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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union - The Defining Issue

A clipping from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22878539/ regarding last night's state of the union address. Bush names international terrorism as the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century:

But Bush cautioned against weakening American resolve in the struggle against international terrorism, which he called “the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century.”

“The terrorists oppose every principle of humanity and decency that we hold dear,” he said. “Yet in this war on terror, there is one thing we and our enemies agree on: In the long run, men and women who are free to determine their own destinies will reject terror and refuse to live in tyranny.”

But despite the fact that this is the "defining struggle," what gets all the attention in the speech? The economy, stupid:

With the campaign to succeed him threatening to push him to the background in his last year in office, Bush devoted the bulk of his address to the economy, heeding opinion polls that indicate that it has surpassed the war as Americans’ foremost concern.

While the president went to bat for his military “surge” in Iraq, he devoted most of his speech to the economy, confronting Congress on two fronts, taxes and spending.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Doctrine and Life

Are you a part of a Protestant church that privileges doctrine over life? Or that emphasizes doctrine so much that the life of the Christian seems to take a back seat? Have you ever wondered why Protestant sermons are often neatly divided between "doctrine" (or "exegesis") and "application" (that always follows the doctrine/exegesis)????

Well, I'm not sure I can give you an exhaustive answer, but I did run across a Martin Luther quote this morning that may be of interest to the discussion. This from his commentary on Galatians 5:10:

"I cannot say it often enough, that we must carefully differentiate between doctrine and life. Doctrine is a piece of heaven, life is a piece of earth. Life is sin, error, uncleanness, misery, and charity must forbear, believe, hope, and suffer all things. Forgiveness of sins must be continuous so that sin and error may not be defended and sustained. But with doctrine there must be no error, no need of pardon. There can be no comparison between doctrine and life. The least little point of doctrine is of greater importance than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot allow the least jot of doctrine to be corrupted. We may overlook the offenses and errors of life, for we daily sin much. Even the saints sin, as they themselves confess in the Lord’s Prayer and in the Creed. But our doctrine, God be praised, is pure, because all the articles of our faith are grounded on the Holy Scriptures." (emphasis mine)

Is the "least little point of doctrine" more important than heaven and earth? Also, I think it is of interest that Luther appears to resign the believer to a life of sin and misery. Dead to sin???? (Romans 6)

Friday, January 25, 2008

The health of tuna fish

For those of you interested in your food choices, here is an interesting article, The Danger of Not Eating Tuna. I like to mix up canned salmon (or tuna) with relish, spices, and mayo and put it on toast for a tasty and somewhat healthy lunch choice. So, I'm always interested in reading about mercury in fish and/or the benefits of eating fish.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Just so we know, which fish are higher and which are lower in mercury?

Shellfish are almost all low in mercury because they don't live very long and they're small: shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops. And shellfish have medium levels of omega-3s, similar to other medium-size fish. Salmon are also good. They're high in omega-3s and low in mercury because they're also short-lived.

Light tuna is low in mercury, compared with white (albacore) or red (bluefin) tuna. On average white tuna has three times the mercury as light tuna. But on average white tuna has three times the omega-3s as light tuna — and all the evidence that we can see suggests that omega-3s have more benefit than mercury has harm.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that there's inconclusive evidence that mercury has any long-term effects in adults at the levels that are commonly consumed, and that even if there are effects, studies suggest that they are only to lessen the benefit of the fish. That's important from a public health perspective — we might be getting even more benefit from fish on a population level if we took the mercury out, and that's a very important question that should be answered. But that doesn't mean that the individual person trying to decide on a fish meal should worry about mercury.

I know I sound like I'm trying to downplay the risk but I really think we are experimenting with people's lives when we give recommendations or write stories or reports that make people eat less fish. We know from very good human studies that fish intake reduces the risk of dying from a heart attack by about a third. And heart attack is the number-one cause of death in the U.S. among both women and men. It's the number-one cause of death in almost every country in the world. And eating fish once or twice a week reduces that risk by a third. So if we're causing people not to eat fish or to choose to eat something other than fish because they're worried that the fish has some mercury in it, they're increasing their risk of dying from a heart attack for a concern that has not been established.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clinton Double Team

Interesting article here on the political effect of Bill Clinton on the Democratic Primary. Hillary can abandon South Carolina (because in all probability she will lose) and jump to other states. Bill, however, can stay in S. Car. and campaign. With Bill in S. Car., Obama has to stay there a bit longer to make sure that he doesn't lose it.....Golly, those Clintons are quite a team!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Church of the Underground

I was recently in a mood to write out a list of concise thoughts summarizing my thinking on the body of Christ in our current 21st century American context. These are also the result of some of the blogging that I have been doing on the body of Christ.

