one year later

[written March 2014]

I’m crying and I can’t stop.

No, that’s not how it started. It started with driving out of the parking deck. It started with praying.

((our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…))

God, please help these children. Please help your children.

(crying)

God, please turn our hearts to you, to your children. God please turn our stupid stone hearts to flesh. Please God, please God.

(can’t speak, crying so hard)

“You’re young.”

So was Jeremiah. And Timothy and Josiah.

“We have to follow our conviction.”

That’s fine just don’t call it true religion.

“The gospel is at stake.”

YES IT IS. And the stakes are so high.

Someday kids, undergraduate kids, will raise their hands and ask their professors, how could so many Christians use the gospel to justify slavery? To justify the crusades? The inquisition? Pulling pledged, financial sponsorship from ten thousand children in less than a week?

And all I hear from everyone makes me cry and cry and hurt so bad.

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Truth Doesn’t Care How You Feel About It

Gregory Alan Thornbury has written a piece at Christianity Today entitled Why It Matters That the Exodus Really Happened. The abstract sums up the content of the article pretty well:

“No less than Western law, the civil rights movement, and Christianity itself rest on the historicity of the biblical event.”

It’s nothing we haven’t heard before.

But it’s a disappointing premise.

Because truth doesn’t care how you feel. Actual historical events don’t have to consult you about whether or not they “had to” have happened. They either A) happened, B) didn’t happen, or C) happened in a way somehow different than we imagine.

To quote my favourite biblical studies student:

“I keep learning again and again that truth does not care about what I want. It doesn’t care what makes me comfortable, or what I’ve always believed, or what I like. Truth is subversive.”

The answer to ‘Is this true?’ will often not coincide with the answer to ‘Do I like this?’ or ‘Is this coherent with what I believe?’–but it is a much more important question.

3 Characteristics of Truth-Seeking, on Disputatious Interpretation

But people don’t want true things, I’m realizing.

Because we set up Premise A that makes us comfortable (or that we’ve always been told is true) and any re-thinking, re-hashing, or re-grouping is out of the question. We say things like,

 “Evolution can’t be true, because then we would have to completely abandon our beliefs on sin nature and salvation.”

“Common ancestry can’t be a thing, because then what does it even mean to be created in God’s image?”

“Of course the Canaanite conquest happened. If we can’t trust one biblical account, we can’t trust any of them!”

The Exodus HAD to have happened, because (in Thornbury’s own words): “Did Jesus predicate his own sacrificial death on the cross upon an event that never occurred? If that is the case, the entire covenantal nature of the biblical narrative falls apart. Jesus of Nazareth cannot be ‘the new Moses’ if Moses never existed.”

My frustration is not about the topic. It’s not about Exodus, the conquest, the Exile, Jesus’ miracles, natural selection, common ancestor. It’s not about any of those things.

It’s about what we actually want. Do we actually want true things? Are we willing to start clawing in the dirt, from nothing, to try and find them? Or are we starting our quest for truth with unshakable assumptions from which no evidence can dissuade us? We can’t call ourselves lovers of truth, if that’s what we do. We can call ourselves many things, but not truth-seekers.

If you’re an archaeologist or a historian, it’s your job to care about what physical evidence has to say about the world. When we find diaries of deceased heroes and villains, we care what they have to tell us about a world we can never see with our own two eyes. We do our best to authenticate such findings, to see how much stock we should (or shouldn’t) put in them. We work hard to match up our beliefs of the present with the historical unfolding of the past. And if new information changes things, our opinions and assumptions have to change as well.

Truth exists. And truth doesn’t care what you want to be truth.

Again on Disputatious Interpretation, Holloway discusses the fall of Jericho, a story which, “for decades” has been found to be “not a record of an actual historical event” as evidenced by available archaeological data. Holloway tackles opposition to this concession to facts and data from an author, V. Philips Long, who claims that the conquest and fall of Jericho may have to be historical in a way matching the biblical narrative in order for Christians to place stock in the Bible’s trustworthiness. Holloway responds:

“The fall of Jericho had to happen because it makes us less sure of the Bible’s overall historicity if it didn’t? This is not a reason to say it happened! ‘If this story isn’t true, then it makes me question whether or not these other stories are true; therefore, it needs to be true.’ This is a non-sequitur if I’ve ever heard one. If the fall of Jericho didn’t happen, then it didn’t happen; if that causes us to doubt the historicity of the resurrection, then we will just have to deal with that. Dismissing the problem by affirming the historicity of all of the events in Scripture is not an actual solution” (Is My Faith in Trouble If the Fall of Jericho Didn’t Happen? (A Response to V. Philips Long), emphasis mine).

