censors and bullies don’t impress me as actually having anything to do with Christianity.

22. I don’t believe Christians are supposed to keep a Sabbath day.

23. I believe tithing was old covenant and really has no place in the teaching of Christian stewardship today.

24. The whole concept of revival seems like a confused mess to me. A bit of truth in there, but mostly it’s a lot of tradition and manipulation.

25. I don’t believe anything in the field of sensational Biblical archaeology: chariot wheels in the Red Sea, for example. I’m big on archaeology, but after I fell for the James Ossuary, I’m very skeptical.

Comments

  1. 13. I’d like everyone- infant baptizers and children baptizers- to own up to the fact that evangelism has badly suffered because we baptize children. Even if you believe it’s right, you still have to contend with the effect all of this has had on evangelism.

    I’m a Lutheran, so I believe infants should be baptized. But I do think there is something to this. I think it probably has to do with the way infant baptism is practiced in our culture as well as the practice of “open baptism” in which churches baptize pretty the children of anyone who wants them to be baptized, including those of people with only a marginal commitment to the faith. While I still think infant baptism is Biblical, there are some practices related to it that need changing. Baptism after all isn’t some cute naming ceremony.

    Other the other hand, I’d argue that churches that hold to a Zwinglian or Calvinistic view of the Supper tend to have less reverent worship, are more enamored of technology (#16), and are more likely to incorporate pop music/entertainment into their worship. It doesn’t seem an accident to me that churches that believe in the real presence tend to have reverent, liturgical worship, while churches that don’t believe in the real presence are more likely to have “contemporary” worship.

    So flipping things around to you, I know your views on the Lord’s Supper and don’t wish to argue with you. But don’t you think that the general view of the Supper that American Evangelicals hold (either Zwinglian or Calvinistic) has something to do with the direction they have gone with respect to worship? Again, as with baptism, this doesn’t prove or disprove a particular doctrinal stance. But I can’t help but see a connection here.

    rr

  2. rr: Cause and effect? No.

    But do our pastors promote a deprived view of the sacraments? Well compared to Lutherans and Catholics, of course. But that doesn’t mean that if you follow what we believe you wind up with Oreos and Orange juice, any more than following infant baptism necessarily results in the loss of evangelism. Look at Bishop Ryle for example.

  3. I have been trying to figure out # 13 for the last day or two myself. I really can’t make the connection. So I was wondering if you might care to elaborate your point a little more Imonk. Perhaps it is a perspective thing.

  4. quote: “But that doesn’t mean that if you follow what we believe you wind up with Oreos and Orange juice, any more than following infant baptism necessarily results in the loss of evangelism. Look at Bishop Ryle for example.”

    Michael,

    Oh, I agree with you here. Perhaps I should have been clearer in my last post. I don’t think practicing infant baptism necessarily results in a loss of evangelism. But it can. That is especially the case if one comes to practice “open baptism” in which as I mentioned earlier one baptize pretty much anyone’s children, including those with a marginal commitment to the faith, those who see baptism as some cute family/cultural naming ceremony. Churches who practice “open baptism” with infants give the signal that baptism isn’t about Christ. That alone is dangerous to evangelism.

    I would argue that something similar goes on at times with churches who have a Zwinglian or Calvinistic understanding of the Supper. I don’t think this understanding necessarily leads to a loss of reverent worship. But it can, especially if they and when they come to think of communion as “just a symbol” and thus not very important to their worship. In my experiences, churches that embrace the entertainment worship mentality almost always see communion as not all that important. Surely this isn’t a coincidence.

    I should say that I think symbols can be pretty powerful. Just ask most veterans what they think about the flag. So even though I don’t agree with the Zwinglian and Calvinistic view of communion, I don’t think it is fair to blame these views for a loss of reverent worship per se.

    I know you’ve argued for Baptists and other Evangelicals to return to a richer appreciation of their own theology of communion. I think that would go a long way to recovering a more reverent sense of worship in many churches. In other words, what I’m trying to get at is that it isn’t infant baptism or Zwinglianism that is necessarily the problem. It is churches who don’t take their own doctrine and the implications of their own doctrines on these matters very seriously. It’s the abuse of these doctrines, not the doctrines per se that are the problems. I hope this makes some sense.

    rr

  5. Bror Erikson:

    I’ll once again suggest reading Christopher Wright’s book. It’s written by a paedobaptist for a paedobaptist.

    Thesis: The historical evidence is that those who baptize infants and children put less emphasis on conversion evangelism.