I classify all of these as being a return to the simple goals and objectives of the church; the church going underground.

1. Get the money out of the church
No more of the Big Green or the Bling Bling. No more big budgets, paid pastors who view ministry as a career path, no more expensive and divisive building projects, no more bright lights and neon signs, no more marketing and advertising budgets. Anything that needs doing can be done by those who give their time sacrificially.

2. The church is not a building
The church should go underground. If others do not know you are a part of the body of Christ based on your life, then you didn't have anything substantial to offer, anyway. Ask this: If a church didn't have a big sign, a building, a budget, or anything else that people could see, then what would be left? If the church goes underground, as I suggest, then the only thing that the body of Christ would have to display is their personal lives and the way they treat each other.

3. Anything "spiritual" that you say should come from pain
Words in these days are so meaningless. People really just don't care about religious talk anymore. Please use religious-speak very sparingly. No more repeating meaningless dogma. If a belief you have has not caused you pain as you have wrestled with its truth, then it isn't a real belief; it's just renting space in your head. I advise silence: Let God speak in a still small voice.

4. Get simple
In Galatians, Paul said, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

5. Don't try to make converts
We don't need more Christians in the United States. We have enough people running around claiming this label. It's a term that has been so overused as to be completely worthless and counterproductive. I mean it. The language is banal. Don't use it. Don't proselytize. Make people curious. Everybody's got some kind of religion these days. If someone is truly seeking and is truly interested, then you'll know. Trust me.

6. Small-scale brotherhood
The masses ain't where it's at when it comes to relationships that count. These are the Hebrews 3:13 relationships that can save us from hardness of heart and can keep our paradigms open.

7. Scripture must live again
Most of the Bible was not written as timeless truth. God's Word was mostly for the Now. This means that Scripture is now for our Now. That is, if you understand the Word you have only done about half of what needs to be done. The Word only matters if it is meaningful for the contemporary context. A hermeneutic similar to that used by Paul and the author of Hebrews should be used as a norm to guide us in our interpretation and appropriation of the Scripture. In short, if your Bible isn't changing you, then get rid of it!

8. Burn the Bibles
The irony of American Christianity is that it seems as though the increase in the quantity of Bibles has resulted in a proportional decrease in the Bible's significance and ability to change hearts and lives. I recommend some Bible burning so that we can, perhaps, appreciate it again and read it anew. I suggest we destroy the extra paper in the name of preserving the meaningfulness of the text. Bible-making is a business for us in America, not a sacred transmission of truth.

9. Dare God to Work
It just strikes me that a good deal of those of us in America want to control God's work. That is, we want to develop mission statements and goals and objectives that we can measure and achieve. It's something of a corporate model. But honestly, I really don't think God is doing all that much in America. Sorry, but that's my opinion. I think it's time to stop trying and just pray; but pray in such a way that we dare God to move. Let it all ride on whether God decides to act. Just dare him.

10. Openness, openness, openness
Vulnerability within the body of Christ. Without it, all you have is religious duty.

11. Live dangerously
What might our faith look like if we took risks? What if we took intellectual risks and followed our minds when they started to ask questions? Even heretical questions? (Especially heretical questions?) What would faith look like if we took risks with our emotions? Our time? Our money? Even our physical bodies--Putting ourselves in harms way??? You don't have much time. Really. Your life is like a puff of smoke. Do something dangerous.

12. Do the Church Hop
Why not hop around and visit many different worship settings and interact with diverse believers??? Take a different church each Sunday and explore. This would bring the body of Christ together and help eliminate the divisions that buildings, budgets, and 501(c)3's create. Let's unite believers together by appreciating difference.

13. Get rid of the Org
While we are on the subject, ditch the 501(c)3 thing. The body of Christ does not exist as a Schedule A write-off for your 1040 Individual Income Tax Return.

14. Give generously
No. Give dangerously. And give to stuff you believe in. Don't just go through the motions of writing a check each week and dropping it in a plate. How generic is that??!!?

15. Start over every day
The Psalmist says that God's mercies are new every morning. So, why not look for them? In Christ the deeds of the past are no longer counted for or against us. The good and bad is nothing to ponder, anymore. Each day is about you and the Spirit of God. Period. I'm tired of being a "mature" believer. I'd rather be a hungry, young believer.

16. You have everything you need
Sure, books, sermons, DVD's, mp3's, etc. can be helpful. But let's ditch the Paperback Pope. If you've got issues/questions/struggles/opportunities the best thing to do is realize that the Spirit within is the main thing. Be rational and reflective. Trust yourself. Try. Fail. Love. Grow. Progress. Regress. You don't need to be a John Piper (or fill in the blank) Groopie.

