Arguing and The Cold War

The US at one time was the only nation on the earth that had an atomic bomb. But in 1949 Stalin and Russia got one.

President Truman had a decision to make. What should the US do now? Bomb Russia? Ban the bomb? Truman decided to call a bunch of scientists together to see if there was any possibility of building a larger bomb.

Their answer: Yeah, we could, but should we?

Truman’s doctrine here was called Escalation Dominance.

The concept holds that the United States can best contain conflicts and avoid escalation if it is dominant at each successive rung up the “ladder of escalation,” all the way to the top rung of nuclear weapons.

Whoever has the biggest weapon can use it as a threat to force other nations to back off. But to effectively use this threat, you have to keep going up the ladder to more powerful weapons.

This term, Escalation Dominance, reminds me of arguing theology, or anything else for that matter.

Both sides state their claims. Both disagree on the Bible passages. Both disagree on the proper interpretation or definitions. Stalemate.

“You need to talk to my pastor. He knows this subject better than I do.”

“Your pastor? What does he know? You need to read Doctor So-And-So, he has studied this for 20 years and has written four books on the subject.”

“Yeah, well, you need to read Doctor This-And-That, he has studied this subject for 34 years and has written seven books.”

“Pssh, you should listen to St. DeadGuy who wrote 1,650 years ago and shaped all theologians.”

“What? That’s nothing. Early Church Father WhatsHisName knew a guy who knew Paul and practically wrote the first ever commentary on Romans.”

“An English speaking ignoramus would trust him. If you knew Arabic and the writings of WeirdNamedGuy of WeirdNamedPlace, who used to change the Apostle Paul’s diapers, then you would truly understand.”

On and on it goes. It’s the argument from Authority. In essence, “My dad is bigger than your dad.”

This probably isn’t true all the time, but for the most part, if you begin quoting people in your arguments, you’ve probably entered Escalation Dominance territory.

Your desire is to bring out the Big Guns and silence the moron. It’s too bad people have more respect for degrees, prestige, and honors than they do simple humble dependence on the Spirit.

So, what happened with Truman’s Escalation Dominance theory? For many years both the US and Russia built bigger and more bombs than the other guy. I suppose it worked, since we’re all still here. At the same time, there is still tension between the US and Russia, and now also with a few other nations who escalated their weapons too.

Escalation Dominance doesn’t ever really solve a conflict. When it comes to the Bible, either you know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Resist the urge to one-up each others authorities into infinity. The argument is already over. You’ve reached stalemate.

Let it go.

Why Do Creatonists and Evolutionists Fear Each Other?

My daughter had a discussion in class yesterday about Creation and Evolution and whether both should be taught in school.

First off, Creationism means something different from Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is a non-religious, scientifically analyzed theory of how stuff got here, concluding that something Intelligent is behind it.

Creationism has more to do with Biblical Creationism. It is my opinion that schools should not teach religion of any sort. Thus, I don’t want the schools to teach Biblical Creationism. This makes me a horrible person among some Christians, but alas, schools will butcher the Bible, so I’d assume they stay away from it (not that the church does much better, but alas).

However, there is an increasing scientific rejection of Darwinian Evolution and an increasing scientific acceptance of Intelligent Design. I believe these facts should be presented in schools. Science is based on problem solving. Presenting problems with Evolution may actually inspire science to do better work. As soon as science rests on ideology, discovery stops, which is especially why Evolutionist’s antagonism toward questioning their theory is so odd to me.

Secondly, it is amusing how both sides are so terrified of each other. Evolutionists are afraid of Creationism or Intelligent Design, presumably because a Creator implies morality, judgment, accountability to something larger than self or society, or any number of other reasons.

They fear establishing religion. Their disdain for religion and religious people is so violently angry, it does make a guy wonder why so much anger. Me thinkest thou protesteth too loudly.

Before we get all rah-rah bashing Evolutionists, I’m also intrigued by the fear so many Creationists have about Evolution. If you believe God created the world because His infallible Word you supposedly believe says so, why are you afraid of some guy’s theory?

I imagine many an uptight Christian parent believes that exposing their kids to contrary opinions will possibly destroy their carefully crafted faith they laid out for them. If we keep little Johnny isolated, little Johnny will believe all we want him to believe.

I imagine there is some truth to that logic, but I doubt Johnny’s faith will ever become personal. Agreeing with the only option you know is not faith, however. Little Johnny might agree with mommy and daddy all the way to hell.

