December 18, 2017

Open Forum — February 4, 2015

Layers-701

We haven’t had a truly open forum for awhile, so let’s have our first free range discussion of 2015 today.

An Open Forum means you get to talk about what is interesting you at the moment. This is your chance to bring up topics you would like to discuss with others in the iMonk community, rather than being guided by themes arising from a post.

Please remember the basic rules of Internet Monk commenting —

  • Know that you are welcome here. You don’t have to agree.
  • Be respectful of others.
  • Be concise and clear in your comments.
  • Stay on topic. (doesn’t apply in quite the same way today, obviously, but still, when in a conversation make pertinent remarks)
  • Don’t dominate the discussion.
  • Please listen.
  • All good things must come to an end. Pay attention to when the horse gets dead, and stop beating it.

Besides those simple reminders, the table’s yours today. Enjoy God’s gift of conversation . . . and each other.

Comments

  1. Dan from Georgia says:

    First.

  2. flatrocker says:

    Not Last

  3. Well I guess the thing on my mind today is unconditional love. I learned this from a kitten on the mountain. She never has to do anything for me more than just being there. I started to understand God through this. The trouble is transferring it to human beings. I can’t seem to do it at least not in anyway I feel about this little kitten and to be honest more animals. I am starting to wonder if I will ever be able to. It is starting to seem to me that only God is able to do this with us. I wonder if this could be part of “for you this is impossible and with Me all things are”. It seems quite impossible for me and I really try. I even wonder if my love for my children isn’t in some way conditional. I’ll keep trying.

    The next thing was first fruits offerings. They seem so manipulative to me. We (our church) has done this for awhile and I wonder why we pull one part of the OT out when it benefits us and don’t follow all the rest. If you manipulate isn’t that a form of control and if it is controlling what does it have to do with love. My first offering between God and I of the year was to me my first fruits and no one had to talk about it. I want to give out of love for my home which is the church I go to and those that dwell in it and their concerns in what they are doing with God. God lives there too and in each one of us so why wouldn’t I want to give.

    Lately I am having a difficult time with my religious brothers. More so than I thought I would have. Sometimes I just want to disappear.

    • —No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. In a group of scripture this morning I read. In one way I want to say so what. Then I wonder about conditions. We had to choose to eat the fruit didn’t we and in a way meet conditions. Frankly I’ve tired of conditions. I wonder how long it is going to take to get out of this funk.

    • > The trouble is transferring it to human beings.

      Exactly, my advice: do not try. Human beings are not kittens, humans are an order of magnitude more powerful, an thus an order of magnitude more dangerous, and an order of magnitude more accountable. The mind of a human being understands consequence while the kitten lives in an inconsequential world [cognitively].

      > I can’t seem to do it at least not in anyway I feel about this little kitten and to be honest more animals.

      This should not haunt you, this is not a flaw, this is healthy, this is sanity, this is a recognition of reality.

      > I am starting to wonder if I will ever be able to.

      I say “hopefully not”. The likely outcome would be that a predatorial human being would destroy you, as certainly as if you carried a bowl of milk out to a hungry vagrant Bengal Tiger. Humans need to be loved differently, because they are different – they are powerful, dangerous, and accountable. Loving a human being as one loves a kitten would be disrespecting the human being, denying what it is.

      This is not saying Do Not Love, but the Love must be appropriate to the kind of thing Loved.

      > It is starting to seem to me that only God is able to do this with us.

      He is a God, you are a Human Being.

      • Kittens may be innocent, but some cats are destroyers of worlds.

      • I struggle with this, being called to turn the other cheek, to love my enemies, return evil with good has led me to become vulnerable to people like you mention. How guarded should we be?

    • On “tithes”: w, Christian churches are notorious for partial adherence to “scriptural” examples, and tithing is one of those. First of all, the tithes was set up to support the priesthood and the tribe of Levi which had no portion of the Promised Land but were dedicated to serving God. Are there Levites today? No.

      Secondly, the tithing system was set up to support the temple, the central place where God met Israel and where His presence would reside. When the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and then again by the Romans, there was no tithe because there was no temple! Today Jews do not “tithe”, although they DO have a different system of giving to support their places of worship. But it is NOT called “tithing”.

      Thirdly, if churches wanted to “obey” God’s “command” to “tithe” (so many “”s) then they must take Paul’s admonition that if they desire to obey the Law then they must obey ALL of the law, and that means doing EVERYTHING concerning tithing that the Old Covenant requires.

      One such instruction was that when the tithe was collected the people would gather together and EAT THE TITHE. Now, at that time, tithe was primarily an agricultural product and gathered YEARLY, so having a banquet where ALL could partake was possible, but when was the last time you church, or ANY church, had a great banquet catered to celebrate the tithe? Probably never!

      And FINALLY, the way we practice gathering together, from ad hoc meeting places in taverns, to large buildings with icons and incense, is NOT commanded by God, but is a result of believers finding their way in a new belief system. It is an accumulation of custom, habit and practice that has developed over 2000 years, but it is NOT a pattern that God actually commanded. But in order to support these places of worship it is required that interested parties should GIVE to support such places. It CAN be called “tithe”, which merely means 1/10, but it is not TRULY biblical tithing, just good financial practice.

      Moreover, giving to support your place of worship is more of a moral practice than anything else. After all, if you benefit from your church, and if you support the church’s activities, then you SHOULD open your wallet and support them. Otherwise you are just standing outside the “fire ring”, warming your hands while those closest are actually feeding the fire and doing the work of tending the fire.

      So, the next time you hear “Bring ye the tithes into the storehouse that there might be meat in my House, saith the Lord…” just say, “A little CONTEXT please?” and see what happens. You may be looking for a new church.

      • This is is really good, actually linked it over on another blog where this topic came up as well. Thanks

      • Moreover, giving to support your place of worship is more of a moral practice than anything else

        Kaboom: in other words, the law of love is a bigger deal than the LAW of the OT> not the OT law canceled but replaced with something even better (the law written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit).

        well written reply , Oscar: wish I’d known this stuff in the 70’s, 80’s…..

      • Oscar, good overview. The OT tithe was also a form of “tax” for the civil government of the Hebrews when they governed their own nation. This became more burdensome with outside empires controlling them, such as the Babylonians or Romans, who demanding their own tax.

        As citizens of the US or of other countries, can we consider our taxes to government for civil services in the amount we tithe to our churches? You won’t get far with that argument in most churches.