    I’ll vouch for that in my own denomination, the SBC. And I’ll vote that in my 52 years of life, it seems to be the case in lots of infant baptizing churches.

    If its not true in the LCMS, then I apologize for being too general. But as I said, it’s the thesis of a world class scholar of paedobaptism.

    Earlier in the thread, I said the same thing.

    Let me just use my own supposedly evangelistic denomination as an example. Actual Paedobaptists can come to their own conclusions, but those conclusions are evident in many cases, though probably not all.

    As the SBC has begun baptizing children of younger and younger ages, it has baptized hewer and fewer converts. I was a church youth minister for 13 years, full time, and I saw this first hand. The focus becomes our kids, not the community. Evangelism = reaching our own children, and that’s where the programs and the staff go. Conversion evangelism takes a back seat and more and more of the focus of the church is on teaching, catechizing and retaining the children of members. Less and less emphasis is on actual evangelization of the lost outside the church.

    I’ve heard many people say that we must reach our own first. Few ever ask if baptisms in an SBC church are all our children or are from outside the church.

    Over time, this has a serious detrimental effect on evangelism, and the SBC is seeing it now.

    I believe that most infant baptizing churches know that this has been the overall effect. I’ve had people write me and say that evangelism = having and discipling as many of our own kids as possible.

    That’s fine. But the Great Commission is clearly to cross cultures and reach those outside the existing church.

    I don’t want this to become an infant baptism thread. Wright makes the case and I’m just amening him.

    If this conversation hasn’t occurred with the baby baptizers, then I can assure you it has gone on among evangelicals who baptize young children.

  6. Well Lutherans, despite the huge explosion of Lutheranism through out Africa (where I enjoyed a couple years of my childhood as the son of a Lutheran missionary) and Asia, and growing churches through out the former Soviet Union, have a reputation of being weak on missions and evangelism. I think it is an undeserved reputation, and one only tenable to those who have not studied the issue. Of course it may be more true among the more liberal branches of Lutheranism (hard to evangelize when you don’t believe the gospel yourself, or don’t believe it is really necessary because, after all there is no hell…).
    And the LCMS hasn’t exactly been growing by leaps and bounds as it did in its earlier years despite the fact that it mostly grew because of the tides of German immigrants. Still many of those souls were not exactly hot for the gospel before the LCMS got a hold of them, we did evangelize to others, the Indians for example. Something we continue to do.
    So I guess I don’t see the two being connected. I baptize babies, and still spend quite a bit of time reaching out and evangelizing. But I could see where considering your children lost, and equating evangelism with numbers baptized would have a negative effect.

  7. Nothing there that I would have any serious arguments with.
    I will add:
    Tithing- Amen, the pulpit hucksters and the well-meaning as well, pick and choose what they like or suits their agenda out of the NT. If you’re bound and determined to do something with your money that looks like the NT then give it all away.
    Seminary – Why would God want us to know Him and Him in Christ and then require that people with doctorate level educations be the only ones who can explain it to us poor unwashed. It is an extension of the old temple system as is the heiarchy of the all the Orthodox churches.
    Am I anti-scholarship? In no way!
    But I don’t need you to tell me what the simple truth is.

  8. I mean “you” in an imperial sense.
    I of course heed all that the Monk has to say.

  9. I guess I’m going to have to wait till the fall to hear another anti-anti-Halloween rant.

    I don’t roll with sensational Biblical archaeology either. In fact, I put a bigger burden of proof on a supposed Biblical finding than any other kind of discovery. How many of us for years heard about that “lost day in time” that the scientists didn’t want us to know about? I don’t think anyone has ever believed a word of the Bible because of a quick statement that could end with “there ya go.”

  10. iMonk~

    So glad I read this. I came to think in the same vein as you are here many years ago. I am one of those people you mention in #15. It is very encouraging to know not all Christians are sheep.

    One of my big beefs (even before I left the church) was the whole “revival” theme played up so faithfully. Revival came to mean an overly-long service with a lot of noise and prayer, and people crying and reconciling with others: an emotional high. What was needed was actually a revolution.

    When the revolution comes, I might consider coming back. Until then, words like “Sabbatarian” drive me up the wall.

  11. Pretty much agree with all of this, and once again you’ve put it in words better than I could, Michael. Thank you.
    Most appreciated the item on tithing. We do give, fairly significatnly, but not to the local church, which we’ve almost left, and certainly not to the the building renovation program they got hyped about while ignoring $500K in debt. Go figure. The pastor also made it clear that a prerequisite for any leadership position in the church issignificant giving — to the church. I have very mixed feelings about that one.

