I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Preaching - Doctrine or Experience?

In the past it seems to have been the case that theology has divided sharply between doctrine and experience.  Doctrine is the theory of “truth.”  They are statements like “God is good,” or “Jesus was God,” or “Once save, always saved.”  They are the so-called timeless truths of the faith.

Experience, on the other hand, is the actual life we live as believers.  Our experiences vary wildly depending upon who we are and what circumstances we encounter.

The result of this great divide between doctrine and experience seems to have been preaching that goes one way or the other.  I say this because I have heard an infinite number of sermons in my lifetime – more than I care to recall.  And it has always amazed me at how those who claim to be preaching doctrine can be so incredibly out of touch with the real Christian life.  Conversely, it baffles me how inconsequential preaching can be if it finds its basis in experience and only afterwards cares to reference biblical revelation.

This is certainly not the time or place to explore all the options here, and some might say my above distinction is generic and overly-simplistic – fair enough!  But I do think that if I am at least partially on target here then a great deal can be said for beginning to view the Bible as a doctrine of experiences.  Often the dogmatic doctrine-types will scour the Bible looking for the timeless truths – these they call “doctrines.”  On the other side a preacher may scan the Bible in search of a story line that fits his experience and sermon topic.  

But maybe we should blur the lines a bit and begin to view Scripture as a doctrine of experiences.  In this sense the Written Word of Scripture is primarily concerned with leading us to the Living Word of Christ.  And, in fact, in much theologizing today there is a return to the focus on the narrative and on God’s redemptive actions in history to draw people to himself.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Job - A model of Christian leadership and ministry

Could Job ever be a great leader of men? Job is sickly and pale, wretched and foul. He stinks of vomit and rotting flesh. He is foul and disgraceful – a picture of the disgust of mankind. He is the worst of us all. The picture of Job is a portrait of the pathetic.

Job does not draw a crowd. On the contrary, he is repulsive. He repulses the masses. He is a byword and the refuse of the world. And like refuse his best place is to be discarded and buried. Flushed away, far, far away. Away from our sight and far away so that his stench can no longer turn our stomachs and offend all of our sensibilities. Because it is only his friends who can stand to bear the sight of him in order to pull him out of the depth of his sins. And they only come out of duty, or perhaps it was pity – pity of the worst type.

And Job’s friends must plead for Job to put aside the evil of his life, which is another reason why Job is no leader of men. He is too sinful. No one can follow a leader who has offended God and sits in such a pitiful position of condemnation. He is a reject of his own making. Men can follow a man of vice if that man is a success. If that man is brazen and proud and can make the world jump at the snap of his fingers. But Job…what a pathetic picture! He sits in his ashes and stench – in his misery and his torment – and he demands an audience with God. As though he were innocent! But we know he is a sinner tormented by God. And God will break his will and Job will repent. But no one will follow Job now. Not in his shame. Only a pathetic wretch stands against the good advice of his devoted friends and maintains his innocence in the face of all the facts and all the evidence. We pity such a pathetic and laughable wretch. We pity him, but we do not follow him. We condemn and, perhaps, seek his salvation. But we do not follow one who has so obviously missed the answers and has so obviously missed the point. Repent, Job! Be saved!

Would you follow Job? Would you follow, John David, the representative of the masses? Job has no vision to offer you. He has no inspiration. He cannot inspire you to action or create within your heart a burning for something better. He cannot speak the rally cry to desperate troops. This is not Braveheart, and Job has no courage for you. No courage to give your own heart a steadfast spirit. He is a stubborn fool who persists in his innocence. He cries out to God day and night. Night and day he cries out for an audience with God. Job persists in his plea in the face of all of the masses who tell him to turn around. Even in the face of his wife – the only person who remains who can testify that Job really is innocent. Even in the face of the wife who has lost all faith in the Justice of God and can only curse God and hope for death. Because the God who did this was not the God she believed in. It was time to give up. Death was sweet compared to life. Job could not even muster an inspiring word for his own wife. He called her a fool. Surely such a man has nothing to offer us!

