Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Even Daniel only went into the lion's den once

Last October Dr. Albert Mohler, long time president of Southern Seminary and one of the great Christian minds of this or any era, visited Brigham Young University (BYU), flagship school of the so-called "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", better known as the mormon church. I wrote at the time that a post, The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Not Always My Friend. I felt it was a serious error in judgment on part of Dr. Mohler. I say that as an admitted admirer of Dr. Mohler even when I disagree with some of his positions. This was one of the few times when I felt that he had greatly erred and did so at a serious cost to the mission and message of the legitimate church. Today I was aghast to see that he appeared at BYU again.

The answer to encroaching secularism is increased Gospel faithfulness even to the point of the ageless Christian witness of persecution and suffering. It is not to join forces with religious organizations that espouse aberrant theology and certainly not to seek alliances with outright pagan groups like the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint". Dr. Mohler's message of the day, Strengthen the Things that Remain: Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age — An Address at Brigham Young University, focuses on the three issues in the title.

In spite of this caveat...
The presence of the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary behind the podium at Brigham Young University requires some explanation. I come as an evangelical Christian, committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the trinitarian beliefs of the historic Christian faith. I come as one who does not share your theology and who has long been involved in urgent discussions about the distinctions between the faith of the Latter Day Saints and the faith of the historic Christian church. I come as who I am, and your leaders invited me to come knowing who I am. I have come knowing who you are and what you believe and my presence here does not mean that the distance between our beliefs has been reduced. It does mean, however, that we now know something that we did not know before. We need to talk. We can and must take the risk of responsible, respectful, and honest conversation. We owe this to each other, and we owe this to the faiths we represent. And we had better talk with candor and urgency, for the times demand it.
....I found his message to be bitterly ironic in that there is at least as much danger in a fuzzy ecumenism, a "big tent" religious coalition where the church of Christ is seated with polytheistic pagan faiths like mormonism, as there is in "secularism". We certainly need to talk to mormons but what we need to tell them is not "we are your partners" but rather "we bring you warning of the coming judgment and call on you to repent and turn from your idolatry". It does not help the Gospel cause to join arms with mormonism, speaking at the their school that propagates "another gospel" as we are warned about in Paul's introduction to his letter to the church in Galatia. It does not clarify and distinguish more clearly the true church from the pagan pretender to honor the leaders of mormonism with the title "elder", a perversion of a Biblical function that has been twisted and warped by Joseph Smith and his successors.

Religious liberty is not a Kingdom issue. Freedom of conscience as it pertains to providing contraception is not a Kingdom. Human rights are not a Kingdom issues, odd as that sounds. We preach a message of human dignity with all human beings being equally made in the image of God. We also don't expect that message to resonate with the unregenerate. We will not advance the Kingdom by fighting political battles, win or lose. We do not proclaim the Gospel by engaging the culture side by side with unbelievers and blasphemers. The issues of the day raised by Dr. Mohler are not new. They existed in the child sacrifice of the pagan nations of the Old Testament. They also existed in the days of the apostles. They have been a part of the fallen human experience since the very beginning when brother rose up to murder brother but through it all the people of God did not join forces with the pagan religions of their day to change laws or impact public opinion. In the midst of a pluralistic paganism, the saints of the early church stood firmly for the Gospel, and nothing else but the Gospel. They faced jail, persecution, torture and even murder for the sake of winning the lost to Christ. Should we shrink away from the hard road, carrying our own crosses for the sake of Christ and rejoicing in our suffering, our alienation from the world and the shedding of our blood? I fear the church, even among the most brilliant and stalwart defenders, seem more concerned with preserving a religious standard of living than in forsaking all for the cause of Christ. Our affluence, our comfort, our partnership with Caesar has made us soft, weak and willing to compromise rather than face walking that lonely road.