  12. Totally with you on the tithing thing … the whole 10% is an Old Testament idea that has no place in a New Testament Church. We are no where in the New Testament told to give 10% … we’re told to give everything! Thank you for taking a stand on this one … especially in our materialistic society.

  13. “Relax. It’s not a meme. Nor should it become one. Though, I feel divinely led to tag….”

    Ha! Good one.

  14. so I looked up Christopher Wright on Amazon:
    Which Book?

  15. Well I didn’t agree with absolutely everything you said, but I was cheering all the time (and frequently laughing) as I read it. Best “25 random” I’ve read so far. I will refrain from debating the points on which I don’t agree, because you’ve had 165 instances of that already. And I would instantly fall into the trap of confusing MY agenda with God’s… if we don’t get it soon that we need to avoid doing that, we’re in big trouble

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    David Allis:

    #27 and #28 The sinner’s prayer is not Biblical and has nothing to do with becoming a Christian. It’s a piece of evangelical manipulation. We are saved by living faith in all that God is for us in Jesus as expressed in the Gospel. There’s no “prayer” that makes that happen. It’s the work of the Spirit in an individual life. — IMonk

    The snarks over at Slacktivist refer to “sinner’s prayer” conversion scenes as “Say-The-Magic-Words Salvation”. During the time when I was becoming a notch on Bible after Bible, I noticed an attitude that if “The Sinner’s Prayer” wasn’t said in the exact right words and/or the exact right posture and gestures, your salvation wouldn’t take. Kind of like the AD&D (rev.1) ruleset “chrome” about “verbal and somatic spell components”, i.e. words and gestures.

    And most wordings of “the prayer” itself appear to be direct knockoffs of the RCC’s “Act of Contrition”, with the addition of an “Invitation Into My Heart” clause at the end.

  17. A friend sent me this link. I have never visited your blog before. I must say, quite interesting. Coming from an ultra conservative town (Bakersfield, CA) I was quite amused to hear your 25 thoughts. I agree with most, disagree with some, but have one question: Why no Sunday night services? I would be interested to hear your reasoning on that one.
    As far as the abortion issue, I have never heard my thoughts verbalized so well. I have always been confused how someone could be pro-life and yet support the death penalty and our Operation Freedoms overseas.
    I will make sure to bookmark your blog…
    A similar blog you may enjoy:
    http://avilafam.blogspot.com/2008/07/so-jesus-turned-water-into-grape-juice.html

    Curtis

  18. Why no Sunday night services?

    Because the time is better spent with family and friends than listening to a second sermon.

    It’s bad stewardship to run a second service, imo. I grew up with it, and had good experiences, but this was in a tradition that thought you measured spirituality by how many hours you logged in sermon time.

    peace

    ms

  19. David Allis – I think Lewis was pretty clear that the situation in “The Great Divorce” was not a theological suggestion, but a literary device used because it allowed him to focus on why people make the choice between heaven and hell (he states this in a foreword or an afterword – I don’t have my copy handy to check.

  20. “I’m nowhere close to being convinced by the arguments for male primacy some come up with from Genesis.”

    Even that of Paul in 1. Cor. 11? Just wondering.

  21. Navy Chaplain says

    Couldn’t agree more on the seminary critique. I went to Asbury, which was ok, but not worth the 50K debt. I only went because it’s what the Navy requires for chaplains. My compensation as a commissioned officer made it a worthy investment—but there is no way I could sustain a family on what my denomination typically pays its pastors AND have all that debt.

  22. Okay, I’m intriqued – why should Sunday night and Wednesday night services be against the law?

    Should it maybe be that churches should say, “We’re having these services for people who can’t make it on Sunday morning.” When I was working nights and got off at 8:00 am on Sunday morning, I can tell you what I was doing when church started at 10:30 …zzzzzzzzz….. But, I was bright eyed and busy tailed at 6:00.

    Actually, what I frequently did was got my relief to come in at 7:45 and then ran down the street to the 8:00 am Catholic mass – which about drove some people at my then church ’round the bend. This was before I broke with the AofG and went Quaker.

  23. Ky boy but not now says

    “why should Sunday night and Wednesday night services be against the law?”

    I grew up in an old time SBC church so here’s my comments.