Job has nothing to offer us: No direction, no guidance, no wisdom, no answers, no peace, no courage, no inspiration. He cannot even give us a reason for holding on to faith. And what is this faith of his, anyway. It is nothing that we were taught. Sitting in his ashes he scraps his body with the rough edges of broken pottery and when he can stand the pain no more he screams out for an audience with God. He exists as an anomaly – as a paradox of the faith. Job’s faith is nothing to imitate. If anything it is something to try to explain away: Job is an example of a bad man who got what he deserved. God does not punish good men in such ways. God is good and God is just. Job is receiving the justice he deserves. God does not punish the righteous. God punishes the wicked.

And how great was Job’s wickedness! How deep is the well of his unrighteousness! So many had admired him as righteous. He sat amongst the elders. He was rich. When he spoke we listened. He had much to offer us then! But in the dark what evils lurked. What had Job done in the secret places to draw the ire of the righteous God? This we can only speculate upon. And, of course, there are those who have stepped forward to testify to Job’s wickedness. They seem to be more and more these days – those who would step forward to testify to some aspect of unrighteousness in Job. We hear them. We see Job’s suffering. We turn our faces from the cursed one. A wicked man under the curse of God. We turn away. But we do not follow. What does he offer?

What a duplicitous life Job had led! This is, perhaps, the greatest crime of all! We praised him as righteous. But he was up to no good. We followed him then, for he offered us so much. He spoke words that gave us insight into how to resolve disputes. He spoke of God in a pious way that gave us spiritual insight. So, we sat back and marveled. What a following he had! See how the crowds had followed him! He gave us insight. And we benefited from the riches of his estate, for Job was a man of financial insight. He gave us so much. And we followed. But it had all been an double life. We know that now.

Job has nothing to offer the masses. He has nothing to offer the crowds. He is not a leader of men. He is to be pitied above all. He has no “Cause” that he believes in, save his own innocence. Does he even believe in God’s righteousness anymore? Does he love God? Does he even believe, anymore?

Job is not a man I will follow. He does not inspire me. He repulses me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Women and Christianity

I wandered across an excellent article on the status of women today in Christianity written by Rebecca Groothuis. Regardless of your position on this issue this article is of immense benefit for two reasons:
1 – There is a primary focus upon the biblical text as the grounds for arguments.
2 – The arguments are clear, logical, and rational.

The view expressed below is very close to my own. Here is an excerpt from the article:

What is Biblical Equality?
Evangelical egalitarianism, or biblical equality, refers to the biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer’s gifting or calling to any ministry in the church or home. In particular, the exercise of spiritual authority, as biblically defined, is deemed as much a female believer’s privilege and responsibility as it is a male believer’s.
Biblical equality does not mean women and men are identical or undifferentiated. Biblical egalitarians recognize average differences (both learned and intrinsic) between women and men, and affirm that God designed men and women to complement and benefit one another.
Although it shares with feminism the belief that unjust treatment of women should be remediated, biblical equality is not grounded in feminist ideology, which is derived from cultural factors and philosophies. Rather, biblical equality is grounded simply and solely in the properly consistent interpretation of God’s written word. On this basis, biblical egalitarians (a) affirm that the gifts and callings of the Spirit are distributed without regard to gender, and that all believers in Christ stand on equal ground before God, and (b) repudiate the notion that the Bible grants to men spiritual authority and other religious privileges that it denies to women…..

For more go to: http://www.ivpress.com/groothuis/rebecca/archives/000262.php#more

Today In History: 06-06-06!