        I also get frustrated when I hear a pastor claim that a tithe is not genuinely a tithe unless it goes to one’s home church, that contributions to missionaries or local charities should not be considered in the percentage. I disagree strongly with that, and for biblical support let’s remember that Jesus said to a man, “Sell what you have and give to the poor.” He never said, “Give it to me and my organization.”

        But Oscar’s analogy of the people warming themselves at the fire without contributing is a good one. Yes, we should give for the support of our churches—but there should be no “law” to that effect if we want to call ourselves Christians under grace.

        • Ted, the Temple tax was something else altogether. The only people who were required to pay tithe were those whose labor actually PRODUCED something. Because of that the common laborer was exempt from tithes. Usually it was the poor who fell into this category, but EVERYONE had to pay the Temple tax.

          Separate from the tithe was “offerings” which were 5% instead of tithe of 10%. I could not find any info on who, exactly, had to pay these, nor if there was a regular “offering” schedule. I’ve always wanted to go to the local Chabad House in town to ask them some of these questions. Maybe, some day…

          • My wife works at a daycare that is associated with a local synagogue, and from what she tells me, dues are pretty substantial. Even to the point of her meeting some people that, though Jewish, were raised outside of the synagogue for financial reasons.

  4. What do you consider to be the “essentials” of the faith?

    • Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection

      • Of who? If the right answer in Jesus, then who is Jesus? And why are these the essentials?

        • Just because

        • Great questions. I wanted to start as simply as possible because the essentials get complicated pretty quickly. But perhaps that’s unavoidable.

          Also, I read recently that those were Erasmus’ answers to the same question. I thought they could at least get the ball rolling.

          Jesus is the Son of God, very God of very God. These are the essentials because they are what make Christianity Christianity. Without them you have something else.

        • “Of who”? See what happens when you go to an evangelical mega-church, folks? Poor Mike doesn’t even know who got risen! I’ll bet your first two answers to the question were “Noah” and “Moses”, weren’t they? Be honest, Mike!

        • I think that once you properly define the words incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, that pretty darned well tells us who Jesus is.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Depends on who you ask. And the bases for the answer. Who/what is the deciding authority? The Pope? Luther? Calvin? Joseph Smith? By Scripture alone? The Holy Spirit giving enlightenment to interpretation and definitions? The pastor down the street in the Independent Church? Me?

          • During my first semester at the Divinity School of Duke University (1973) in an introductory course on theology, Dean Thomas Langford opined that the major issue for the church for the next 25 years would be authority. It seems to me that it still is, as David’s comment suggests. And, Steve Martin’s “Just because” works for many.

        • Jesus said “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”

          Pretty essential stuff. I take this to be a claim to deity, and the deity of Christ is an essential. Perhaps this is encapsulated in the word “incarnation”, but I was looking for what other people had to say.

          • After almost dying in a car accident at 15 he whispered to me that He was the one who saved me and He loved me. This was the only thing I have ever needed to know I was saved. That has been my faith ever since. Through all the things that I have done wrong since and for some of which I get right now those words are etched in my heart forever. He will bring to completion. The rest we argue and debate on but it is this that has led me to believe that I am saved. I think it is more important to think how love acts and works within us and outward as a result of who we are and what we mean to Him.

        • Mike, the correct conditioned response is always “Jesus.”

          Sacred Sandwich had a cartoon a while back where the Sunday School teacher asked, “Now, children, who left the cover off the glue?” And the children answered in unison, “JEE-SUS!”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Mike, the correct conditioned response is always “Jesus.”

            Unless you’re Net Orthodox (especially ex-Fundagelical); then the correct conditioned response is always “ORTHODOXY!”

    • “What do you consider to be the “essentials” of the faith?”

      If by “faith” you mean Christian faith, all that I would consider essential is:

      1) Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah

      This requires a familiarity with Jewish Scripture to understand and if lacking:

      2) Jesus is the Christ

      This requires a familiarity with Christian Scripture to understand and if lacking:

      3) Jesus is Lord

      All three carry their own baggage but all three mean essentially the same. If you don’t understand or agree with any of the three, I’ll still sit down with you for refreshment and conversation.

      • Charles, some people who have no problem with “messiah” or “christ” may balk at “lord” because it can imply patriarchy, sexism, or aristocracy. So they may avoid that term if only to keep peace within the house.

    • Dr. Paul Maier has said, in his summary of the Apostolic proclamation of the New Testament, that the common thread behind all their preaching and teaching is simply this: “Jesus is Lord,” and “He is risen from the dead.” Encapsulated in these two phrases we have the person and work of Christ, the Gospel, which all Christians believe and hold in common, even if we understand it a bit differently. The bulk of what most consider “non-essentials” would be found in the “third leg” of the Gospel, where we define how the benefits of Christ are delivered to us. Most succinctly, as asked to the apostle Peter, “What shall we do?” to which he replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This text, and the various ways how it is understood and applied, is ground zero for all schism in Christianity.

      • So would you consider the sacraments a non-essential?

        • Absolutely not, but there are various understandings of them within the broader pale of Christian orthodoxy. While I find my view on them to be non-negotiable, I expect to find plenty of dissenters at the divine after-party. I also believe the practice of them is essential. People who understand them wrongly but continue to practice them are in a better situation than those who do not use them at all.

          • Since you included baptism in the third leg, and seemingly beyond the Jesus is Lord/He is risen from the dead description, I am confused why you are saying they are essential.

            Just to clarify, a non-essential does not mean “not important”. Agree?

          • Miguel, you started out great. I fully agree with you the belief that Jesus is Lord is essential to Christian faith and practice. But to add “He is risen from the dead” is redundant and potentially divisive. I don’t see how you can believe that Jesus is Lord without believing that he is in fact alive and well and has overcome death, but this is not going to be believed by some that consider themselves Christian. I’m guessing this would be pretty much irrelevant if they find themselves face to face with Jesus, as it was with Paul.

            But to go on and count the sacraments as essential is really confusing the use of the word, as RDavid points out. If you expect to find folks at the party who did not participate, then they are not essential. I realize you did not actually say they were essential, but you said they were not a non-essential, which amounts to the same thing.

            The difference between essential and important is not just important to understand in this discussion, it is essential. Otherwise we just keep the squirrel cage wheel spinning going on now nearly two thousand years. Some things are important to people that are not essential to Christian salvation. The crucified man beside Jesus obviously believed that Jesus was Lord or he wouldn’t have asked what he did. The belief that Jesus would be alive and in charge was implicit in his question. He did not participate in any sacrament unless you consider crucifixion a sacrament. I’m guessing if you are nailed to a cross and dying that the difference between essential and important is pretty stark. We can figure this out, maybe for the first time in history.