    As iMonk alluded to in another comment it many times gets used as a pious meter for the “serious” to judge the slackers. It can be a lot of work and money to open up and hold services for the 10%. And 99% of them were there Sunday morning. Now when our recent church started a Saturday night service as an alternative to Sunday night, well that was different. My family went the entire 6 or so years it was offered.

    As to Wednesday nights I disagree with dropping those if they are done correctly and attended. But I suspect the Wednesday nights of my youth are not what happens most places these days. But there are sound reasons for “doing Wednesday” nights correctly.

  24. KY, I know how Sunday night services are now. There used to be a guy who went both to Sunday morning and Sunday night who would say, “The few, the proud, the Sunday night crowd.” I’m just saying that maybe if marketed correctly – Sunday night services for people who can’t make Sunday morning services instead of a measure of our piousness – that Sunday night services could be a good thing. I think you’d be amazed at how many people work at night, and can’t make Sunday morning.

  25. Ky boy but not now says

    “I think you’d be amazed at how many people work at night, and can’t make Sunday morning.”

    Not really. My father worked a rotating swing shift for about 1/2 of his life. At one point he said he’d prayed that if God would give him off the Sundays when on the midnight shift he’d work extra hard to make the regular Sundays. 🙂

  26. I disagree with some of what you said and agree with some. Your opinion or my opinion, simply because it shows up on a screen, or sounds nice, does not make it right.

    Let me tackle just one that I disagreed with. There were others….

    Gay marriage/homosexuality:

    While I agree that on the surface it APPEARS that homesexuality is less destructive (assuming, in order to clarify my point, that the level of destructiveness of one sin vs. another could be accurately measured by my own sinful minds’ approximation), I believe that homosexuality is a symptom of the level of decay/breakdown/decline of the traditional family unit in society.

    In other words, when homosexuality starts showing up, and then increasing, and then becoming accepted, and then celebrated, you can be assured that divorce (and the other items you named) have been on the scene and worsening for a while.

    Just reread Genesis 19 and Romans 1:18-32. Homosexuality and its embrace by the masses is a litmus test of the sin and wickedness in a society.

    While homosexuality may appear less destructive, it is simply an indicator of the times, and should not be heralded as the lesser of two evils.

  27. Long time lurker, first time commenter. I really liked this list, especially NLT and your views of the IC. Thanks for the encouragement.

  28. This post made me sooo happy. While I didn’t agree with your reluctance to the “young earth” theory, it’s obvious that nothing I say will change your mind.

    HOWEVER, I did get giddy regarding two of your points. First, the Secular America was great. I think a lot of people just don’t think through that one…although the founders were Christian, the framework is not.

    Also, the OT tithing…I’ve been saying that for SUCH a long time. We are not bound by legalism, and tithing is fairly legalistic. I do believe that Christians should be more gracious (in contrast to the customers at Chili’s), and should even strive to give more than 10%, but to say that it is necessary to give exactly ten percent is not applicable and is cheap.

    I will DEFINITELY be keeping up on this blog.

  29. Willoh, you asked whether someone like iMonk could get funding to plant a church. Not to be pro-schism, but planting a new church shouldn’t even require money. The early church thrived while meeting in homes.

  30. Todd Erickson says

    Hey, Other just posted this at the Ooze, and I wanted to respond.

    I like most of your points. And the following conversation.

    I think that a running theme here is found throughout church history…we have a tendency to toss things that have been abused, rather than taking them and really looking at what makes them valuable and useful in terms of the overall christian lifestyle/discipleship deal.

    A. Tithing – A lot of us get really convicted over the lifestyle described in acts, but life as if it were impossible. But by the same token, most Americans do not live within their means…anybody living with 0% debt is actually in the top 5% of the US monetarily at this time. The whole idea behind modern tithing is, truly, making a start on opening up your resources to God for his use, since you’re just a steward anyway.

    Besides, if you attend a church (which requires money for lights, and water, and other useful things, and which has people coming and asking for charity, which cannot happen if nobody will give money for it) but are not willing to share resources to support it…then you’re just a parasite, aren’t you?

    In fact, just as most people have trouble giving 10% of their money to…eh, church? Charity? relationaltithe.org? they have just as much trouble with their time. Which leads us to

    B. Sabbath. We all pack so much crap into our lives. So many things that we HAVE to do.

    But we don’t, really. We don’t need that many things…but we’ve convinced ourselves we do.

    But what we really need to be is the best ourselves that we can, in service of our Saviour.