Dr.Mohler is a brilliant man, a precious regenerate adopted child of God and my beloved brother in Christ but in spite of the eloquent words and passionate speech he has erred once again in seeking allies among those who are by nature still the children of wrath and the enemies of the Gospel. I urge him to change course for the sake of the lost of the world and the witness of the church. The church is at our most powerful when we are the weakest and we are weakest when we compromise ourselves for any cause other than the Gospel

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Year Of Transition

There has been a lot going on with us as a family and me as an individual that I have not talked about here. It is about time to let some of it out in the public sphere, as difficult as that is for me. Late last year the stress of work got to me in a pretty major and debilitating way. My job was a constant source of stress piled on stress. While I was able to work from home a lot, which was nice, it also meant that the demarcation between work and home became blurred to the point that I was never "off work". I was checking email in the evening, on weekends and on vacation (to the point that I stopped taking vacation time at all). It finally came to a head and I ended up being off work for a while.

Since a major factor in my mental health is my work environment, in times past I would alleviate this by changing jobs and at the same time usually changing locations. That was not a viable option for a lot of reasons in this case and at least the moving part was hard on my family. Besides I was starting to recognize what had been apparent to others, i.e. this was just a band-aid and not a solution. So I decided to use the time I was off to step back and ponder. What I decided to do was take a broader look beyond "find another job". The conclusion I reached was to take what I like doing, managing people, and apply it to a new industry that I was more interested in than financial services which is largely an exercise in trying to sell people stuff they don't want or shuffling make believe money around that only exists "on paper".

As you might have noticed I have been thinking a lot about the American economy and what we make and what we buy. I am concerned that so many of our jobs involve shuffling fake money around and buying cheap stuff made overseas by children with money that is borrowed. I read about all of the unemployed/underemployed men being left behind in our "information economy" driven by technology and data and wonder what they will do in the future. I started looking around, even while just driving with the family, and saw lots of manufacturing facilities: steel mills, glass operations, machine shops, etc. So I live somewhere with limited opportunities in financial services (which I am done with anyway), plentiful opportunities in production and a very highly regarded community college. Searching the help wanted ads in the area revealed a substantial demand for people to manage production employees, people with management experience and production experience. The one I already have, some eight years worth of management experience. The other? Not so much. So I found myself in a bit of a spot. Either I apply for a bunch of jobs that I really don't meet the qualifications for or I get myself the qualifications. I chose the latter.

This has led to some interesting developments. After a long time out of school I find myself back in class, albeit online, taking formal courses in manufacturing technology towards a technical certificate. At the same time I resigned from my role in financial services and have started a new job at a glass company. It is pretty entry level but it is giving me the experience I need. I fully expect 2014 to be a transitional year for me as I pick up the experience and education I need to move into the career field I want. It is going to be interesting financially as well since I am not making nearly as much as I was but I also expect that to change fairly quickly. I started the new job last week and it is a refreshing change to have something tangible at the end of the work day, something I contributed to the making of, as well as not having to worry about something going wrong and checking email every five minutes. On the other hand I am a bit sore from standing in steel toed boots all day long and my feet have so pretty impressive blisters but I only broke one piece of glass so I thought it was a success all around!

Some of this is pragmatic and some is philosophical. From a pragmatic standpoint we like living here in northeast Indiana. It is close to home, both geographically and culturally. We have carved out a home here and we like it and we are surrounded by people we know and like. For example, yesterday our sow was in distress because a piglet was lodged in the birth canal (she already lost the other 7) and they were able to first offer advice and then offer to butcher and skin her so we didn't lose the meat as well as the babies. Kind of a bummer but better than having a 400-500 lb. dead hog to deal with and all that meat wasted. As I have said multiple times, we like it here and where we are offers an industry I want to get into. So this is the right move for the long term in this area.

