Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Friday Discernment

I rarely leave the house on Black Friday, but I’ve now ventured out for the second year in a row. For those who have been vacationing on another planet for awhile, "Black Friday" refers to the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year. Like last year, I used discernment by staying miles away from Walmart and heading over to my favorite Christian store. This proved to be a wise decision when a lady came in and confirmed that the Walmart checkout lines extended halfway through the store.

Not having to camp out in the parking lot the night before, I arrived about 10am (two hours before the five-hour sale ended), but the store was not crowded at all, not even near the display of the latest in the series of "It’s all about YOU" books from Joel Osteen. Whenever the store becomes crowded, I can always find solitude in the classics section. While most everyone else is looking for the latest trend or fad, I can leisurely check out Pilgrim’s Progress, St Augustine’s City of God, or some of the Puritan writers. I enjoy browsing this section even though I already own many of them.

While surfing GK Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, I noticed a couple of men looking at Bibles, then one went to get help. I later moved on to another section and happened by one of the men talking with what appeared to be a store manager or assistant. The manager (as I’ll refer to him) was in the process of filing the customer full of Biblical errors. Just to mention a few, he was equating Calvinism with the Freemasons, claiming that Calvin developed his entire theology just to spite the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), and that the accounts of Isaac, Jacob and Esau proved man’s free will. He then mixed these assertions in with a few other topics, such as the Biblical basis for Arabs and Indians wearing beards (I'll ignore these others for now).

I realize that there are intelligent arguments relating to the "election vs free will" issue (no human totally understands it), but the manager was way out in left field, or out of the park altogether. First, the manager appeared to reduce all of Calvinism to the doctrine of election. John Calvin himself saw this debate merely as a subset of the doctrine of salvation, that is, to what extent man has the ability to respond to God on his own.

Read the entire Black Friday article, including discussions on the manager's claims, discernment, and the responsibilities of teachers and students.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Female Firebrands - Fools for Christ

For almost a decade, liberals have been suffering from a disease known as Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). A couple of years ago, many came down with a bad case of Palin Derangement Syndrome (PDS). It must have been highly contagious, because now we're seeing an wide outbreak of a migratory strain which could be called Conservative Female Derangement Syndrome (CFDS). Common symptoms appear to range from paranoia and anger to outright fear and craziness. So, what is it about conservative women that tends to drive liberals up the wall. An article in the Observer of London examines the subject from a moderately liberal point of view.

Paul Harris from New York writes an article in the London Observer today entitled The new wave of female firebrands striking fear into liberal America. The reader would not automatically suspect a hit piece from the title, but in the byline, "Right-wing radicals are already pinning presidential ambitions on a mother-of-five from Minnesota who calls herself a 'fool for Christ' and condemns Obama as a socialist at the head of a "gangster regime", Mr Harris removes all doubt as to his intentions.

In subtle assaults, thinly disguised as journalism, Mr Harris goes on to attach Michele Bachmann, and to a slightly lesser extent, Sarah Palin, claiming that many "experts" have branded their positions and statements as "extreme".

Read the entire Female Firebrands article, in which we examine such questions as "Who are these "experts", "What are these positions and beliefs which are considered extreme", "Why females as opposed to males", and more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone. We witnessed the usual celebrations, photo-ops for the politicians, and slanted coverage by the media. I believe one of the reasons for the poor support of veterans is that so few officials in Washington these days have served in our armed forces. A generation or two ago, most members of congress had served in a branch of our military. Now, both the house and senate are made up of career politicians in which only a small percentage have served their country in a military capacity. I’m certainly not suggesting that we need more senators like John Kerry or John Murtha, but as a whole, I’d like to see more veterans enter politics.

That said, this day is not about those who pretend to support our troops during election season, or when the cameras are rolling, but about the dedicated troops themselves, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy in our country today.

For those unfamiliar with the history of this holiday, we offer this brief summary. World War I combat between the Allies and Germany ended with an armistice which went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 (the war officially ended on June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles). Thus, November 11 became officially known as Armistice Day in 1926 and became a national holiday in 1938.

Read the entire Veterans Day 2009 article.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scripture Illustrations and Urban Legends

A good friend of mine is currently teaching a Bible Study class on the topic of shepherds and sheep. While researching the subject, he came across a pastor’s sermon posted on the internet that included some interesting illustrations which he suspected might not be historically correct. He emailed a request that I check it out and this post is a result of my findings and thoughts on the subject.

I read the pastor’s sermon on the 23rd Psalms which included several illustrations on shepherds and sheep during the OT period of King David. In Psalms 23, we have two beautiful images picturing God caring for His people. We see God as a Shepherd caring for His sheep (v 1-4) and God as a banquet Host caring for His guest (v 5-6). The pastor had interpreted the entire chapter picturing God as a shepherd, and included illustrations pertaining to verse 5 involving the "cup overflowing" as a sheep basin and the "table" as an area of grass around a wounded sheep. In technical terms, he was practicing eisegesis (reading his own interpretation back into the text) rather than exegesis (drawing out the original intent of the author and letting the text speak for itself).

In this particular case, perhaps no serious damage is done since both images (God as shepherd and host) refer to the same subject, God caring for His people. I began however, pondering the question: How concerned should pastors, teachers and students of the Word be regarding the use of manufactured stories or urban legends in the illustration of Scripture?

Read the entire Urban Legends article, including examples and proper use of fictional stories.