    So we can live our lives distracted…or we can start building in time to rest. To relax. To focus. To meditate.

    Specifically setting aside sunday night and Wednesday night just to be family is a start. Sabbath is, really, an attitude, as much as anything else. Will you make time for God, more than just your 15 minute bible study every morning?

    Prayer, really, is showing up. It’s putting one foot in front of the other. It’s being in a place where God can actually get ahold of you, and have you pay attention for once. Again and again.

    Between the two of these, time and money, the truth for all Christians is this: Give as you can, not as you can’t. You are who you are. Acknowledge this, and live in the reality of who you are, and who you can become…not who the superchristian at your church should be, or what you think is expected of you. If it doesn’t come from your heart, it’s all moot anyway.

    But a lot of us need practice.

  31. Stan Hankins says

    Wow. Very thought provoking. I totally agree with most of the 25. However, on the ones I disagree with, you are the one who is probably right so I won’t even bring them up.
    God bless you! Grace and peace

  32. Stan Hankins says

    Can I give a random thought?
    We can get so tied down to our beliefs and personal convictions that we refuse to even consider any other point of view. That is something we need to guard against. I am just now learning it myself.

  33. grimtraveller says

    A most fascinating piece, with so, so much to think about and opine ! A few thoughts in reply;
    i. I’d have to agree that gay marriage isn’t the biggest threat to the family. I don’t think there is such a thing as the “biggest threat”. There are so many things that work against God’s notion of family – of which gay relationships are only one. Even selfishness or control within a marriage ultimately works against family. I hope this doesn’t come out sounding judgemental, but most human beings do not come from gay relationships, yet many of us are disfigured and warped from the “normal” families that we do come from, which in turn go a long way towards mashing up our view of the family and ultimately, the family structure itself.

    ii. I live in England and if I had a quid for every time I’ve heard someone refer to it as a Christian nation, I may not be a rich man but I’d certainly not be a poor one ! As with the US of A, I don’t see how a country can be a Christian nation. It makes no sense biblically and one only has to study Europe in the middle ages and the initial beginnings of America as the settlers arrived to see what disasters occur (and the legacies left behind) when one “tries to build the new Jerusalem and ends up with New York…”

    iv. The problem with some of the words we use like ‘inerrancy’, ‘infallibility’ and ‘inspiration’ is that they don’t have simple one liner explanations – but they are quoted as though they do. Many of our words have delicately nuanced explanations. Who wants to hear them ?

    v. For me here, the problem isn’t so much whether or not brothers and sisters meet on Wednesdays or whenever, as much as the imposition on and expectation of people to meet on those nights simply because it’s been set up to be done that way. If a congregation together decide to meet together on a given evening, more power to them.

    vi. Though I’ve only seen snippets {and what I’ve seen seems OK}, the more translations of the bible that come out, the more I’m convinced that it is the Holy Spirit {God himself} living in us that is actually God’s chief method of communication with the human race. No doubt contentious, but think on this for a moment. If someone illiterate came to faith in Christ, could God not really have a relationship with that person ?

    vii. No one can be an every detail expert on the bible. One can’t even do it with the Beatles ! I wouldn’t mind betting that “thinking biblically” would bring about more disagreement than just about anything one cares to name, if the last 1950 years have been anything to go by. Ironic, really.

    viii. The whole verse by verse concept makes virtually no sense to me, particularly when one comes to letters and narratives that were written as whole pieces and understood that way. That doesn’t mean that bits and pieces can’t be considered separately at times, but it inevitably leads to where we’re at now, a kind of cut and paste, pick and choose approach that becomes the norm but which is ultimately full of holes.

    ix. Funny thing about Leviticus; it’s a struggle to get through {and to be frank, it’s pretty boring for great swathes of it}, but I encourage one to do just that, and more than once because it really helps make sense of Jesus and other NT matters.

    xi. As a man that is black, I raised an eyebrow initially at this point. But on thinking and reflecting, I’d have to agree. Pretty bold point, though.

    xii. For me, institutional Christianity is like a beer that is well past it’s sell by date; it can quench thirst, in that it’s a liquid and you can drink it all your life but it’s a pale shadow of the real thing and it tastes like soap….

    xiii. I still don’t understand this point. When you talk about child baptism, do you mean baptism of children that have actually made a real commitment to Christ ? Or what we in the UK call “christening” ?