          • RDavid, it’s because of the great commission: Make disciples by baptizing and teaching. God can and has saved without the sacraments, but we are told to do it because it is His way of making disciples. I would be very hesitant to say that any of Jesus’s words are not “essential,” because it is His very words that actually do the saving (and Baptism is a word: wrap your mind around that and your on your way to understanding Lutheranism). So I might say that while believing our position on the sacraments is not essential, ’cause untold hosts of non-Lutherans will be saved, I would’t assert with confidence that untold hosts of the unbaptized will be saved. It may be that some are, but I would roll that dice without a direct word from Christ himself (like the thief on the cross). But Baptism is, in a sense, that very word directly from Christ.

          • Charles, if you do not believe that Jesus has risen from the dead, you simply are not a Christian, no matter how much you think you are. This is one of the limited number of things that global and historic Christianity has enjoyed unanimous consensus on, and that the scriptures speak very clearly and directly to.

            It’s not so much that the sacraments are necessary works to attain salvation, but rather, that the means of grace deliver, seal, and strengthen in us the faith that alone saves. The thief on the cross had the Gospel, right there next to him. “Jesus remember me in your kingdom” is a confession that death had no power over the Christ.

          • Oh, and Charles I didn’t mean to say that you didn’t believe in the resurrection. I meant that as “the person who doesn’t believe is not…” I should write more slowly.

        • Depends on type of bread, how much, and is it grape juice or wine, and how much? lol

          • I once heard a Catholic comedian comment on how it take much more faith to believe those plastic wafers are actually bread than to accept that the bread becomes flesh.

      • This resonates with me as pretty true – the basics are focused on the Person himself. In the Eucharist I do my best to focus on the Person – and to not let my overly analytical brain ruin everything.

        I might offer a few asterisks though. Another way to say the schisms are due to “where we define how the benefits of Christ are delivered to us” is to say “here’s how we’ll define the boundaries of who’s in and who’s out.” Much of my faith experience (when I step back and honestly examine what’s REALLY been presented), has been about defining where God’s grace ENDS and making sure a person meets the conditions to get “in”. And these thoughts in “how the benefits are delivered” are inevitably circular – they have a way of going back and defining/framing the two essentials that you mentioned, the nature of the gospel and what Christ accomplished (or even wanted to accomplish in the first place).

        That leads to a second thing – the statement that Christians all basically believe the same things about Christ and the gospel but “understand it a bit differently” is an overstatement IMO. There are massive differences between traditions. Double predestination 5 point Calvinists see Christ and the gospel very very very differently than I do – and it’s not just a difference in scope of who is “in”. So it’s difficult, if not impossible, to separate beliefs about “how the benefits are delivered” and the eschatological aspect of where existence is going (and therefore what Christ accomplished) from the Person and what one “essentially” believes about that person.

    • I’ll take a slightly different angle.

      What are the “essentials” of faith?

      To not make it about religion. To not make it about Churchianity. And the problem with a question like “what are the essentials of faith” is that answers can often drift toward religiosity and Churchianity.

      The essentials? I do like “Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection.” To me, everything else can just fall away. ITo me, those cover the bases of: Jesus was the Word. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. He is High Priest. He is the sacrifice. He saves.

    • Essentials to be part of the Christian religion? I consider that to be believe in the major creeds and the two great commandments.

      Essentials for salvation? Jesus saves. He does it in innumerable ways.

    • The Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds satisfy me, but I would add Micah 6:8 and Matthew 22:37-40, because faith without works is dead, and works without faith are ultimately flawed if not impossible.

      • What is works? Helping the poor, working toward justice, etc? Or is works things like keeping the Law?

        • The former, although given what Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40, I’m not sure there is a conflict between the two.

    • This is actually a great question, RD. My initial answer would just be “Apostles’ Creed”. But then again, you have some very conservative Christians who disagree with some parts of the Apostles’ Creed. And then there is the whole question of how one believes – for example, one person might believe that Jesus was “born of the virgin Mary” understanding virgin in the modern sense, while another may believe it understanding virgin in the original sense (young woman who had not yet had children). I do think that this will always go beyond propositional epistemology, which is why these kinds of questions can be difficult.

      • +1

      • Fun topic to discuss I guess.

        So what if Mary was not a virgin, ie, Joseph had slept with her. What does that do to Jesus? What does that mean for Jesus? How many theologically are cropped up by the claim that God the Father somehow supernaturally impregnated Mary, therefore man’s semen had nothing to do with his conception? Does a physical father component automatically mean Jesus can’t be God?

        Not saying it’s true, just, thought exercise…so what changes?

        • The Gospels clearly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born, so I guess it’s a matter of accepting the earliest accounts. Not improvising upon the text.

    • 1. Jesus is the incarnation of God.

      2. Jesus died.

      • 3. And rose from the dead (in accordance with the Scriptures)

        • Now, I believe Jesus was resurrected. But if someone said that Jesus was the incarnation of God, and that he died, and followed his teaching, but did not believe that he was resurrected, I still think I’d call them a Christian.

          • This isn’t meant to sound snide at all, so don’t take it that way (this is the case where face-to-face would let you know the way in which this is said)…

            -> “…if someone …did not believe that he was resurrected, I still think I’d call them a Christian.”

            I’m not sure that what YOU’D call them is important. What’s important is, what would Jesus call them? Would a post-crucified Jesus consider a follower who does not believe in His resurrection a “true believer”? Would He be okay with the doubt, if it never led to belief? (I’m thinking of the interaction with Doubting Thomas here, too.)

          • Why wouldn’t he.

          • If you phrase the question “what is the least someone can possibly believe and still eke out some semblance of Christian faith?” then there are all sorts of essentials that you could leave off the list if you really worked at it.

            As it stands though, the question “what are the essentials of the faith” requires the resurrection (and probably a couple other things, like his Lordship/Kingship). The question is what must the faith as a whole get right in order to found all other belief and practice. The resurrection is certainly not an option there. Take that away and you’re at most 1 generation from a disappearing church.

          • Maybe Jesus wants a believer to know he has power over death, and if you don’t believe that…well, maybe that would sway him.

            But that’s just off the top of my head, trying weigh the validity of your statement.

  5. Monday, Alabama becomes the 37th state government for same sex marriage recognition. I thought we would tie Mississippi for last, but we didn’t.

    Let’s not make this thread about same sex marriage, that has been endlessly debated in other threads. What is interesting is how much I have changed on this subject. Friends from 10 years ago wouldn’t recognize my beliefs now. I have changed, and I hope for the better.

