Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Our Aggressively Inarticulate Generation

I had a long conversation with a very good friend yesterday morning about a difficulty he has encountered at the church he serves and essentially it is a doctrinal matter. Doctrinal matters tend to express themselves in very real and practical ways in congregational life and we were talking about ways to handle what he has been dealing with. He made a statement that has become a problem not just in church life, but as we were talking I extended it to include the sum total of society, and especially young people.

He said that it is unbelievable that many Christians are unable to really articulate what they believe. This is due in large part to many folks simply believing they already have it together and hence no need to really study or define oneself as a Christian. More likely their identification with an institution or organization becomes expression enough to then make a de facto response such as "Well, Southern Baptists (for example) believe..." In fact they really have not addressed the content of the question. What do you believe?

The ability to express oneself has taken on a completely different meaning and in spite of the widespread availability to education and even self-helps. In our media saturated society and the txtmsging vernacular that has overridden everyday speech it is no wonder young people even have the ability to express themselves.

Because, like, you know, I like went to the grocery store yesterday, to like pick up a few things, for my BFF, you know, my wife, and when I like put my stu-uff on the you know, the rolly thingy, I gave a shot-out to the clerk. I like, said, "Good afternoon. How are you today?"

"Huh? Oh, I'm cool man. You cool?"

"Yeah, I'm cool; despite the searing heat outside."

"Huh? What kind of heat?"

And so it goes. I was reminded of this comedian after that brief diddy of an exchange. Its about three minutes, and he can express himself much better than I can. :)

The conversations here at The RP have reminded me of the need and ability to express oneself. To Joe I owe a debt of thanks--and here's to a few more "articulate" convos at The RP. :)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Thought for the Day

If all we want to do is produce people who look like Christians, our responsibility is fulfilled when people say and do the "right" things.
Eric Wallace, writing on discipleship in Uniting Church and Home

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Final Look at Keeping Our Children's Hearts

I finished Keeping Our Children's Hearts: Our Vital Priority by Steven and Teri Maxwell. The overarching premise of the book, explained by the title, is apropos. It is something much needed in the milieu of contemporary society where children are generally treated not as blessings and familial assets, which the Bible teaches they are, but as liabilities that put a strain on families.

I found myself in strong agreement with that general premise and even the Scriptural basis for the penning of the book, Proverbs 23:26: "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways." However, the exegesis to justify "sheltering", a key concept of the book, was strained. To be fair, Steve Maxwell is not theologically trained (not that that really makes a difference) but many of the verses he uses he pushes their meanings too far to achieve his own end.

A biblical case may be made for "sheltering" 'a la Maxwell, but Steve drew his theological justification from typical child-raising passages; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4 and sprinkled a few ethical passages to make his points. I would have been much more comfortable with that section of the book had he just said, "This is what we practice in our family and I found it works," rather than making a strained Biblical case.

The Maxwells also advocate an isolationist approach that is separationist and even monkish in its ideal. I addressed this approach in the comment stream of this post and found agreement that isolationism can be as unhealthy for children as outright exposure to all manner of evil. To quote myself from that stream,
Their strict isolationist view is in my mind, more dangerous than allowing them to do whatever they want. If you shelter a child to the extent that they never see anything of the world it will generate a hunger in them to see it, a premise that is antithetical to their perceived goals in the book!
Balance and knowing your child is the key. The book also seemed to be written with a condescending tone. Having talked to Steve personally at a conference once before, I did feel his discourse was tinged with a bit of patronization. He seemed to hold judgment against parents that did not follow their prescribed methods and that all other methods were inferior. They characterize their approach as "biblical" which is perfectly fine, but their are other methods that are also "biblical" and the Maxwells seem to have no room in their view for any other and that another approach might be equally valid.

I also found the book very short on application; though there were some tender and appealing stories about sheltering their own kids, little practical instruction was given on how to begin "sheltering" at home, if it something that you haven't been doing all along. The Maxwells approached their method as one that you must do at the outset of parenting and if you haven't been "sheltering" all along then their is the high probability that you will fail. No remedy is offered for failure which is the book's most significant weakness. The fulcrum tilts toward law; following the rules, unquestioning obedience, absolute parental authority, yet very little grace to encourage that behavior. Vignettes of grace are sprinkled throughout the book's pages yet grace does not seem to be the motivating factor. I found the overarching tone to be that if you are not raising your children this way then you are inferior parents.

This leads me to why I would probably not recommend this book to church folks or other parents unless they have highly discerning hearts. Though the overall premise is sound, it is lost in the way it is presented. It is not the worst book I have read on parenting, but unfortunately, neither is it the best.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mithras and Jesus Christ

I have been involved in conversations with a striking, new but regular commenter on both of my blogs. He goes by JoeG and he has raised some interesting questions at another blog he and I both patronize. I have promised to begin some threads here to talk about some of these issues and this is the first in what I hope to be a series of installments about what we have been talking about, "supposed" pagan origins of Christianity. I have been exploring this issue for a while and hope to speak with some coherence. In my digging I have found several similarities between Mithras and Christ, and notably, the Mithras story predates the birth of Christ. We here at The RP will kick off our discussion by simply noting those similarities.

  • Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds.
  • He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  • He had 12 companions or disciples.
  • Mithra's followers were promised immortality.
  • He performed miracles.
  • As the "great bull of the Sun," Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  • He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
  • His resurrection was celebrated every year.
  • He was called "the Good Shepherd" and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
  • He was considered the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
  • His sacred day was Sunday, the "Lord's Day," hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  • Mithra had his principal festival of what was later to become Easter.
  • His religion had a eucharist or "Lord's Supper," at which Mithra said, "He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved."

My initial contention would be that any similarities between the two don’t necessarily mean that one borrowed from the other. Moreover, does Christianity need any outside influence to develop its doctrines? All of the teachings of Christ have significant foundation in the Old Testament. These initial observations do not reconcile the similarities, but it gives us a place to begin.