    xiv. I think that if we honestly practiced listening to the Lord and believers were actually equipped rather than preached to or ‘motivated’, then seminaries could not exist. That we have relied not upon spirit filled people of proven character {the emphasis being on ‘Spirit’}, but ‘educated’ and articulate ones so often, has done incalculable damage to the body of Christ actually being a healthy body. I guess loads of people might find that offensive but as you point out, Christ’s way is cross cultural, for every strata of society and it’s the Lord who manoeuvres his people into the situations they find themselves serving in, not man and the things we are swayed by.

    xv. Listening does no harm but often we won’t because we feel that the one that has left will be shown to be right {and perhaps we feel a little defensive}. But actually, that may not be the case. And either way, listening is a priceless way of discovery, one way or the other. You’ll never know if someone was right or wrong unless you grapple with the reasons they give for a) doing what they did or b) seeing you in a particular light.

    16+17. Both of these are part of a larger problem. I mean, technology can play a minor part sometimes. But is it really necessary in equipping someone for works of service ? I think that we, as human beings, sometimes have extremist tendencies and we like toys and bright flashes and so often we’ll uncritically take on board whatever is put our way, especially if it makes us feel good or is skilfully presented. Like a Trojan horse. I’ll often be pointed to as a rebel {without a clue !! } but I don’t feel that I need “someone” to tell me what to do and how to be. I may have done as a baby believer; I certainly don’t now. Let’s have a little discernment instead ! Oh, and the real presence of the Lord….

    xvii. Does it really matter when God created the earth ? None of us were there to witness it ! I hope he made a DVD of it though…..Seriously, whether the earth is 6000 or 100,000,000 years old isn’t going to enable us to hear him better or put food in the mouth of someone on the edge of starvation or act on what he tells us.

    xix. I think many of us believe that last sentence……until that belief has practical implications. It’s sort of connected with 16 & 17.

    xx. You know, I’ve long wondered about this one. While I think everyone is entitled to their own positions of conscience, I have a hard time reconciling pro-life with pro death penalty. The way my mind works, one either believes that life is sacred or you don’t. And the real test of the sanctity of life is when you come across those that, well, don’t deserve it. I hope I’m never put to the test !

    xxi. Me neither. In saying that though, maybe sometimes some moralists and censors have actually had worthy reasons for taking some of the paths that they have. I wouldn’t lump them all in the same camp.

    xxii. It’s worth exploring the Sabbath as a subject, even though I wholeheartedly agree with your point. It’s a fascinating history and even more so is seeing how even with the Holy Spirit we can take something so pure and helpful to us and somehow construct this lumbering ironclad monstrosity around our necks…….and then justify it or write it off as if nothing had happened !

    xxiii. Ditto. Someone will always make a big deal out of this and let’s face it – it’s a biggie ! As someone pointed out earlier, the actual beneficiary of the tithe in Israel was the giver of the tithe and every third year, it went towards Levites, widows, orphans and foreigners and it was real food/grain not money……No one has the freedom to impose upon other believers what becomes of their income, whether one believes in stewardship or not. Peter makes that clear when talking to Annanias. There is nothing in the NT to justify tithing. The three or four times it’s mentioned, it’s either in an ‘under the law’ situation or a hark back to pre-law times. To turn that into a binding command is to engage in the kind of gymnastics that wins Olympic gold medals. And it is a totally separate issue from generosity and greed.

    xxiv. There has been so much clamouring for revival in the last 20 years but I don’t think that’s particularly honouring to God. Have we seriously not learned, both from the entire OT adventures of Israel and church history of the last 2000 or so years that God has inexhaustible resources and is packed to the gills with life and what is new ? By all means let’s appreciate and learn from what has come before. But I believe that when God is doing something new and vibrant, it doesn’t look like what has already been. Principles may remain coz God is consistent but we need to be so plugged into his life that we can recognize what he’s doing. For all some of us know, 10 major moves of God could be happening right now. Question is, would we recognize it if it ain’t on the TV or papers ?

    xxv. The writer of Hebrews settled this one for me when he/she writes about faith and how it’s by faith that we understand that God created the world out of nothing. “Call me ignorant do” if you please, but that’s good enough for me. Sulphur crusted underwater cities that could be Sodom and salty pillars that could be Lot’s wife may well ‘prove’ something and make compelling TV or reading. But I don’t care much for archaeological discoveries because they exist independently of our relationship with and faith in God. They can’t make me believe more or less.

    If all that seems like a lot, that’s the abridged version !! Besides, iMonk has sparked off some serious thinking with some seriously juicy thoughts there.