Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Few Comments on "Evangelical Discourse"


I recently made a rare foray into FB land, unwittingly landing in disagreement. I guess FB is a bit like walking through a cow pasture -- poop is everywhere and a wary eye is needed. I've tried to avoid the controversial stuff because it is 'poop' to me these days. But I know these matters matter and so I enjoy 'going there' from time to time. It seemed right to comment here, though the whole things is a few days old and has no real consequence except for the friendships involved and the kindness of said friends to engage the matter. With that, here be!

As to the friendly discussion re. the article by Wolfe on Evangelical Discourse...

Thank you for the thoughtful replies. I've been off-grid and reticent. I unwittingly confronted two camps of strong belief, obtuse about both Moore and SBC difficulties. For-what-it's worth, to me Moore has seemed sincere and principled and the SBC stuff is largely off-radar, but that's all another subject.

On re-reading, I confess I just think the author is right and those who disagree do so because his conclusions differ from where they have landed on the implications. We all have to guard against that, which is what he is, in part, critiquing. That is, it is very difficult to set aside one's presuppositions about, say, the recent border issue and talk calmly about it.

The fact I did not call it “border atrocity” or some such like is case in point. Some would dismiss my comments for that indiscretion. But if I've already determined it is atrocity, what is left to talk about? No one is in favor of atrocity – and if they are no conversation can be had.

And this brings my point: “Randy is in favor of separating children from their parents.” As soon as I or anyone disagrees with that statement we become people of nuance, attempting to “make distinctions or qualifications or systematize or consider competing goods”, to use the author's language.

This is what grieves me on this whole matter and others like it: because someone believes there may be good policy or at least good will in spite of the apparently egregious fallout at the border; because someone dares to doubt the coverage and admits being embarrassed at the outrage; because of that some are bad, obviously in favor of separating children from their parents.

For me, this quote is the point of it all: “...social justice evangelicals employ certain socio-rhetorical devices, taken largely from the broader public discourse, that advantage them over their opponents. It is not just that these devices conceal a lack of reason; they are substitutes for reason; and they work best in civil public discourse.” [my emphasis]

This problem is contant and the whole discussion winds up meaning I [in this case] am considered in favor of separating children from their parents. Period. Distinction and nuance is disallowed because the decision is made going in.

I am a feeler, which makes this worse. I find myself placed in the camp of “those who are in favor of separating children from their parents”, and, dare I say it, that hurts the most. It is not fair because it precludes thoughtful reason.

I think that is the author's point.

He makes this point in synopsis at the end and it applies to me, if no one else: 

     “What evangelicals need most today is actual moral reasoning, one that recognizes complexity;  clear distinctions; clarified principles; competing goods; the penultimate and ultimate ends of the civil, ecclesiastical, and domestic societies; a multiplicity of responsibilities and duties; and  prudence. Evangelical leaders, especially social justice evangelicals, use the sort of rhetoric that precludes such moral reasoning, and instead they socialize their followers into a fallacious, cheap, and harmful moral rhetoric—one that is more effective in winning than in discovering and communicating moral truth.”

It seems to me that in a context separated from the painful political mess of our day Wolfe's comments would be non-controversial.

That's all. Thanks for 'listening'. :-)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Don't pretend you'd be truthful...

Don't pretend you'd be truthful in the public trust if you are not honest with yourself.

Of course this is difficult for who among us is perfect? Yet with all the mess in the news I find myself thinking, "If I were trusted with public interests,  would not tell a lie to protect myself or my colleagues. No! I will be honest, come what may." Really?

Let's be fair and recognize there are tortured issues, especially in matters of state. One never knows the ramifications of a word, no matter how truthful, and holding peace can be important beyond words, as is timing. Yet, is statecraft more difficult than the home or work or local affairs?

The Jordan Peterson dictum "Tell the truth, or at least don't lie" reflects the difficulty well. Solzenitsyn presses in further when he reminds us as a personal witness of the Soviet reality-denial: "One word of truth outweighs the whole world." And the inimitable Tolstoy brings us home with this: "Everyone wants to change the world. No one wants to change themselves."

So, I dare to think I would tell the truth. But when I look in the mirror and know how painful this can be in everyday life I know the crucible of character is real, and honesty is no easy treasure. As my teacher and mentor, Dr. Bill Ury, said, "We spend most of our lives learning to be truly honest with ourselves, others, and God."

I want to be at peace with the truth. It is the only way to live. And I want to be honest enough to live a quiet and peaceable life, ever loving and honest with my loved ones, serving in truth and refusing to lie. If I were called to the public trust in some way, may God have mercy. And may he have mercy on these United States. For as goes our allegiance to truth, so goes our fortune for good or ill.

Our penchant for mind-numbing word plethora, hair-splitting, slander, self-protection and outright lies bodes far too much ill.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

At Random

We hear "as you were" or "at ease"; do we ever hear "at random"?

In spite of the billions of bytes in blogosphere, each one meaning my contribution is worth less, I am reluctant to post "at random". Few see, it matters to less, so why?

Many reasons, but to explicate them would move me out of the random territory. It is enough to say sometimes one needs to speak. That is all.

As you were!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Always Tired?

I've often read or heard that leaders are always tired. I don't think I believe it but who knows, might be a slightly true generalization.

Some folks, leaders or not, are always weary for various reason. But I have to believe that most people have ebb and flow of energy: tired much of the time some days, vigorous much of the time many days, most of the time just average.

What does this mean? I dunno. I am tired alot, but that is an Alaska summer -- no rest for the sun-travelers. I do believe, leader or no, one should try to manage their body so they are not always tired.