Philosophically I am looking to do something more meaningful even in a very basic way. I cannot see myself working in a cubicle under fluorescent lights in a temperature controlled setting the rest of my life. It just isn't good for me . I need a job that is more active. I really liked working in retail but the hours were awful as was the pay. I am hoping that a production environment combines that with a tangible result, something more than an electronic ghost to show what you did for the day. I am not creating a populist utopia in my mind where work in a manufacturing environment is glamorous. I get that it is hard work. Last week cemented that in my mind! I know that it is hot (even in winter!) and loud and potentially hazardous. I am not really afraid of that, I am afraid of what another decade in financial services would do to my health, physical and mental.

We are still working on finding ways to supplement our income at home. Losing our sow was a major setback, I was counting on keeping some of the gilts from that litter to breed later on but that stuff happens in farming. We still have lots of plans that hopefully will become more tangible in 2014. There are also some big writing projects I am working on, not for money at this point but in the future who knows?

So that is what is happening here. 2013 was an awful year, especially the second half. 2014 looks to be difficult in some ways but a positive move forward in many others. I will update our progress from time to time. Onward and upward!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Get Big Or Get Out

As I walked around our little 4 acre farm the today I was struck by the little things that were happening around me. Our pigs jostling for position at the trough. Chickens gingerly avoiding the voracious maw of our biggest sow while snatching bits of corn and bread the pigs had missed. Calves play fighting with each other, butting heads in an act that reminds one of the annual struggle between deer, elk and moose. Our cow in her pen, shortly to give birth to a Jersey-Dexter cross calf which will either be raised for beef or sold for breeding depending on the gender. There is a sense of deep satisfaction to see the patterns of the seasons. While we are buried in snow (thanks Al Gore) I can see the signs of springs in the swollen bellies of our pig and cow. There is a connection to the land and to the natural environment that cannot be replicated by a life lived under fluorescent lights in temperature controlled buildings. It is no coincidence that we are living longer but less healthy than ever before.

Meanwhile across the broader spectrum of agriculture we see continuing consolidation. In our little largely agrarian corner of the world farm ground sells for an astronomical sum. It is essentially impossible to buy a decent sized plot of farm ground, service the debt and pay for the inputs. The only people who can afford to buy farm ground are the already huge existing farms. Fairly near to us there is a new massive hog farm going in, to the consternation of the neighbors. The farmer in question, Keith Werner, sums it up: “I’m not reinventing the wheel here,” he said. “In order to make it today, you have to be bigger. I don’t necessarily like that, but the emphasis is on quantity.” The same holds true in this piece from Harvest Public Media, Changing dairy industry leaves some farmers in the dust.

In the past decade, more than half the nation’s dairy farms have gone out of business, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. About 2,500 dairies closed their doors in Missouri. Thousands more have shut down in Iowa, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Colorado.

“It’s just a sign of the times: You’ve got to get bigger to survive,” Davidson said. “When I graduated from high school, the herds were smaller numbers and I varied very little from that. That might be the reason mine did not go on – because I didn’t increase, I just tried to stay the same.”

Get big or get out. That is the mantra of our day in agriculture. As Keith Werner says the emphasis is on quantity. Move as many animals through the system as quickly and efficiently as possible with a secondary goal of uniformity to placate the modern consumer. The same goes for crops leading to farmers planting every square inch of dirt to squeeze out a little more yield. There is a growing market for the specialty boutique farm but there isn't much room in the middle for the small producer unless he or she has a regular job to pay the bills.

Our ability as a nation to produce our own food in enormous quantities has long been the hidden strategic advantage of America. The coasts might produce the innovators and academics but the heartland  raises the food and builds the goods that keep this country running. While manufacturing seems to be enjoying a sort of renaissance, our imagined food security masks a serious insecurity. The overwhelming majority of Americans are at the end of a very complex industrialized food chain. They are completely dependent on the system offering the variety and prices of food in limitless quantities they have come to rely on. Very few of us really think about food other than "what should I make for dinner tonight". Underneath this happy ignorance is a very shaky system. Our dependance on industrial farms, massive meat packing facilities, monocrop megafarms, cheap petroleum and low cost supermarket foods has made food insecurity a thing of the past for most Americans but it is an unstable platform. If a new strain of disease or pest strikes Roundup resistant soybeans we could lose an entire crop. If something happens to the cheap oil we depend on, food prices would skyrocket and food selection would disappear. The very system that makes food so cheap and (on the surface) varied also is what makes the food system so insecure.