    • Me too.

    • Me three.

      Several years ago I met a Christian friend for lunch and he shared some rather intersting takes on a variety of Christian hotbed issues. At the time I thought, Hmmm…he’s drifting.

      And now I find myself believing in most of what he shared. I have to wear a bit of a mask at times at my fairly conservative church just so I don’t get tossed as a heretic…LOL. It’s been nice to find a few others within it that are leaning the same way, though.

      • The mask is the shameful part. We all have to have multiples ones handy just in case. Yet more and more I’m choosing to not wear them.

        • What I’m finding is that it’s nice to find Christians with which you can drop the masks, or at least most of them. And what’s HEALTHY is to be able to at least talk with others about beliefs you have that are under the mask without fear of being burned at the stake!

    • How has it changed? On the subject of marriage, or on the behavior itself?

    • We could always make the thread about totally forgotten concepts like chastity, purity, and self control. For that matter, the idea of “virtue” in its original meaning of “strength” is totally obsolete. Does anyone in popular culture aspire to be virtuous anymore or is it strictly a term of mocking derision?

      I find it disappointing that we live in a culture where a public declaration of one’s virginity, celibacy, or chastity (all voluntarily pursued rather than imposed for religious reasons) is so unusual that it would be greeted with shock, embarrassment, denial, or all three. While this may not be entirely true for the culture at large, I cannot think of a single instance in popular literature (other than Ken Follet’s “Pillars of the Earth”), cinema, or TV where such a character would be lionized. At best, they are viewed as judgmental, prudish, or in some way mentally disturbed.

      Maybe it’s time for virtuous people to come out of the closet? Is there a way to do this without sounding aberrant, puritanical, or censorious? And the fact that I’m asking such a question indicates the depth to which our culture has fallen since I know of no quick and easy way to say something admirable and laudatory about virginity or chastity in popular terms.

      • David Cornwell says:

        You have an excellent point. And how do we teach our children in a world that is so immersed in the carnality of the popular culture?

      • “Does anyone in popular culture aspire to be virtuous anymore”

        In popular culture the lauding of virtues has always been a rare thing.

        “I find it disappointing that we live in a culture where a public declaration of one’s virginity, celibacy, or chastity …is so unusual that it would be greeted with shock, embarrassment, denial, or all three. ”

        First, I hold very conservative positions on issues of sexual ethics. I’m completely ‘old school’.

        But I do not find this hard to understand. WHY would someone make a “public declaration” about these things? It would be viewed as strange – because it would be strange. Someone who comes out as “gay”, or whatever of those string of letters you like, is making a statement of identity, not a moral statement. Someone who comes out and says “I do not have sex” is not saying the same thing as saying “i am asexual”, they are not making an identity statement, they are making a moral statement, they are saying “look at me”.

        Aside: many of the people making these types of loud statements are, IMNSHO, mentally disturbed.

        Our culture is very sensitive about moral declarations; witness politicians dodging every which way to avoid making statements about class or racial equity. Because loud public moral statements have so very often led to dark places.

        “Maybe it’s time for virtuous people to come out of the closet?”

        But would they then be Virtuous, or would they be Proud?

        “Is there a way to do this without sounding aberrant, puritanical, or censorious?”

        NO. One practices virtues for sake of the virtue, and those within the community which accepts that behaviour as virtuous will recognize it as such. But it is entirely completely unreasonable to expect anyone else to do so. Perhaps if that community makes substantive contributions to the lives of the residents who share their neighbourhoods with that community then that community, and its values, will rise in the esteem of the Others. The community should focus on doing that.

        • The pedestal of Tim Tebow…

          Here, have a cookie, Tim. Now, have you considered saying goodbye to courting and hello to dating?

          • He plays football. I suppose that makes him a Celebrity. But anyone who takes him seriously on moral/political/religious issues for that reason needs to sit down, take a breath, and rethink their perspective.

        • I think George Lucas wrestles with this in his Star Wars trilogies. He doesn’t wrestle well with it because he’s such a bad writer, but he makes an attempt to resurrect the ideals espoused by the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. The rise of the anti-hero made such characters maudlin and cliche. The Shootist was a fitting epitaph to the era of John Wayne-inspired heroics. When the movie was over, John Wayne and much of what he stood for was effectively dead, supplanted by the Ron Howards of the world unable to translate the Mayberry mentality into modern culture. (How’s that for mixing movie metaphors?)

          I do believe it is possible to be a White Hat Guy – virtuous without being proud.

          I do not believe we have any portrayals of any significance in popular media that address such characters.

          And for that, I grieve, because our churches have done nothing to offset this due to the lack of skilled artists in their midst.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I think George Lucas wrestles with this in his Star Wars trilogies. He doesn’t wrestle well with it because he’s such a bad writer, but he makes an attempt to resurrect the ideals espoused by the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers.

            THAT is the reason Star Wars took off and became a movement and phenomenon instead of just a pulp space-opera movie. TIMING.

            Star Wars premiered at the peak of Post-VIETNAAAM Angst, when all was “Realistic”, i.e. Pessimism, GrimDark, Crapsack, the Soviet Union Wins, It Can Only Go Downhill From Here, It’s All Over But The Screaming. (Just like Star Trek a dozen years before after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when “Realistic” meant The Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War, It’s Coming, It’s All Over But The Screaming.) It presented something Bright and Hopeful in a time of Nihilism and Pessimism, and people flocked to it.

            The Church in recent times of “Realistic” Nihilism and Pessimism all too often points at the Grimdark and Crapsack and says “ME, TOO!” Scare ’em into the Kingdom — Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War? Scare ’em with Thermonuclear Hellfire then Hellfire beyond Hellfire then Promise a Rapture as an escape route; otherwise, agree with all the Nihilism with “It’s All Gonna Burn”. Can’t have them taking their eyes off their Fire Insurance and Rapture Boarding Pass, you know.

            So with the society at large abandoning Hope (except for My Agenda), the churches abandoning Hope (except that of Fluffy Cloud Heaven), we look elsewhere for Hope. To Star Trek, to Star Wars</I., to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, to Superhero movies, to American Sniper, to a Chicago machine pol who only had to look benevolent and intone “Hope! Change! HopeChange!” from a teleprompter.

        • As someone who in now way holds to conservative views on sexuality. I’d say that someone who was practicing celibacy or chastity would be seen as maybe abnormal, but not mocked. I do think if they were doing it for religious reasons, people would question it, not because of anti-religious bias, but because here in the real world: we’ve met people who held to religious views about sexuality, that were making them unhappy, or seemed unhealthy.