17. Learn from nonbelievers
They probably know more than you.....ok, maybe it depends on what's on the table. The sharp divide between Believer/Unbeliever is overrated, in my opinion.

18. Make a mess
Many American churches look great on the surface. Really. We can have great worship experiences, hear good sermons, and have nice outreach programs. But in my opinion the body of Christ should be a community where one's ugliest sides of life are just as important to know as the good stuff. Most of us just bury it all inside; nobody really cares, anyway, so we all just deal. My thought: You aren't in real fellowship until other believers know the real you. So, make a mess of things. It's ok to live in a messy church.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"Go Feck Yourself!"

[begin infomercial]

[begin intro infomercial music]
Are you a Christian and conservative with your language? But do you still sometimes get mad at people and want to curse?

We'll we at Cursenomore have just the product for you.

It's Feck!

Life can be difficult. People will cut you off on the highway, cars can break down at the worst time, and sometimes it all just piles up on you! We at Cursenomore understand, and that's why we want you to have "Feck."
[fade out intro infomercial music]

[begin testimonial by well groomed, roundly shaped man in mid-thirties with slightly nerdy tone of voice]
My name is Tom. I am a pastor of a very nice church. I always listen to Christian music on the radio and want my children to grow up in a safe atmosphere. [pause, guilty look] But I do get angry sometimes with how people drive, and every once in a while a bad word will slip out of my mouth. [pause, even more guilty looking] I have used [bleeping out the word] and I sometimes have even said [bleeping out the word] and [bleeping out the word]. But since using Feck I've been a whole new person. I have not used [bleeping out the word], [bleeping out the word], or [bleeping out the word]. Not once. [look of relief and satisfaction] Feck has changed my life and made my car a safe place again for the kids to listen to Christian music or watch wholesome DVDs.
[end testimonial by well groomed, roundly shaped man in mid-thirties with slightly nerdy tone of voice]

[fade in upbeat infomercial music]
Just in the feck of time, you, too, can get rid of those nasty pofanities. Just like that, they can be gone--fecking gone!
[dim the upbeat infomercial music]

[begin testimonial from attractive, thin and trendy woman with wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look]
There are sooooo many fecking good combinations. [little giggle] Uhhmmmmm, there's "Feck you," "What the Feck??!!" "Get the feck out of here!" "Feck that," Oh, and "Feck off!" You can just be so creative!
[end testimonial from attractive, thin and trendy woman with wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look]

[fade in teary eyed, dramatic infomercial music]
Sometimes cursing can really be bad for you and others around you.
[begin testimonial by well groomed, roundly shaped man in mid-thirties with slightly nerdy tone of voice]
[really serious look] I know what it is like to drop the Fbomb....and I'm a Pastor. Imagine the fear I felt at the possibility that one day I would say [bleeping out the word] or even [bleeping out the word] and a person in my congregation would hear.
[end testimonial by well groomed, roundly shaped man in mid-thirties with slightly nerdy tone of voice]

But you don't have to curse. Not if you're Fecked!

[abrupt change to upbeat infomercial music]
Order today! You, too, can curse no more! The profanity can be gone in a Feck! The results are guaranteed. You will never have to curse again.

But that's not all! Be one of the first hundred callers and we'll also send you a bonus product. Pick up the phone and order right now and you'll also receive "Crum!"

[begin testimonial from man named James who is doing some electrical wiring around the house]
I do a lot of odd jobs and handyman work around the house, and sometimes I like to help out friends with jobs at their houses. Crum works great for those small jobs where things just don't go quite the way you had planned. I use Crum all the time for those little things. It works great. It's always right there, whenever I need an "Ah, crum!" or even just a quick "Crum" under my breath.
[end testimonial from man named James who is doing some electrical wiring around the house]

Feck is a real product with real results. And the results are guaranteed.

Being curse-free is just a phone call away. Call 1-800-Feck-Off to speak with a helpful service representative. Remember, Feck is guaranteed to make you curse-free. You can even try it risk-free for thirty days.

Get Feck today by calling 1-800-Feck-Off. That's 1-800-Feck-Off.

Call today!

Feck yourself right now: it's for your own good and the safety of those you love.