I am a pessimist by nature, perhaps explaining why I find reformed theology so appealing. These days that is more true than ever before. I think there is trouble a'brewing in the West in general and America in particular. The growing number of disconnected, unmarried, unemployed men with nothing to live for is extremely dangerous. Our unimaginable national debt is unsustainable, not to mention the untenable social safety net especially the programs for senior citizens, much less for the poor. What happens when we can't just create more money from thin air by issuing more debt? If we have a treasury auction and no one buys? What happens when the income transfer checks suddenly stop? We saw a taste with the chaos around food stamp cards when the system went haywire and stores were ransacked. That is just a taste of what can happen. The social fabric of the West is unraveling and the repercussions will be enormous.

I am encouraged by the growing numbers of younger Americans who are shedding some of the trappings of our soulless modernity and reaching back to ancient wisdom that is in danger of being lost. One need not be a Luddite or Pollyanna to see the value in relearning the ancient ways. We can and should incorporate the many positives of our modern data-driven culture into this movement. What we cannot do is hide our collective heads in the sand and think that an inherently unsustainable and vulnerable system will exist just as it is now in perpetuity. We need to wake up. Get big or get out is a recipe for some sort of disaster. Maybe not today, maybe not next week but someday soon.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Please Make It Stop

Another day and another clumsy defense of the institutional religious status quo. The latest entry comes from Jared Wilson at the Gospel Coalition, What We Talk Like When We Talk About God. The post is obviously a response to the Donald Miller kerfuffle from last week. It is instructive to watch the response of defenders of the status quo when anyone dares to question our religious traditions. I saw it in response to Frank Viola's books. I saw it when Jefferson Bethke posted his Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus video on YouTube, a video that has garnered almost 27,000,000 views as of this morning. I see it again with the frenzy surrounding Donald Miller and his admission that he doesn't much care for traditional religious services and doesn't go.

Wilson's attempt to frighten/guilt people into "going to church" starts off with a terrible assumption:

I think a lot of the rejections in evangelicalism today of God’s sovereignty and biblical infallibility are not unrelated to the more recent conversations about the need to attend regular local church services. They are all simply manifestations of a rejection of authority, and while of course those who make these rejections will not say they are rejecting God — but rather the artificial or modernist fabrications of those who claim to speak for God — the treasured principle nevertheless does not seem to be what God has actually said but what one feels in the heart (or some similar thing). I think it’s because we don’t want anyone being the boss of us, and because doctrines like biblical infallibility (and biblical perspicuity) and experiences like church services are too restrictive, too conforming, too narrow a space for “me to be me.”

Oddly enough I consider myself to be something of a champion for God's sovereignty and biblical infallibility. I would less than humbly suggest that I have a more comprehensive theology of infallibility and sovereignty than many of those with a vested interest in the religious culture. In fact it is precisely because I believe that God is sovereign and that the Bible is inerrant and authoritative that I reject the religious traditions of man. They simply are not in the New Testament and most have no function for a New Covenant people. I am insistent on the point that a person with no cultural religious background in Christendom would not read the New Testament and see the Western "church" in what he read. When you have hundreds of years of religious tradition coupled with the majority of those subcontracted by the church to be professional clergy clinging to a system that provides their compensation it is little wonder that people have a hard time separating the church from the institution.

What irked me (and this is why I should stop reading this stuff) was the next two paragraphs:

There’s probably lots of reasons for this, but some of them are teased out in Donald Miller’s recent post where he triple-downs on his admission of not attending church services. It has something to do with embracing the “agency” taught in Hebrews apparently, and embodying the “organized chaos” of Acts. You know, the Hebrews where we’re told not to forsake the regular worship assembly and the Acts where we’re told the church gathered regularly in devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to hear a guy preach.