I believe God created the world, and I’m even one of those weirdos who thinks God created the world in six literal days. I believe that because that’s what the Bible says. Both Evolution and Creationism are based on faith. No Evolutionist was there at the beginning, nor was any Creationist.

As Hebrews 11 says, it is by “faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” It is also by faith the Evolutionist believes the world was framed by chance. The Evolutionist holds Science as his word of authority; the Creationist relies on the Bible. In both cases, you are taking another person’s word for it–both are based on faith.

I am not afraid of Evolution. I have quite a lot of confidence in the Bible. I believe that if a person truly analyzes Evolution they will find significant problems. I believe the Bible, although not answering all our questions, presents an outlook on life that makes way more sense in many ways. I understand why Evolutionists disagree with that, but I do not understand why they fear it.

Fear is a sign of insecurity. If you fear the other side, you are merely admitting your insecurity in defending your side or disproving the other side. Fear and ignorance go hand in hand.

Most who fear competing ideas (whether Evolutionists or Creationists), are admitting they don’t know what they are talking about. If you are one of these people, I suggest you learn a little more about your view and then learn more about the other side (by reading the other side, not reading what your side says about the other side). There is nothing to fear in being informed, other than hard work. But isolating, being afraid, demanding silence to the other side, will do very little and will keep you ignorant and terrified.

The Bible can take care of itself. God is a big boy, He can defend Himself just fine. We can Trust Him. Let your kids know that. Let them know we don’t have to fear alternative views of life. If we truly believe we have Truth on our side, what is there to fear?

A Few Thoughts on Recreation

I am currently on level 490 in Candy Crush. Candy Crush is an app where you match kinds of candy in challenging puzzles to achieve the goal. It’s fun. It is also a colossal waste of time.

However, every life has some time to waste. I enjoy playing Candy Crush while listening to podcasts. I enjoy playing a few games while waiting for my wife  who said she was leaving “in a minute.” It’s a nice diversion while in waiting rooms or sitting in the car waiting for kids.

It’s still a waste of time, but most of the time, it’s time I’d be wasting anyway. And, yes, I know, I could be reading my Bible or memorizing. I got that covered already.

I consider Candy Crush to be recreation. If you think about the word “recreation” you will notice it’s made up of two parts. Re and creation. It literally means “to refresh by means of relaxation and enjoyment, as restore physically or mentally.

You know you have successfully recreated when you feel more alive afterwards.

Sometimes we think recreation is a waste. That depends. Some things we consider recreation really aren’t.

There are times when I watch too much TV, or play too much Candy Crush, or watch too many videos on YouTube, where I certainly don’t feel more alive afterward. In fact, sometimes I feel awful and horrible about existence itself.

One man’s recreation is another man’s waste of time. I know people who judge my football watching even though they obsessively watch movies. People think running is stupid, because everyone should fish. Your recreation is not a standard others should be judged by.

One of the greatest things in life is finding something that gives you life that is also helpful to others. For me, preaching and writing, when it goes well, is recreation. It gives me a charge. I feel re-created after a good, rousing sermon.

One of the reasons I have maintained this blog for so long is that I simply enjoy writing. Whether anyone reads it, not really the main point! Even less of a point is whether anyone liked it! I just like writing.

We all have down-time in life, and those who don’t have down time have issues. We need down time. We need diversion and recreation. We need rest. We need to unplug the brain at times. This is not a bad thing.

Christians tend to get obsessed with “Redeem the time” guilt trips. “Every second must be spent for eternity. People go to hell because you are crushing candy.” Lighten up. God rested, I imagine we should too.

But all things can be abused. We should think carefully about our time choices, but we should also refrain from obsessing about being productive every second of existence. You’ll give yourself an ulcer. There is a time to chill.

Find that time and find something that recreates you.

Some Recent Thoughts About Prayer

Most Christians admit that they don’t pray enough. This is mostly because it seems weird, people don’t know how to do it, and there is a plethora of conflicting advice about it.

The Bible actually never details how much time a person should pray, other than “Pray without ceasing.” When we are told to do something without ceasing, this can’t help but make us feel like a failure when we inevitably cease.

The Church has not done much to help people feel more comfortable with prayer. In fact, the Church seems to only hurt.

I know one pastor who repeatedly brags about how much he prays and how great he is because one night his son came into the kitchen at 3 a.m. and found him praying. “Do your kids catch you praying?”

Unfortunately, this makes people feel like the only good prayer is a prayer at an inconvenient hour when someone is watching.