[end infomercial]

Main Entry: feck
Etymology:Middle English (Scots) fek, by shortening & alteration from Middle English 1effect

1 Scotland a : the greater share : MAJORITY usually used with the "the feck of the town council didn't fancy his backers" John Buchan b : PART, PORTION "took the best feck of a year" "sold the best feck of the litter"
2 Scotland : VALUE, WORTH "no feck would come from it"
3 Scotland : a number or quantity especially when large "a whole feck of them came"
[taken from Merriam-Webster]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Smoke pot, live longer

"Recreational drugs, including cocaine and heroin, are responsible for an estimated 10,000-20,000 American deaths per year....While approximately 10,000 per year die from the effects of illegal drugs, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from drugs which, by medical standards, are properly prescribed and properly administered. More than two million suffer serious side effects."

From "Recreational Drugs Far Less Likely to Kill You than Prescribed Drugs"

In other words, your odds for living a longer life are better if you are a schmecker, taking on a number, on the pine, or a user of other such goods than if you are prescribed drugs at a hospital. Pass the reefer for the good of your health?!?!?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Single Devotion

Paul says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 7:27

Do not seek a wife. (NASB)

What if, like, Paul meant this.

I kind of tend to think that he did, which puts Paul a bit at odds with the view of most religious communities in our day. Typically, religious-minded folk tend to desire the reproduction of their species; that is, Evangelicals want to perpetuate the Evangelical race, Mormons want more Mormon babies, Muslims want to see more young Muslims, Patriotic Americans want to see their offspring multiply, etc., etc., etc. We like to see fresh young faces come in to the religious fold because it gives us a sense of security that our religious tradition/institution will continue after we are gone. Our lives and meaning and purpose will thus continue after death and this helps to satisfy our desire for immortality: to leave something behind that lasts.

Marriage in most religious communities is encouraged as the norm: Find a like-minded believer and settle down for a good life and make babies and train (brainwash) them in the ways of the faithful.

But, like, what if Paul meant it? What if it is truly better to be unmarried? This puts him at odds with those who peddle religion to the masses. However, it is more in line with the spirit of the prophets (including Christ), who did not see religiosity as the primary objective; they always were digging for something deeper and more pure.

Here is some of what else Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:

"32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." (TNIV)

The last phrase is interesting: that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. I think this "undivided devotion" is the key to Paul's thought here: renouncing the hassle of married life for sake of devotion to the kingdom. Paul says this is the "right way," which flips the paradigm on its head. It is no longer a matter of perpetuating a religious tradition or institution; instead, the Christian life is about seizing every moment in our fleeting lives and putting it to use for Christ. This is 100% Pearl-of-Great-Price type devotion. It is rare. It is dangerous. It is risky. Paul's life was about the now. He lived this stuff and that's why he preached it.

It is far safer to make babies and pay dues to the institution than it is to renounce the things that drive us. There are many fundamental drives that marriage seems to satisfy, and this is why most get married. It is not for "love" or "friendship," etc. It is to satisfy our drives and desires: Sex, Companionship, Sex, Friendship, Sex, Security, Sex, Happiness, and Sex. This, of course, is fine for the masses. It is fine for the religious majority. I don't want to be overly critical here; I just don't want to soften what Paul says. It is clear: If you want to live undivided for the Lord then being single is the best option.

My mother, of course, would respond with something like the following:

"A Christian couple gets married because they can better serve God together than they can apart."

That's cool. And, I'm sure that this was probably true for my parents and other couples. But, let's be honest here. For most of the religious faithful, the statement my mother made is merely a cliche and an excuse to satisfy our human drives and desires. Again, that's fine for the majority. I don't mean to step on any toes. But what does irritate me a bit is when the religious mass either forgets these verses from 1 Corinthians 7 or else goes through an exegetical gymnastics routine to soften the blow. This is typical of the religious masses because they always want to be "giving their best to God." But when desires/drives come in to conflict with "giving their best to God" as defined by the scriptures, then they need to tweak their interpretation of scripture a bit so that they can fulfill their desires/drives, while still believing in their hearts and minds that they are "giving their best to God." But Christ was not blooded upon a cross so that we can have our cake and eat it to, as the saying goes.

Most of our lives are compromises made to satisfy our desires and still retain God as our number one. Mostly, we play politics with God: we give a little and God gives a little. In the end we can reach an agreement.

All I'm calling for here is a bit of honesty. There is a reckless, single-minded devotion to Christ. But it hurts. And you aren't going to find it in the cozy suburbs of the United States. Pure devotion is sacrificial. Mass religiosity is designed to soften the blow. We accept Christ's sacrifice as sufficient for our sins, but we maintain the right to withhold any similar suffering.

He was despised and rejected, and we esteemed him not.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Here are your two New Hampshire winners.

How bad would it be if these were our two Presidential choices this year?