And so I think we ought to see the talk about agency and enjoying the church outside formality and institutions and the traditions of singing songs and listening to monologue teaching for what it really is: self-worship. A self-indulgent love of our own voices and preferring of them above all others. In church, after all, no one can hear you tweet. 

If you are at all familiar with the arguments rolled out by the defenders of the religious status quo these arguments will seem painfully familiar. Acts 2:42, Acts 20 and Hebrews 10:25 are rolled out, without context, as the rock solid proof text that require weekly mandatory attendance at religious events. I left the following comment:

"You know, the Hebrews where we’re told not to forsake the regular worship assembly and the Acts where we’re told the church gathered regularly in devotion to the apostles’ teaching and to hear a guy preach"

Well not really.

The oft quoted passage in Hebrews, 10:25, says we are to gather together for the purpose of encouraging one another and "stir up one another to love and good works". Notice it is "one another" not "one and all the others watch". That is one of the most commonly cited passages to guilt people into "going to church" and it actually says nothing at all about weekly attendance at a religious event. The church as we are taught in Acts 2:46 lived their lives together "daily", not once a week at a mandatory religious meeting.

As far as the passages in Acts you obliquely reference. Acts 2:42 does speak of devotion to the apostles' teaching but it is a huge leap to pluck that one phrase and impose our prepared monologue called the sermon onto it. Did they have specific periods of sermon type teaching? Maybe but we are not told that here or anywhere else. We also see that they were at the same time breaking bread together, i.e. having a meal as the church, fellowshipping, which means more than shaking hands as we scamper out to the parking lot, and prayers, presumably not just one guy praying while everyone else bows their head.

The reference to Acts 20 is grossly misleading. We don't have to guess what was happening, we are told in Acts 20:7 why the church gathered. It was not for a sermon (or "preaching"). It was to break bread. THAT was why they gathered and to miss that is either extremely poor exegesis or intentionally inaccurate. Defenders of the cultural religious status quo often paint this as Paul delivering a prepared monologue sermon but it is more consistent with the text to see Paul having a conversation with the church rather than imagining him standing behind a pulpit with his outline in Powerpoint projected on the wall behind him. Certainly he lead the conversation as an apostle but to assume that he was the sole speaker who delivered a sermon all night is borderline silly.

It is also instructive that where you are not misquoting the New Testament, you turn to the Old. Trying to force Old Covenant practices on a New Covenant church has been the cause of all sorts of mischief through the ages (i.e the Roman Catholic Church). If you are going to defend the mandatory weekly meeting at least try to use verses in context and focus on the recorded practices and commands of the church.

Perhaps a bit heavy handed but when people bear false witness against fellow Christians for  not adhering to man-made traditions I get a bit riled up.

If people choose to show up week after week to sit in the same pews to listen to the same guy giving essentially the same sermon, that is their business. I think it is harmful to the church and suppresses  spiritual growth but I understand the inertia of institutionalism. When you start to accuse people of things like being "anti-authority" and engaged in "self-worship" I have to stand up and call them on it.

It is not only possible to adhere to what the Bible teaches as authoritative and still reject the institutional manifestation of the church, it is the more consistent interpretation. If your only recourse is less than subtle insults and turning to the Old Covenant to enforce religious traditions on New Covenant people, it really exposes just how weak your argument is. 

OK, rant over.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In Some Positive News

Wal-Mart recently announced a new initiative to invest $250 billion in products that support American jobs. Accompanying the announcement was this video narrated by Mike Rowe.

I know the usual reaction. Oh grrr Wal-mart! They are evil and the cause of all that is wrong with America!

One of the things I like about Mike Rowe is that he doesn't care what people think. He also doesn't think in a "either-or" mentality where you are "conservative" or you are "liberal". That kind of dichotomous political thinking has landed us $17 trillion in debt. Of course he got a lot of hate mail for doing this voice-over but he took the time to respond to a lot of people on his facebook page. His responses are often snarky but they also pull no punches and expose how ill informed or just ignorant a lot of the comments were.