          • no way obviously.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I do think if they were doing it for religious reasons, people would question it, not because of anti-religious bias, but because here in the real world: we’ve met people who held to religious views about sexuality, that were making them unhappy, or seemed unhealthy.

            It’s long been my contention that Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different (and often opposite) direction.

      • So does your church do anything specifically to encourage people who are single and celibate? If so, what?

        A marriage vow, if taken seriously, can be transformed into a vow of celibacy at the sole option of either partner. So there must be a lot of us out there in the pews, or outside in the world, having been run out on our own pain and disappointment.

        I’m not exactly in the closet on this (people know I used to be married and am not, now), but coming out as celibate is something that will cause one’s sanity and/or virtue to be questioned.

      • chastity, purity, and self control

        Fun terms that need to be put in their historical context and given concrete mutually agreed upon meanings.

        chastity: the state or practice of refraining from extramarital, or especially from all, sexual intercourse.

        or

        chastity: sexual behavior of a man or woman that is acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of their culture, civilization or religion

        First definition is pretty rigid, second definition has a lot of flexibility…some would even call it “context” associated with it.

        purity: freedom from adulteration or contamination

        Can you be in the world but not of the world and be pure? Is purity a goal worth pursuing into isolationalism? How much of purity in a sexual context is related to property values? If we are all sinners, is there anyone who has ever been pure?

        self-control: a free and open-source application for Mac OS X that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet

        I use Windows 7 at work but a Macbook Pro at home. Not sure where this is going.

        • Interesting that pre-marital is not included in that first definition, even though the latter verbiage implies just basically being non-sexual…

          How about supermarital? lol

    • Ditto. I like myself now more too. I look back and see how much of a a-hole I was.

      • “oh, so you just want to like yourself more that you are willing to give up on Truth?”

        come a little closer to backhand of fellowship range…

  6. YeahYeahYeah says:

    “There are three directors that are too obtuse for me,
    four that I do not understand:
    David Lynch with his non-linear and repulsive imagery,
    Wes Anderson with his multiple layers of irony and useless attention to detail,
    Terence Mallick with his interminable noodling,
    and Richard Linklater, not one of whose films have I been able to finish.”

    • Aw, c’mon! “Boyhood” was pretty interesting, if only to watch the natural progression of the actors over the 12 year span of time, and for Patricia Arquette’s performance as the mom, which was touching.

      Overall, though, the movie was almost pointless.

    • Richard Linklater made School of Rock.

    • I loved Malick’s Tree of Life. Just mesmerizing for me. One of the most beautiful rhapsodies on childhood I’ve ever witnessed along with a sincere probing and questioning into what it means to be human in this vast universe. Stunning film.

    • Actually I thought THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL was one of the few real instances of movie magic this past year. A profoundly moral film I think.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And every still I’ve seen says “Wes Anderson” — the detailed scene backgrounds, formally composed. the same style and composition I first saw in his Fantastic Mr Fox.

  7. Books books books. Particularly fiction. If you have something in the sic-fi/fantasy genre that is really good and that I haven’t read yet, awesome. But any book recommendations will do.

    • I second YeahYeahYeah’s suggestion of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

      A few weeks ago in a ramblings post some people recommended Andy Weir’s The Martian. (Thank you!) It is an excellent novel ( and you only have until Thanksgiving to read it so you can be prepared to gripe on differences between book and movie 🙂 )

    • Nate,

      Do you know Sherry S. Tepper’s “The Gate to Women’s Country?” That and Ursula LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” are the most thought-provoking futuristic political commentaries I’ve ever read. I also really enjoyed Elizabeth Moon’s “Trading in Danger” series as classic science fiction space opera. Lois McMaster Bulold’s fantasy series of “The Curse of Chalion,” “Paladin of Souls,” and “The Hallowed Hunt” does as good a job of any of exploring how the human and divine meet and clash, provided you can cope with a non-Christian, non-monotheistic view.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        You are going to talk about space opera, and about Bujold, and somehow the word “Vorkosigan” doesn’t come up? Seriously?

        • Well, yes. I LOVE “Shards of Honor,” but the series doesn’t uphold the high standard of the first book, I think. However, I admit that I’ve read them all, I was just whinging a bit while I did.

      • No, never heard of it. I love LeGuin but haven’t read that one. Everyone else you mentioned is new to me, so I’ll put them on my list.

      • I HATE that my local library mixes fantasy and science fiction on the same shelves. Makes it hard choosing…

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      The only SF writers currently on my “buy in hardback the day it comes out” list are Lois McMaster Bujold (addressed elsethread) and Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is definitely not for everyone, and he has a couple of different novel modes so you might like one and not another. That being said, Anathem is the deepest SF book I have seen come out in many years. It is not light reading, and it takes some effort to get into, but the payoff is worth it. It is also perhaps the hardest of hard-science fiction I have ever seen, with hardly any of the standard tropes of hard SF.

      • David Weber, and especially his Safeworld series nowadays. I have never seen a more well done portrayal of the corruption of religious power and religious propaganda. Highly, highly recommended.

      • I love Stephenson and am working on reading everything he’s written.

        I’ll take note of the multiple Bujold recommendations

    • SottoVoce says:

      If you like creative world building and don’t mind young adult fiction—the Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix.
      If you like gorgeous prose and obscure fairy tales—the Orphan’s Tales (two volumes) by Catherynne M. Valente.
      If you like snarky meta commentary and/or affectionate parodies in general and/or affectionate parodies of Star Trek in particular—Redshirts by John Scalzi.

    • Jim Butcher’s *Dresden Files* book series. And avoid the TV rendition like the plague.

    • nate, are you familiar with the Strugatsky brothers, Boris and Arkady? Their work is being brought back into print in new English translations. So far, see ROADSIDE PICNIC and HARD TO BE A GOD, both translated by Olena Bormashenko.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      Octavia Butler, “Parable of the Sower” springs to mind.
      And…ever read Evgenii Zamyatin’s “We” (Mbi) ?

      • I’ve noticed Octavia Butler’s work on the shelves, and have become very interested.

        No, never heard of that second one.

        Lots of stuff on this thread that’s new to me…I like it! Usually I’m the geekiest person in the room when comes to sic-fi/fantasy.