Today In History - June 6, 2006
(AP) Today is Tuesday, June sixth, the 157th day of 2006. There are 208 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June sixth, 1944, the “D-Day” invasion of Europe took place during World War Two as Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France. On this date: In 1606, 400 years ago, French dramatist Pierre Corneille was born in Rouen. In 1844, the Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in London. In 1918, the World War One Battle of Belleau Wood, which resulted in a US victory over the Germans, began in France. In 1925, Walter Percy Chrysler founded the Chrysler Corporation. In 1934, the Securities and Exchange Commission was established. In 1942, Japanese forces retreated in the World War Two Battle of Midway. In 1966, 40 years ago, black activist James Meredith was shot and wounded as he walked along a Mississippi highway to encourage black voter registration. In 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, a day after he was shot by Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. In 1978, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 13, a primary ballot initiative calling for major cuts in property taxes. In 1985, authorities in Brazil exhumed a body later identified as the remains of Dr. Josef Mengele, the notorious “Angel of Death” of the Nazi Holocaust. Ten years ago: The Senate narrowly rejected a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution as outgoing Majority Leader Bob Dole and the Democrats clashed over deficit reduction. A family of four became the first persons to leave the Freemen ranch in Montana since April. Five years ago: Democrats formally assumed control of the US Senate; the unprecedented shift in power came about after the decision of Vermont Republican James Jeffords to become an independent. A jury in Los Angeles awarded more than three billion dollars to lifelong smoker Richard Boeken, deciding that tobacco giant Philip Morris was responsible for his incurable lung cancer. (The jury award was reduced by a Superior Court judge to 100 (m) million dollars, then cut to 50 (m) million by an appeals court; the U-S Supreme Court refused in March 2006 to consider tossing out the award altogether; Boeken died in 2002.) One year ago: The Supreme Court ruled, 6-to-3, that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws. A judge upheld Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire’s victory—by 129 votes—in Washington state’s 2004 election. Actor Russell Crowe was arrested for throwing a phone that hit a hotel employee in New York City; he later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. Death claimed actress Anne Bancroft at age 73 and actor Dana Elcar at age 77. Today’s Birthdays: Actress Billie Whitelaw is 74. Civil rights activist Roy Innis is 72. Singer Levi Stubbs (The Four Tops) is 70. Singer-songwriter Gary “US” Bonds is 67. Country singer Joe Stampley is 63. Actor Robert Englund is 57. Folk singer Holly Near is 57. Singer Dwight Twilley is 55. Playwright-actor Harvey Fierstein is 52. Comedian Sandra Bernhard is 51. Tennis player Bjorn Borg is 50. Actress Amanda Pays is 47. Comedian Colin Quinn is 47. Record producer Jimmy Jam is 47. Rock musician Steve Vai is 46. Actor Jason Isaacs is 43. Rock musician Sean Yseult (White Zombie) is 40. Actor Max Casella is 39. Actor Paul Giamatti is 39. Rhythm-and-blues singer Damion Hall (Guy) is 38. Rock musician Bardi Martin is 37. Rock musician James “Munky” Shaffer (Korn) is 36. Country singer Lisa Brokop is 33. Rapper-rocker Uncle Kracker is 32. Actress Staci Keanan is 31. Thought for Today: “To win without risk is to triumph without glory.”—Pierre Corneille, French dramatist (1606-1684).

Taken from:

Also see:

Superstitious Mothers-To-Be Take Steps to Make Sure Babies Aren't Born on June 6, 2006

Hell shines in its apocalyptic moment in the sun
HELL, Michigan (Reuters) - The road to Hell was crowded with the curious on Tuesday -- as well as devils-in-disguise, hearse enthusiasts, Christian protesters and merchants trying to cash in on the apocalypse.
Hell, Michigan, a tiny town about 60 miles (97 km) west of Detroit, threw itself open for a once-in-a-millennium party to mark the passage of June 6, 2006 -- or 6-6-6, a number long associated with the Antichrist.
Home to only about 70 souls on an average day, Hell's population swelled to the hundreds by Tuesday afternoon, with dozens waiting in line to buy T-shirts emblazoned with "666."...
...Auto salvage worker Ken McKeny, 43, pulled his customized, casket on wheels into town with the "4MLDHYD" licence plates, part of a Michigan-based hearse enthusiasts group that call themselves "Hearsin' Around."
"I went to work this morning but my boss told me to get out and go to Hell," he said.

6-Foot, 6-Inch Grandfather Turns 66 On 6/6/06
(CBS) MANCHESTER, N.H. Paul Porter was born on June 6. He was always good with numbers. He just didn't realize how good."A couple of weeks ago, I happened to think about the irony of 6-6-06. And I'll be 66 and I'm 6 feet, 6 inches."....
..."I don't believe the world is going to end because I have 12 years left on my mortgage," he said. "I don't think the bank would allow it."An Army veteran, Porter has his birthday on his Veterans license plate. It is a reminder of one of the most important days in American history: the allied invasion of Normandy in World War II."I often think of the significance of D-Day more than anything else."But this year, he's just having fun with the numbers.By the way, did we tell you he has six grandchildren?
(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)