I guarantee that the vast majority of people who complain incessantly about Wal-Mart have homes full of inexpensive goods made in the same factories that Wal-Mart gets their products. It is a big deal when the single most powerful private market buyer of goods makes a commitment to buying more from companies that employ Americans. Compared to the number of jobs shipped overseas this might seem like a drop in the bucket, especially when we are numb to huge numbers like $250,000,000,000 thanks to trillion dollar deficits but $250 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

What is really going on here is the result of a concerted effort by unions to either unionize Wal-Mart or run them out of business. The leadership of these groups seem focused on hurting Wal-Mart (and their employees) for the sake of a political dispute regardless of whether or not it helps their constituents because Wal-Mart has been the single largest private employer for a long time. Those millions of people who have or who are working at Wal-Mart represent a lot of potential political muscle for unions and a lot of potential union dues. Little wonder that unions are obsessed with unionizing the employees of this particular employer, an obsession that leads to a lot of people harping about how terrible Wal-Mart is even when they are doing something that everyone should find praiseworthy.

As someone looking to make a career change into the world of production and manufacturing I am thankful that Wal-Mart is taking this step and I hope other retailers follow suit. I am once again glad for public people like Mike Rowe who are more concerned with reality than partisan political theater.

Monday, February 10, 2014

That Doesn't Make Sense

"That doesn't make sense". An Amish friend said that last night and it stuck with me. A little background...

I was driving this friend and his family to see his in-laws for a surprise visit (one fun side effect of being Amish is that a lot of older Amish don't have phones at all so you can arrive for dinner to find no one home, which is what happened and a story for another day). I had a local newspaper in the car and he was reading up on the latest sports news and other items when he came to this story: Muslims fleeing African nation. It was the subheading that caught his attention: Christian militia take revenge for previous abuses.

"Christian militia?" He seemed genuinely puzzled. What in the world did that mean? It seemed to him to be an oxymoron. He wondered aloud what kind of Christians were killing people and how Christian could they possibly be. In the culture he lives in it is simply unthinkable that a Christian would kill someone else. It just didn't make sense.

We take for granted in our American evangelical subculture that Christians kill. They kill in self-defense. They kill in the line of duty as police. They kill those labelled enemies by the state and often inadvertently kill complete innocents as an unavoidable and tragic but necessary cost of waging war. Even when we are not doing the killing we cheer on those who do. Killing and Christianity have gone hand in hand for a very long time, probably since Constantine allegedly saw a vision that called him to conquer his foes with his soldiers carrying the cross as their symbol. Throughout the history of the Western church, the church has employed the sword alongside the state, whether in killing "heretics" or multiple attempts to reconquer the "Holy Land" or wars between Catholics and Protestants. The cradle of Western Christendom that nurtured the church in America was awash in blood. Little wonder that the American church adopted the notion of "just war" to merge a pseudo-Christian civic religion with nationalistic fervor.

How is it that a subculture that is marked by a quaint adherence to dress codes and rejection of modern conveniences, a culture that is sincere but way off the mark on many issues, gets what the evangelical church blessed with hundreds of years of scholarship and countless professional theologians continues to not just miss but take great pride in missing, namely the intellectual gymnastics that provide permission for Christians to kill? Like many other traditional Anabaptist groups the Amish have little in the way of formalized theology as their forefathers were more concerned with avoiding the persecution of "the church than they were in developing systematic theologies and statements of faith. Their statement of faith was written in the non-resistant blood of Anabaptist maytrys. Meanwhile Evangelical and Roman Catholic alike have detailed theologies of "just war" that have provided religious cover for killing. It makes me wonder if having all of those theologians is really a blessing to the church at all.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A Little Linkage

Here are some of the posts I have liked recently...check them out after the break

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Follow-up On The Real Church

Donald Miller posted a follow-up post to the original that I linked to yesterday. His post, Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog is pretty thoughtful and I found that he received a lot of the same charges/questions/accusations that I get a lot and others do as well. I tip my hat to him for taking the time to recognize where he made some mistakes and repsonding to the critical comments generated by his original post in a sober, humble and thoughtful manner. If only defenders of the religious status quo would do the same....