  8. YeahYeahYeah says:

    The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

  9. Marcus Johnson says:

    I’m interested in how folks interpret Matthew 15: 21-28. I’ve heard most folks turn their interpretation of this story into a sort of excusing away of what would seem like very mean behavior on Jesus’ part (did he just call that woman a “dog?”). Reading the story in greater context, though, I’m starting to think that this is less of a story about Jesus and the Canaanite woman, and more of a story of Jesus and his disciples, with his act of healing the woman’s daughter being a form of performance art. So, IMonk folks, my questions are:

    When the woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, the writer explicitly stated that “Jesus did not answer her.” Do we think he was just testing her, or was he waiting to see what the disciples were going to do?

    Back in Matthew 10, Jesus gave the disciples power to heal. Between that story and this one in chapter 15, there is never a recorded moment in which Jesus explicitly took the power away from them. Does this mean that the disciples themselves had the power to heal, and either didn’t know they could or refused to because she was a foreigner?

    In the book of Matthew (actually, in all the Gospels), Jesus only told two people that they had “great faith”: this Canaanite woman, and the Roman centurion. Both foreigners, and neither having any expectation to receive anything from a Jewish Messiah. Thoughts on this?

    • I preached on this passage 3 months ago. It was a really fun and challenging one to research.

      I took the angle that Jesus is first teaching the disciples a lesson, because they were the first ones to respond poorly. He mirrors their response to show them how ridiculous it is… and they get the point because they then shut up.

      Then he pushes the woman to fight through religious insecurity and see herself as a valuable person, a big deal because she was an outsider in the presence of the “in-crowd.”

      The conversation is so interesting to track — who says what, the responses that are given, etc.

      I’ll post the sermon, with much trepidation, if you’re at all interested.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I have also seen the story interpreted as being the one time Jesus lost an argument: not with a Pharisee, trained in argument, but with a foreign woman. Snap!

        This is not incompatible with the “performance art” interpretation, if we take it as his losing the argument on purpose to drive home his point.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Sean, are you on the Facebook page? If so, you can find me (I go by the same first and last name) and upload it to me there.

    • Christiane says:

      I wrote about that passage some years ago on Wade Burleson’s blog, this in a response to a controversy surrounding the comments of a Mr. De La Torre on that passage:

      ” Blogger Christiane said…

      Dear GREG HARVEY,

      As you have done, I read the article by Mr. De La Torre in a different light: it has layers of meaning for me also.
      How is it that Christ holds up a mirror for us to see our own prejudices so clearly?
      Can the reader not see that Christ lays out the problem confronting all of us: who are ‘we’ and who are ‘they’: the others, the ‘dogs’, the rejected, the lepers ?
      What is the difference, if any?
      And what is it that may we have in common that He values far above our differences?
      And what is our obligation to help the ‘others’ ? Must they always be ‘sent away’ unaided?
      Nothing in this incident was ‘incidental’.
      All was planned by God and set in motion to teach us something, if we will quietly look at it without our ‘prejudices’ and without our ‘self-righteous reactions’.

      The Canaanite woman did not come to Christ by chance:
      she was directed to that place by a faith that she would recieve healing for her child.
      In some part of all of us, we know that every mother would go to hell and beyond to get help for their suffering child.
      This woman came to the Lord Christ.
      And she came to Him confidently.
      Do His Words to her not reflect what many in the crowd thought?
      And therein lies the irony.
      He is wisely, once again, holding up a mirror, using His Words to reflect the crowd’s rejection of this Canaanite woman.
      And in doing so, He teaches, in a way that is unmistakably His:
      DID he send her away unaided, as they might have done?
      No.
      He did not.

      And therein lies the resolution of the irony.
      She, one of the ‘others’,
      had great faith, and so her daughter was given healing by the Lord Christ ‘from that very hour’.
      Nothing in this story is without meaning.
      I disagree with De La Torres’ interpretation, as well as the ‘indignation’ of any who react to De La Torres.
      The story is a lesson that ALL the despised and rejected of this world, who are of strong faith , may confidently come to the Lord Christ for healing, not to be turned away by Him.

      WE are the ones doing the rejection of the ‘others’.
      Not Him. “

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Thanks, Christiane; I found the De La Torre article, too. I think he got it wrong, as well. Reading the story in context, I think De La Torre might have reduced Jesus’ omniscience a tad too much for the sake of a more convenient reading.

    • Marcus, this has always perplexed me too, and I have never been satisfied with given explanations. What about this, what if “dog” was the “d” word of its time, like the “n” word (pardon my pc) is for us today. A word used by majority Jews in a derogatory and demeaning manner full of prejudice and bigotry, with so called Gentiles fully aware of this and perhaps even using it amongst themselves sometimes in wry self-protection.

      Consider that today it is still possible to find a friendly use of the dreaded “n” word on the street, in locker rooms and barracks, amongst family or friends in a private setting, and that there is no animosity involved. But think what it would look like if one of these interactions was recorded and then transcribed into print on paper. What was joking amongst friends is suddenly grounds for the thought police to be knocking down the door and careers to be trashed. I’m not talking about someone like Donald Sterling. You had to be there, you had to hear the tone of voice and see the facial expression and the look in the eye to understand there was no hatred involved.

      Is it possible that Jesus had a glint of humor in his eye as he spoke the words to the woman which the woman saw, recognized, and responded in kind? “We both recognize this is not politically correct but we’re doing it anyway.” Like with the woman at the well. I dunno but it seems possible to me and I would like to think so. Just in passing, the easy use of the “n” word was sometimes replaced in recent years with the actual word “dog” in hip jocularity, as I’m sure you know. Gotta go, someone is banging on my door. Really loud.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        I love the idea that the word “dog” should have the same impact and force of the “n” word (I hate using that colloquial, too, as it blunts the offense the term is meant to carry). I just get so annoyed at interpretations of Scripture which try to blunt the more hard-hitting realities of the historical context of Scripture (e.g., the slaves Paul referred to weren’t really “slaves”; they were just servants, or people working off a debt).

        I want brutal truth in my Scripture. Unfiltered. Unapologetic. Real.

        • That is why I absolutely love Ecclesiastes! Brutal, honest truth. That’s what makes the Bible trustworthy!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Consider that today it is still possible to find a friendly use of the dreaded “n” word on the street, in locker rooms and barracks, amongst family or friends in a private setting, and that there is no animosity involved. But think what it would look like if one of these interactions was recorded and then transcribed into print on paper.