And that's the limit of scintillating commentary for today. I hope, unlike Mr. Goodyear, you are not always tired.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Along the Way: Walking with God

I once heard Dr. John Oswalt say an optimal way to understand the scriptural understanding of our relationship with God is "a walk". I  like that.

This view includes journey, personality, companionship, conversation, time, learning.

Alternate views can be freighted with what the academics call a 'forensic view', often allowing the language of justification to eclipse the relationship. In its worst coloring, this view sees God as the cosmic policeman and Jesus as the cosmic get-out-of-jail free attorney who, in all truth of course, sets us free by His own life and sacrifice.

All well and good, but where's the walk? Is this all a contractual relationship, 'accepted' by faith with ideas of actual real-life relationship -- even friendship -- secondary, if considered at all?

This brings to mind the relationship youngsters often have with elders. Respect, fear, tacit awareness of indebtedness, awkwardness, little conversation, hunger to know and learn with sparse reciprocity. Certainly not a journey together. And we can attach that understanding to God and find "a walk" is far from the way we view our life with Him. Uncomfortable, distant, and disconnected is more like it.

But shouldn't that be how it is, God being omniscient, all-powerful, transcendent and all? Yes, but no. Jesus came to be among us, to literally walk with people like you and me. As God in human flesh he showed us what God is like. And God is one who walks with us.

I need a walk -- that is all. Time and learning and conversation. My outlook and attitude -- and sense of natural, real, tingling accountability -- is never more real than when I remember and know that this life of faith is a walk with God.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

On Writing, a Single Mind, and Sandals

Jesus talks about life where the sandals meet the sand 
and whatever holiness is, it will look like Him.

Writing is bewildering, curious, tough. Gazillion thoughts on paper or screen, more writers than ever. If the goal is many readers, success will be scarce. If the goal is approval or appreciation one may never write for others but only for his own joy in saying what is on his mind.

Much is on my mind, much that cannot be said. Saying so is part of the impetus I live with. Much is on my mind I can scarcely give room to be there. Not sordid or sensual or wrong, though of course there is room for the senses in this wonderful life. Sordid and wrong -- well we must push the devil back.

The thoughts deal with everything but are muted at the point of expression. Some remain moot because I know the answer to the question so am embarrassed to ask. Further, I am embarrassed at my success in living the answers. In a word -- incongruity. No one wants to talk long enough in public to reveal incongruity in their own life.

James spoke of the single mind: "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." The modern apologist Os Guinness wrote a book on doubt, originally title "In Two Minds". I am sure he explains how being in 'two minds' avoids the pitfall of James. Indeed it seems doubt -- his real topic -- is unavoidable. There are many things in which I am "in two minds." But the big things? Kierkegaard spoke of the single mind: "a pure heart is to will one thing." THE big thing.

More than ever I believe "that one thing" is to seek first God's kingdom as Jesus tells us in Matthew 6. No doubt we too often think the battle is won in one fell swoop. But as Lewis reminds us somewhere, to say nothing of Paul and of course Jesus, a 'fell swoop' is necessary, for until we die to self there can be no life unto Christ, no seeking God first.

As long as self is number one we follow ourselves to the grave. But make God number one and we can follow Him to life everlasting!

Does "second blessing holiness" deliver us from the cry of the self? Surely there is something here, with the details being the difficulty. To what degree is deliverance obtained? How can it be lost, if at all? And perhaps most vitally, how does this theological idea of beauty and promise square with the Gospels and the life of Jesus?

That sounds complicated and may be, but I don't think so. I am contending for something I can scarcely countenance because it is as hard as life and an easy burden all at once. When we die to self we embrace John's baptism of repentance so we can walk into and within the life Christ offers. And this life is more than 'spiritual' or 'religious'. It is profoundly real and simple at the same time.

Learning to bless, not curse; learning to ask for what we need rather than resenting our lack; learning to give to those in need, forgive those who have offended, speak truth without snark or self-preservation. Jesus talks about life where the sandals meet the sand and whatever holiness is, it will look like Him. The challenge is to set aside our pet notions of Him and listen well enough to begin to understand who He really is and what He cares about.

Then we learn to live it out daily and discover the easy yoke and the light burden.

That's more than enough for today, a laying out of the land that warms my heart and makes me want to pray. I hope you do, too.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Grace: It is What's Worth

One wonders. That is enough. A world of ideas, fed by experience, beauty, varied other generics. The light and shadow splayed on the blind as the breeze sways and leaves play. Can we look outside of ourselves, beyond the screen, away from inner thoughts, avoid pressing pressures, bring rigorous responsibility at one with joyful rest? What of insight without strain, friendship without losing principle, grace?

What of grace? I do not know. Rules and musts and shoulds. All the 'supposed to' things we think grace pushes away come rushing back when we say, "But you're 'supposed to' show grace."

What does grace mean? Giving as an attitude. Willing to overlook; to forgive; to suffer, not only with, but for.

Can we suffer for? Of course, or we never lived. Mothers suffer for and from their grace we live.

But grace is more than I know and I weep to know. There is little grace in my refusal to accept cheap bandy about this word. Yes, I want deep meaning -- because I desperately want meaning and I cannot know any such thing without depth. So I am lost -- that is, without grace, without goodness, without blessing.

In spite of the wonder, the stretch, the worry, the lack, I dare to believe God is real, that He is good, that He is grace.

"Come boldly to the throne of grace that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." This is the whisper Elijah heard, the breath of God felt when we are in His presence.

Life is grace, all of it, and the answer to objections is, again, grace. All begins with God and will end well, with Him.

"Breath on me breath of God, fill me with life anew."

I receive His grace today, His very person. Not a commodity of enabling but God Himself who is grace. He gives, He whispers. His presence heals. I listen, feel, receive and find in Him new life.

Wondering, wandering, resting in a God of grace.

That is all.