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Will the real church please stand up?

I read two posts on  the church in the last twelve hours, one by Donald Miller titled I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere and a rather alarmist response defending the traditional cultural notion of church from Denny Burk titled Donald Miller’s prescription for spiritual suicide. Little surprise here that I find a lot more of value in the original post from Miller than the hyperbole laced response from Burk, even though I would probably agree more with Burk on a lot of other issues.

Miller's general point is that the main elements of the traditional "worship service", the non-negotiable actions that you :must: have in order for it to be legitimate, namely the corporate singing and the sermon don't connect Miller with God.

I’ve a confession. I don’t connect with God by singing to Him. Not at all.

I know I’m nearly alone in this but it’s true. I was finally able to admit this recently when I attended a church service that had, perhaps, the most talented worship team I’ve ever heard. I loved the music. But I loved it more for the music than the worship. As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.

I used to feel guilty about this but to be honest, I experience an intimacy with God I consider strong and healthy.


It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy in a traditional worship service. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of sermons I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him. So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.

Yeah I hear that. I have never really enjoyed singing, with a few notable exceptions. I am not good at it and I am uncomfortable doing it. Sermons likewise are great for head knowledge and thus I like them but I don't see them equipping us for the work of mission or much else other than giving me some good information. Even those kinds of sermons are pretty rare, most are eminently forgettable.  I am sure that many people will accuse Miller of forsaking the assembly ( a verse that Burk predictably cites as a defense of Sunday morning pew sitting) but many of us have found that a) Hebrews 10:25 is not and cannot be describing a religious event that didn't exist for hundreds of years later and b) that gathering with the church can be more fulfilling and profitable in non-institutional settings. Denny Burk is having none of that, leaping instead to a litany of predictable eisegesis like assuming that Acts 2:42 describes a sermon and a plate of oyster crackers or the idea that 1 Corinthians 16:2 describes the passing of an offering plate when it does nothing of the sort.

I have some quibbles and concerns about Miller's piece although a lot of it resonates with me. Denny Burk's post that employs all of the typical less than subtle threats (if you don't go to church like we culturally understand it you are committing spiritual suicide, whereas I see the traditional church as more akin to a patient in a coma being fed by an IV). When Burk says that "It is very clear that Miller’s view of the church differs markedly from what we find in scripture." and then launches into a defense of a church model and practices that have no foundation in Scripture I just shake my head.

The real church is often found amidst the traditions and rituals of institutional Christianity but it is not necessarily, exclusively or most faithfully found there. It would do a world of good for the leaders in the church to spend more time trying to explore other expressions of the faith rather than defending to their dying breath a system that is not found in Scripture and often more harmful than helpful. The days of the dominance of the institutional church model are coming to an end in spite of the efforts of those with a vested interest in its perpetuation. Nothing is going to stop that and nothing should. How we respond for the future is what matters now and most of the church is doing very little to prepare to shed institutional Christianity. That failure will make the seismic change in our religious culture more painful than it needs to be but human beings in our fallen state usually keep making that same mistake over and over.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Turning Wilbur Into Yummy Bacon

I came across this video series from Farmrun and liked it a lot. Kinda artsy fartsy but the first video was still quite good for beginners. Our sow is due to have piglets in about a week and one of our gilts is almost big enough to breed so I am hoping to stagger the breeding so we always have some pregnant, some with new piglets and some getting ready to be bred. Check out the vid, I am going to try to watch more this evening.

On The Anatomy Of Thrift: Side Butchery from farmrun on Vimeo.