        “Walk like Fuhrman,
        Talk like Fuhrman,
        Talk like Mark Fuhrman;
        If you say the N-word
        Don’t get overheard
        Or you’ll wind up like Mark Fuhrman…”
        — filk from morning drive-time radio during the end of the (first) O.J.Simpson trial

  10. I went to a prayer and worship evening at my Church last night, featuring guitars, drums, shouting, an enthusiastic preacher and something called a ‘wall of sound’. It was all so frightfully noisy, though lots of other people seemed to experience something. Afterwards I told my friend I was considering turning Catholic just so I could get some peace and quiet. She laughed, but I think I was being serious. :/

    • David Cornwell says:

      “I was considering turning Catholic just so I could get some peace and quiet. She laughed, but I think I was being serious. :/”

      Amen. The noise in some churches kills me. I know church is more than about feeling. But I hate coming out of church with my ear drums hurting, and my nerves on edge. But I also dislike hearing an otherwise serious sermon which seems to be without anchor in the resurrection. So– what direction does one go?

    • become an occaisional Catholic….. the monastaries and retreat houses are open, they will welcome you. At least that has been my experience: well worth the time.

      Be careful which of your ev. friends you tell, and how much, though…..

      • “Occasional Catholic ” — great phrase. I find myself becoming one. I just went for another monastery retreat last week, after the snow had finished falling in rural MA. It was breathtaking.

      • I am meeting with a nun tomorrow night to start spiritual direction. That’s something my evangelical multi-campus church does not provide 🙂

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        The standard Catholic parish mass, however, is not at all like those. They tend not to be so loud as what Laika describes, but they are hardly exercises in contemplative quiet. In my youth I found some aspects of Catholicism attractive. Whenever I feel this way today, a typical parish mass makes it go away.

        • flatrocker says:

          And where might this “standard Catholic parish mass” exist? And how is it “not at all like those”?

          Some mighty broad strokes you’re painting with there Richard.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Fair enough. My experience with Catholic masses is thin, but widespread within North America. My experience, which may well be entirely different from yours, is that there are a few Catholic churches that make a specialty of doing a high church liturgy. When I was in college my favorite professor was also the music director at Mission Santa Barbara. He would tip me off when they were doing, for example, a Mozart mass. More commonly, however, the post-Vatican II parish mass has indifferent-at-best music, often with failed attempts at congregational singing (a Protestant skill the post-Vatican II Catholics tried to emulate, largely unsuccessfully) or *shudder* a folk mass. I acknowledge in principle that such a thing could be done well, but I have never personally observed it. The Catholic church traditionally was always very weak on congregational participation in general. It was traditionally very good at appealing to the senses: a beautiful sanctuary replete with symbolism, gorgeous music, the incense thing. This works without active congregational participation. The post-Vatican II move made the mass in many respects more like a mainline Protestant service, but it turns out that this isn’t a skill set you can just turn on with a flip of the switch.

            Then there is Catholic homiletics. I have heard some very good sermons delivered by Catholic priests. I know this because whenever it happens I sit up and take notice, and remember it afterwards, because it is so rare.

            Is this all broad-brush stuff? Darn tootin’! My point was that many Protestants have a romanticized image of a Catholic mass, and are likely to be disappointed if they wander into the local parish on a Sunday morning (or, this being modern Catholicism we are talking about, a Saturday evening).

          • Christiane says:

            RICHARD,
            I was thinking about ‘the mass’ as seen by non-Catholic eyes, and I realized that for Catholics, ‘the mass’ is always at its heart, the same.
            So a mass said in the Vatican at Easter by the pope may have all the impressive trappings that the Church can bring to the celebration;
            whereas a mass said by an infirm bed-ridden priest in a Russian gulag might be celebrated with a few crumbs of bread and no wine witnessed only by a few rats within his freezing cell;

            but the mystery is that the two masses really are believed by Catholics to be spiritually the ‘same’
            . . . both ‘making present’ the Last Supper of Our Lord Himself,

            What makes a celebration ‘the mass’ to Catholics is not connected to the material world only.
            It is also their spiritual communion with Our Lord, and through Him, with all those who have ever lived who are members of the Body of Christ.

  11. On another blog recently I read something similar to “I know people whose faith is hanging by a thread because of [[Famous Christian Behaving Really Badly]]”

    Is there anything we can do to help such people other than encouraging them not to put too much faith in celebrity? (And what does that concretely look like?)

    • First – Who??? There are famous Christians? In popular culture? … because I cannot think of one. Maybe a few B-list actors who are Fundamentalists. But then if someone knows the religious confessions of a celebrity they are probably already reading all the wrong [unproductive] things – change their news feeds and create a happier healthier cognitive space to live in.

      > Is there anything we can do to help such people other than encouraging them not
      > to put too much faith in celebrity?

      Likely no, something else is shorting out if this is an issue. Identify what that is and address it.

      Besides King David was a wife-stealing adulterous murderer – I believe a King would count as a Celebrity. And he is still in Scripture – as a ‘good guy.’ That is one of the wonderful aspects of Scripture – it is honest about who we are.

      • Sorry, not popular culture. “Famous” should have been “famous within a certain evangelical demographic”. Not a celebrity to the general population.

        • Ah. Then I work be working on convincing them that Evangelicalism is not Christianity. It is at best a small ugly pocket universe within Christianity, and possibly just not Christianity at all. Help them see they can Leave Evangelicalism without leaving Christianity – they might even be finding Christianity by leaving.

  12. HI JEFF! WE MISS YOU!

  13. Joseph (the original) says:

    What did it really mean for Jesus to ‘fulfill the Law and the Prophets’? What was He fulfilling? Jesus could not have kept every traditional Mishnah rule, nor could He have met every criteria required of the Mosiac Law since He did not participate in any of the punitive proscriptions of those Laws.

    • When I ask my children to run the vacuum over the carpet, my intention is not that the vacuum motor run for a defined length of time, that it be run over every inch of floor, or that it be operated by a certain person. My intention in telling the kids to run the vacuum is that the floor be transformed from dirty to clean as a result of their actions.

      Plugging the vacuum in, turning it on, and running it over every square inch of carpet means nothing if there is still dirt on the floor. It is the one who cleans the floor who keeps my commandment to fullest.

      Jesus did not run the vacuum like the Pharisees did, he cleaned the floor.

  14. Richard Hershberger says:

    Jokes in the Bible. “We can’t be drunk: it’s not even nine in the morning!” is my go-to example. I also think that Jesus naming the poor beggar who goes to the bosom of Abraham to be “Lazarus” is a sly joke, considering the Lazarus we see elsewhere in his ministry. It is a bit like novelists putting their friends in their books.

    What others are out there?

    • “Sir, I perceive you are a prophet!” There are a number of wryly humorous passages in the Gospels.

    • Galatians 5:12 — I really hope.

      • On par with Paul telling someone to go fornicate themselves. It’s in the inerrant Bible so much be true…I’m going to start using it!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Don’t forget Ezekiel — dirtiest mouth of any prophet in the Tanakh!