The Church has also taken up the tactic that prayer is a tool to manipulate God. You have to put the time in, the sincerity, the emotion, the energy and zeal to convince God enough to hear you.

Certainly there are instances in the Bible where people used emotion, zeal, and passion in prayer and were heard–Hannah’s prayer for a son at the temple, for instance. There were many times they were not heard despite emotion–David mourning to God when his son was going to die, for instance.

Every believer should have prayers of emotion from time to time. But to think you have to be worked up in order for God to hear you is not a biblical notion.

Yes, persistence is noted as a way to be heard–parable of the persistent widow. At the same time we are warned not to use vain repetition. Repetition is no guarantee of being heard.

You can repeat things in prayer if you mean it every time. But repeating words for the sake of repeating words is vain.

Many believe that if they don’t pray before an event, something horrible will happen in that event. If I don’t pray before leaving for work, something horrible will happen at work kind of thing.

As a pastor, I will confess to feeling I should pray more on Saturdays so my message on Sunday goes better. I don’t pray on Sundays for my Mondays as much as I pray for my Sundays on a Saturday.

This is not prayer to God as much as it is hoping I rub the bottle enough to get the genie to do my bidding. This turns prayer into a lucky rabbit’s foot.

I have also wondered, when the Bible says not to take any thought for tomorrow, if I should even pray for tomorrow! Lately I have just prayed for today. On Saturdays I pray that I use my Saturdays well enough to be ready for Sunday instead of worrying about Sunday.

I don’t know if this theory is correct, but I’ve been doing this for a while now and have found it to be a releasing relief! It’s been working for me.

In the end, pray. That’s it. Just pray. God wants to hear from you. Your Creator and Savior wants you to talk to Him. This is a mind-blowing concept. I suggest we find the coolness in this and enjoy it.

No guilt. No superstition. No manipulation. No testing. Just talk to God.

Can a Christian Work in Sales? Part 2

Yesterday I asked whether Christians could work in sales.

My point was not to get people to quit sales. You won’t get very far in life without buying stuff, which means someone has to sell it. As with many things you won’t get far in life not doing, often we never stop to think about what it is we’re doing.

The Bible repeatedly talks about the dangers of money and covetousness. This leads me to think we should be careful in getting people to spend money, especially since the Bible also warns about causing your brother to stumble.

Any profession can be abused. Sales certainly can be abused. I have seen it. I have talked to many believers in sales who shared their struggle with it, and I empathize with them. I also know others who did it their entire life and seemed to do it with integrity.

I’ve met and heard about plenty of scummy pastors. I could dare ask the question: Can a true Christian be pastor of a church belonging to (place denominational name here)? I’m not feeling jerkish enough to be any more specific with that question.

It must be admitted that in sales, there is personality involved. I have always been a person who does not want to talk to strangers. Being a cross-eyed, blind guy will do that to you.

My aversion to sales has more to do with shyness than anything spiritual. Others can sell their entire inventory merely by burping in public.

Mundane details of life, like work and buying groceries, can be a source of sin. The Bible warns more about coveting than it does homosexuality. This doesn’t mean homosexuality is no big deal; it means that covetousness is a really big deal, in that it effects more people more often.

Every trip to the store, every viewing of a commercial, every observation of what others have, are potential pitfalls. We do these things so often, we rarely consider their dangers.

I’m not Mr. Immune over here either.

Christians are supposed to be separate from the world. We’re supposed to have the mind of Christ, not being conformed to this world. This has to lead to different choices, and ultimately different lifestyles.

Can a Christian work in sales? Yes they can, even if I can’t, but they need to be aware of the dangers. The Bible says stuff about sales, which obviously implies sales is something a Bible-believer can do.

We’re told not to use unjust weights. Israel was commanded not to charge interest to fellow Jews. They had rules about not ripping people off due to the coming Sabbath year. They were told not to sell food at a profit to the poor.

For a Christian to be in sales, I believe they must have faith in their product, that it is good, worth the price, and something that is helpful. If they need to lie to make a sale, something is off.

Covetousness is a huge deal in God’s eyes; He equates it with idolatry. That being the case, any Christian salesman must avoid the coveting angle.

So, think it over. If you need more help thinking over the issue of money, I wrote a book on it! It’s for sale on Amazon for the price of printing, since I hate sales so much I couldn’t bring myself to charge any money for it.

So, there you go: can a Christian sell stuff? I just tried. Now I will go repent in dust and ashes.