Monday, January 07, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday

I'm surprised by the recent politics. Barack is now in the forefront, having won in Iowa and now leading in New Hamp. I really thought Hillary would win the Dem. nomination, but things do not look good for her. For one thing, I think it is fair to say that Bill is not the same "Slick Willy" that he was in the 90's. The Clinton team was on a roll back then, and they took advantage of the various political opportunities. These days they have far more power and connections, but why can't they make it happen? Bill, for one thing, doesn't seem to have the energy and charisma. (Crf. this current article, "In New Hampshire, Bill Clinton Finds Less Spark") In some cases, he causes more political problems. It seems he is becoming something of an irritable old man!

I still think Romney is going to win from the other side. But who would win between Romney and Barack? I think Barack has a better shot than Hillary at beating a strong Republican candidate. But let's be realistic here, a black man with the name "Barack Obama" is still problematic for a general election.

Here is a photo of doggies in the snow. These are my brother's (Matt) puppies in Tahoe, CA.

House update:
I'm a bit tired, but I keep plugging away. I have been keeping a photo journal of the work I am doing on "this old house." My bedroom is nearly completed, which will be a major overhaul of what it used to be. Next is the living room. I need to have a professional come in to look at a small section of the wall where there is bad wood. But I'll be darned if I can't find anyone who is available!

Pics of me working on the house will be coming when the major projects are complete.

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to Mama Miller. I was in a conversation with some friends this weekend who informed me that you read this blog religiously. Keep Max out of trouble down south!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Scattered thoughts on sacrificial reading

If I were a teacher I would spend significant time reading in class. This is particularly true if I were a high school teacher, because there is no collegiate or university that exists where one can promote the kind of sacrificial reading I am suggesting here.

I am thinking, specifically, about the biblical text, but all texts suffer from the influx of self-absorbed readers....perhaps because so much literature these days is self-absorbed, itself, and is produced for the selfish reader....We seem to know how to read the Bible in order to find what we are looking for, but we have a decreasing ability to truly listen and hear what it says.

We live in a disposable society. These days I am thinking about this because I have been in the process of buying and moving in to a house. It is rare to find a building or structure that is built to last. It is more desirable to build cheap and for the short term. Why worry about 200 years from now? This is how we Americans approach most things: The focus is the Now. We have a marked lack of appreciation for the things that last.

I don't have a problem with being focussed on the Now, but it is problematic to fixate on the present with disregard for the past or the future. All in all, we tend to be cheap in the stuff we build and buy. This translates into the way we intake texts: We are cheap readers. We don't want to extend the effort to understand the texts of the past. The past can speak to the present, but it takes a great deal of effort on the part of the reader to make this happen. It is much easier to buy the latest and greatest book that is on the current hot list. These books do our thinking for us. They speak to the present without need to go through the aggravation of interpreting and sifting through the past.

Technology does our work for us in many areas of life: electric can openers, vacuum cleaners, self-cleaning ovens, furnaces that heat (we don't have to make fire any longer), and machines that prepare our food so that we can buy it at the grocery store and pop it in the microwave. (Oh, did you think there was a grandmother in a kitchen somewhere in the heartland of America who made that frozen pot pie?!!??) We have become dependent upon machines and technology to do our physical labor. In a similar way, we are now dependent upon technology to do our thinking and feeling for us. Movies and television programs are designed to eliminate the effort that we must extend. That is why we turn to television: to zone out. Heck, I do this all the time. I've got no problem with it. But if this lack of effort is characteristic of one's entire approach to thought and emotion, then the soul becomes sick. Effort is important. We must extend physical effort or our bodies will atrophy and sicken. The same is true of the psyche.

In reading through a recent essay by R.W.L. Moberly in the Journal for Theological Interpretation of Scripture ("Biblical Criticism and Religious Belief", issue 2.1), I came across an interesting quote attributed to Brevard Childs: "If you want to become a better exegete, you must become a better person." A true reading of a text requires personal depth and perspective. This means that any serious reader is also reading the surrounding world. This is something typically neglected in closed religious environments.

Know thyself was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Can we truly read a text if we do not know ourselves?

One of the important elements to reading is not just that I read the text, but that the text reads me. Can a text truly read me if I do not have a good sense of self? If "know thyself" is not a priority in closed religious communities where the preference is for sameness and uniformity, then the text ceases to become a dynamic agent and is reduced to a static and pragmatic tool--a means to an end of advancing a cause, controlling the religious faithful, or instituting programs and protecting or advancing the institution. The text and the reader must be set free.

We need more readers. Those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness." No one is hungry to sacrificially give themselves as readers. There is no one who is willing to lay down their lives for the text. The text serves us and that is all. But the call for readers resonates and the text beckons.