          And Paul’s “If they’re so into Everybody Must Be Circumcised, why don’t they go all the way and castrate themselves!”

    • SottoVoce says:

      Elijah goading the prophets of Baal is pretty funny.

      • That was my thought as well. Especially the translations that have Elijah telling them to yell louder in case Baal was busy defecating somewhere.

        There’s some interesting speculation that this was a direct reference to a rather nasty form of ceremonial Baal worship that involved, uh, pooping before the idol.

    • Job’s sarcastic, “Oh, indeed you are The People and wisdom will die with you…” and (paraphrase) “Thank you, Captain Obvious, for that sage bit of advice.”

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      “I am not a divider, am I?”

      “Such faith I have not seen in all of Israel.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I also think that Jesus naming the poor beggar who goes to the bosom of Abraham to be “Lazarus” is a sly joke, considering the Lazarus we see elsewhere in his ministry.

      In the archives of his Tumblr blog, Rob Bell (nemesis of Team Hell) had an interesting take on that parable. Specifically, that it was given after the raising of Lazarus (where it’s stated that someone had Laz on a hit list) and what description there was of the Rich Man in the parable (including mention of his five brothers) was intended to match that of High Priest Caiphas. Looks like Jesus cast both Laz & Caiphas in that parable.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Checked Rob Bell’s blog when I had the time.
        Didn’t find the entry.
        Must be another source.
        Maybe Wade Burleson?

  15. David Cornwell says:

    Last winter I purchased, then laid aside, “The Unintended Reformation; How A Religious Revolution Secularized Society” by Brad S Gregory, professor at the University of Notre Dame. I am only at page 145 out of a total of 387 of text and another 182 of notes and index. This winter I decided to have a go at it, and find myself engrossed.

    From page 2, the following:

    “This book’s principal argument is that the Western world today is an extraordinarily complex, tangled product of rejections, retentions, and transformations of medieval Western Christianity, in which the Reformation era constitutes the critical watershed.”

    and

    “that ‘incompatible, deeply held, concretely expressed religious convictions paved the path to a secular society’.”

    I would love to see this book, and the evidential arguments discussed in this forum somewhere in the future. However arguing to any extent about his above points without understanding their complexity is without value. In other words to properly discuss the book, it must be read.

  16. YeahYeahYeah says:

    What makes a particular behavior right or wrong?

    • “Oh so you are saying truth is relative and there is no truth?”

      Now that I got that response out of the way…

      It depends!

      I have no good answer. Cultural mores. Public exposure of the behavior. Time of day. Judgeability by others. Overall impact.

      Not sure.

    • Donalbain says:

      As a useful first pass, I use consent, then I might well run a second pass based on utility and happiness.

    • Faulty O-Ring says:

      I see them as human cultural projections, rooted in human biology and psychology.

  17. Why don’t people talk about the fact that in order for the Good Samaritan to help, he had to sin/break the Law?

  18. Why are Christians so afraid to sin?

  19. This is a serious question that’s been on my mind for years. What, exactly, can/should someone expect of a “Christian church” anymore — such as, when you move to a new town, and are looking for a new church, are you allowed to have any expectations of any self-proclaimed Christian church, such as (1) people will be hospitable, (2) God is being worshipped, (3) the pastor knows what God expects of him/her, etc.?
    (caveat: I’ve had rotten experiences in this area. I’ve basically been chastised for not expecting the worst in church, and I’m now a post-evangelical “Done” (w/church).

  20. Brianthedad says:

    Sermon length…considering Jesus’ recorded sermon lengths, is it possible to have a sermon that is too long or have too much info? What should the purpose of a sermon be, especially in a sacramental church, as opposed to a revivalist-style church?

    • Oh, this is a hot button for me. The average attention span of an adult is said to be 10 minutes. After 10 minutes people zone out and don’t remember much of what was said. So if you really want to get your point across, say what you have to say in that amount of time. Or call your talk a seminar and give it some other time.

      • David Cornwell says:

        Probably true in today’s “sound bite” culture. However some pastor’s can hold attention a little longer than that. I know several of them. If they cannot, then 10 minutes will force even better prep. However I’ve observed people reading paperbacks during the sermons of one preacher! In that case its time to quit the sermon… and maybe let someone preach.

        • Undoubtedly this sermon ran a bit too long:

          On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

  21. David Cornwell says:

    Twenty minutes optimal. If it goes to thirty or more it is poorly organized and/or has too much information. Aiming for twenty minutes makes the preacher do his prep work and cut out everything non-essential. There are always circumstances that may change this desirable goal. Maybe the pastor has a busy week with emergencies such as funerals, or whatever. Congregations will understand this. Main things: keep your ego out of it, use the lectionary passages, and preach Jesus. And be authentic.

    I’m sure there is much more, but to me this is about it. Someone else may have ideas about the purpose of a sermon.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Meant to be reply to Brianthedad.

      • Brianthedad says:

        Thank you David. I was hoping a pastor with experience in these matters would reply. Your insight is valuable and appreciated. I’m of the mind that the sermon is an important part of the worship service, but not the high point or focal point, especially in a sacramental, liturgical church. I agree that concise, clear speaking takes thought and good organization.

  22. It’s late. It’s been a long day. I haven’t been able to join the conversation and dialogue because I’ve just been too busy, but also because I just don’t have anything to say.

    That bothers me; it seems like a foretaste of death, when my mind and tongue will run out of words to say and thoughts to think, and with my last exhalation I’ll be stripped bare of every possession I’ve ever had.

    What then? Who knows? The abyss yawns open, the illusions disintegrate as I descend into the depths, as I am stripped from myself? It’s frightening. The unknown is frightening.

    This lack of anything significant to say participates in the poverty and darkness, the ignorance, of death. I don’t like it….but there it is. It won’t go away, it has it’s own strange tenacity, a kind of mute obduracy. It won’t go away, it hangs in there.

    I know it will outlast me; I will shrink, and it will grow. When I look at it, it shows me my nothingness; it wordlessly tells me that all I’ve ever said, or ever will, and most of what I’ve thought, has been hot air, faking, mistaking, pretending, play-acting, presuming. It frightens me, and it humbles me. I have little control now, and what little I have will decrease, and keep decreasing.

    So I have nothing to say, really; just making noise to fend off the darkness. But the darkness is within, and cannot be fended off. It’s an illusion.

    My hope is in the name of the Lord, and in his word, or it’s nowhere, and nothing.

    So good night, iMonks. May the Lord be with us all.