2 Errors to Avoid While Giving Your Testimony

One of the most difficult things about being a Christian is explaining what Jesus Christ has done in your life without sounding like a holier-than-thou, know it all, jerk.

I recently heard that more church time should be granted to people giving testimonies. I’m hesitant to agree with that.

Most testimonies I’ve heard go one of two ways:

  1. They celebrate past sin and brag about how evil their past life was.
  2. They celebrate how wonderful their current life is and launch into, “So be more like me and you will be happy like me” lecturing.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll hear testimonies that include both. Oi. Both tendencies are based on pride.

Those who blather on about their past awesomely sinful life, don’t really sound all that repentant. Rarely are tears included. Instead, one gets the idea this is a self-absorbed brag session with hints of the Jerry Springer show.

I have heard many testimonies glorying in the current spiritual awesomeness of the testator, only to have the testator take a fall soon after. Be careful for pride in your testimony.

Now, my cynicism about testimonies may say more about me than those testifying. One reason people don’t like testimonies is because it makes us feel ashamed or at least lazy or ineffective. I am more than willing to include this as an option.

One of the worst things people can do in giving a testimony is to lecture people about doing what they did.

I’m glad you have experienced growth, that’s tremendous. But the way your growth occurs may not be the way another person’s growth occurs. Yet 90% of “Let me tell you how I’ve grown” testimonies go on to say, “so you should do it just like me.”

I grew because I adopted a kid. You should adopt a kid too.
I grew because I went to Honduras. You should go to Honduras too.
I grew because I moved to the inner city. You should move to the inner city too.
I grew because my wife had an affair. Your wife should have an affair too.

OK, I’ve heard all of those except the last one, but it proves my point on the ridiculousness of such statements.

Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith, our great cloud of witnesses who had real faith. Their faith wasn’t just their opinion about their faith either! This is who God thinks had great faith.

Note that each person had completely different things happen to them. Note that each person’s faith was demonstrated differently.

God knows each of us as individuals. Conformity is what the world does. Anytime you hear a “Christian” telling you to do everything they do, know you are hearing the spirit of the world rather than the Spirit of Christ.

We’re all different. Different is OK. Many members having different gifts. The goal is spiritual transformation, not conformity to other people.

I’m glad you grew spiritually, just don’t shove your experience down someone else’s throat and potentially block the role of the Holy Spirit.

When it comes to testimonies, I lean toward forgetting those things that are behind until I can figure out how to share my experience without veering into danger. You can do as you choose, because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Testimonies should ultimately be about Christ. Make sure yours is.

Mary, Joseph, Faith, and Uncertainty

Faith needs uncertainty to thrive.

Faith is based on hearing God’s Word. Many of us have a desire to have things in the Bible explained a little bit more. Can’t we drop one of those chapters about mildew on walls for some more information about foreknowledge?

But alas, we have the Bible we have. Unless you want to become a Mormon, there are no other books of the Bible to fill in the gaps.

What’s fascinating is how many people in the Bible are in the same predicament as us. Although we like to think Abraham, Noah, Moses, Elijah, and others had more information, most of them were acting on very little.

It was enough that God had said a few things to them. That was all they needed.

Mary and Joseph strike me as two perfect representations of this. Mary was told she would have a kid. There was very little explanation of how. The Spirit would come upon her. Well, like, how? What does that mean?

The baby was apparently the Messiah. What about His education? Do we spank Him? Do we feed Him? Can’t we just sit here and let the baby do whatever He wants; we know He’s going to grow up to be the Messiah. Do we do anything?

There had to be a ton of questions. Joseph not only had questions about his son, but also about his wife. What a tumultuous situation they were thrust into. No room at the inn. Wise men from the East drop by. Flight to Egypt comes with Herod killing babies all because of you, and an eventual move back home.

I can’t even imagine the uncertainty. According to the Bible, there was no further revelation given to them other than around Christ’s birth. The few glimpses we get certainly seems to show Mary not quite getting what was really going on. “Don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”

Uncertainty. Lack of information. This is where faith is real.

It’s easy to say you have faith when you have no reason to have any! Uncertainty is a requirement for faith. Learn to enjoy uncertainty. This is the proving grounds and strengthening of faith.

Mary and Joseph were thrown into the deep end. We have this great cloud of witnesses who have come before, who moved on uncertain and inadequate information. They were flesh and blood like we are. In many ways, we have more information than any of them ever had.

Take courage from the long list of faithful people in Hebrews 11 who were as uncertain, confused, and questioning as we are. If they could do it, so can you.