25 December 2011
07 December 2011
Giving. Churches are notorious for talking about tithing, even though the perceptions seldom match reality. Some people think that the only real things that the pastor is interested in is getting money from your wallet into the offering plate. Others will say that their pastor never talks (adequately) about tithing, typically understood as the reason for struggling finances in the congregation. Again, these two extremes do not often serve as accurate descriptions of what is actually happening in a given church community.
What have I discovered throughout my church experience and ministry? First, that any understanding or conversation about giving should always include much more than finances. Many times I hesitate to refer to giving because I intend to speak of an attitude and practice of life, but I know that many ears will hear nothing more than money. So we must push forward and advance the notion that giving is being a living sacrifice, a notion which encompasses every aspect of our lives - both individually and corporately.
Second, I have learned a simple rule of thumb that I have yet to have seen disproved. Those who grumble and complain are those who do not give. Always. Again, although this encompasses the area of giving financially, it is more than that. Within the church community those who are not investing their lives typically do not see the positives of the ministry that is happening around them. But they are quick to identify and problems (real or perceived) and share their disappointments with those who will listen. It is easy to be a pessimist, and easier still to be a dissatisfied consumer. It is human nature, and that is what the Spirit's work in sanctification is trying to overcome.
Jesus spoke about streams of living water (John 7) which would flow from him through the one who believes. If we receive the Spirit but keep it to ourselves we are stopping its life and causing it to pool up and become stagnant, dead water. Only when we give of the grace we have received does the Spirit have the full effect of making us children of God. Thus, the stench of a life that is filled with stagnant water emerges in the attitudes of those who are not allowing the Spirit to flow. The result of this typically reminds us of another image which Jesus used to describe the so-called religious elites of his day: whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23) - looking good and clean on the outside, but decaying and rotting on the inside. The only power in all of creation that can dam this living water (that is, the only power that can stop the Spirit of God) is the human heart.
As I mentioned above, I have never seen a situation where this was not the case, though it is rare for people to actually confirm that they do not give (financially, volunteer, prayer, etc) to their church community. But it does happen, and I do know of some repeated troublemakers who can see nothing good in what God is doing simply because they have not allowed their lives to be surrendered to the supremacy of Jesus. May their hearts be changed, their minds be renewed, and the kingdom glorified through the living water that is desperately trying to flow.
02 December 2011
Thus I find every reason to preview books before purchasing them on my Kindle. I had figured, since this was Brueggemann, that I would be safe in making this purchase. Nope. I have come to discover that I can barely bring myself to read any further once a few statements such as these have been so carelessly tossed in under the veil of knowledge and understanding.
Brueggemann's statement comes at the end of a short list of reasons why the United States is comparable to the ways of ancient Babylon, and thus in need of becoming sober to the judgment of Scripture. Although I happen to think that there are more than a few reasons why such a comparison is appropriate, the examples cited here are somewhat revisionist in their historical perspective, and also inaccurate to factual data. I'm not interested in making a head-to-head history battle over the purpose of the Monroe Doctrine and such, but I am (once again) tired of the fraudulent and manufactured 'crisis' of the mythological 'global warming' to be the impetus for which the church fulfills the kingdom of God.
It is said here that the global-warming-crisis is "now beyond contestation," even though that is far from being truthful. Even if Brueggemann is himself convinced, it is no secret that there are many who contest the reality (at minimum, the scope of the reality) of anthropogenic global warming. (No, the author does not specify 'anthropogenic,' but since he places it in the realm of human responsibility the reader can only assume he is not referring to the warming and cooling trends that have already been documented to occur on our planet.) The fact happens to be that there is a debate over anthropogenic global warming, and it is an irresponsible statement to say that there is not.
Secondly, the argument for anthropogenic global warming is one that appeals to and claims 'consensus,' which is anti-scientific by its very nature. Science used to claim - by consensus it was accepted - that the earth was the center of the universe. That was proved to be factually false, which means that even without consensus the truth remains that the planets of our solar system revolve around the sun. That is science. Facts are inconvenient things . . . because there are none that can debunk the opponents of the claim of anthropogenic global warming. (Remember Climategate, which openly demonstrated a manufacturing and propagating of fraudulent data that supported the claim of anthropogenic global warming.)
Let's assume for a moment that someone came into Walter Brueggemann's world and made sweeping claims regarding the Old Testament, Israel or even the Christian faith. Of course, this happens all the time with Jesus, who is often claimed to be a cynic sage, to have fathered children with Mary Magdalene, was actually a student of Buddhist monasteries, and so on. In fact, the Jesus Seminar did a lot of work on the historical reliability of the Gospels by consensus. And why aren't these ideas taken seriously by biblical scholars and historians such as Dr Brueggemann? Because they lack the credibility of facts, and speak of things that they do not adequately understand!!!! It is unacceptable in one direction, therefore it should be unacceptable in every direction.
But, come on now, let's settle down from one simple statement, shall we? I mean, he is not claiming to be a climatologist, he is simply stating his position as a means to build a much bigger point, right? I might be willing to take that line of thinking, especially for those who think I do not respond in love or with grace. The reason why I have moved on from such naiveté is that I know such approaches do not really work, and that the erosion of biblical truth continues on when such things are not stopped. He freely chose to include this statement, knowing that it is a hot topic for discussion. He freely chose to make one feel isolated and (shall we say) stupid for daring to disagree with what everyone knows to be true. And I, for one, am tired of these kinds of maneuvers, especially in the church and biblical scholarship.
There is more damage being done to the two-thirds world because of the myth of anthropogenic global warming than because of our failure to act upon it. (The same line of reasoning can also be applied to his other examples, which are often half-baked and fail to take credit for the positive work of the kingdom of God that has also happened through the examples he freely chose to include!) Yes, national self-interest can be a damning reason that can hurt more than it harms. But let us also consider that, over the history of our nation that more worldwide good has come from our efforts and sacrifices than any other nation the world has ever seen. Perhaps we have a lot in common with Babylon - I see this every day of my life - but the issue is far too complicated to make statements that are as irresponsible as simple hubris or anti-hubris.
Brueggemann adds the phrase, "Empires rarely notice such challenge in time, nor do they concede anything to those who mount the challenge." This is a sort-of catch-all that I often discover in discussion such as these. If you do not notice how bad things are, that's just typical of being in the situation . . . thus proving my point. And if you disagree with my assessment of how bad things are, that's just typical of being in the situation . . . thus proving my point.
I understand that this isn't intended to be a scholarly work. Yet it is built on scholarly ideas. If Dr Brueggemann's description of the exile of Israel was written with such sweeping inaccuracies as the examples I have critiqued here, then the world of biblical history would be up in arms. But it isn't, because he is a proven academic who knows well the value of being factually informed about that which he speaks. I simply demand that he should be equally tenacious for truth in other areas about which he freely chooses to write. This chapter is foundational material, but I do not anticipate being able to stomach anything built on such disappointment. The opening chapter, from where all of this is drawn, is titled, "The Facts on the Ground . . . Twice!"
But again, facts can be inconvenient things . . . if you really want to know them.
labels: biblical studies