So, the Exodus.

Our best guesses, from a purely academic (archaeological, sociological, linguistic, etc) perspective are that of course something must have happened to kick-start the Hebrew nation. That some leader emerged and laws were created. The nation certainly formed, after all, and it must have formed somehow. And it must have formed in such a startling, meaningful way to influence every literate generation of Hebrews to speak about the Exodus in the way that they did.

But as of right now, the archaeological evidence before us suggests that the Exodus did not happen the way the Bible said it happened. We may of course find new data in the future, but we’ve found a lot already. And much of what’s been found contradicts strictly literal, historical interpretations of the book of Exodus (as is the case for much of Scripture).

So the massive Exodus of 6 million Jews slaving in Egypt, crossing the red sea, and wandering the desert for 40 years, either happened or it didn’t. And if it didn’t, there are of course a hundred possible other (different or similar) events, or combination of events, that could have happened instead.

The past doesn’t care your opinion whether it happened. It either happened or it didn’t.

And guess what? That means we have to have the humility, the willingness, to re-evaluate our assumptions. To re-learn how to read Scripture. To better educate ourselves on these sacred texts we claim to value so highly, but that we invest so little in, and toss around like so much ammunition.

If our best and most brilliant scientists tell us that our world is almost certainly millions of years old, what DOES that mean for the way we approach Scripture?

If our hardworking archaeologists and linguists assure us that the biblical timeline doesn’t always match the physical record of what happened in the Ancient Near East, how can that inform our beliefs?

If it turns out that literature, culture, and people groups in the Ancient Near East are different than we assumed, do we continue to try and squeeze them into our own image?

What happens to our faith, our assurance, if some things we thought were simple and easy turn out to be complicated and messy?

That’s up to you, isn’t it?

In Defense of Outspoken Young People

I am an Outspoken Young Person, I guess.

By no means do I always speak when I think – but often I do. I’m not a secretive person. I enjoy, and learn a lot from, open dialogue. I think that when done with a respectful spirit, honest discussion and even disagreement truly makes the world a better place.

And there’s a subtle weapon used against Outspoken Young People like me, which is starting to disturb me quite a bit. No, perhaps “weapon” is too strong of a word. Most of the time I don’t believe it’s brandished offensively. Rather, often it tends to be used defensively. Perhaps I should call it a “tactic” or better yet, simply an assumption. I’m seeing a certain assumption made about Outspoken Young People, and I believe it to be dangerous.

I am noticing that if an Outspoken Young Person brings to light an annoyance or a complaint on facebook about a larger issue – an assumption is made that said young person only deals with this issue on the realm of the internet. A jab or quip will be made about “getting off facebook and doing something about it” or “it’s easy to complain,” or “I’ll leave you to your Internet argument and actually go do something about it.”

I am noticing that sometimes when issues are raised by Outspoken Young People, people will respond by vowing to work on their own hearts, their own defects, and encouraging said Outspoken Young People to step back and to the same. The assumption is that Outspoken Young People are ignoring their own faults and obsessing over the faults of others. I’m not sure how many circles this assumption invades, but it’s certainly prevalent in Christian circles, and often accompanied by an admonition to focus on the plank in one’s own eye before examining the speck in another’s.

I hope the point I’m about to make is not surprising…

I hope this makes sense…

Why are people making these assumptions?

Why, as an Outspoken Young Person who interacts regularly with her community via social media, does my outspoken Internet voice necessitate that my physical, “real” life is passive and lazy and inactive?

Why does my critique of Christian leaders, government leaders, or otherwise public figures necessitate that I am ignoring or even ignorant of my own flaws?

It shouldn’t be mind blowing, but many of us Outspoken Young Persons are so outspoken and such a constant Internet presence because we care about these issues with every aspect of our lives.

Sometimes I speak passionately about caring for the poor and handling our money loosely, living as stewards of God’s property and not our own. And guess what? I also give food to homeless people and one of the largest categories on my family’s budget goes to helping people in our community who are in need financially because of job loss, car issues, or whatever else. When I talk about how important it is, it’s because I believe it, and I live it, and I want to grow in it – and I want others to grow in it too. I know I’m not perfect. Money decisions are hard. But it is not hypocritical of me to say I believe Christians don’t give enough to the poor, because I live a fairly simple life with very few luxuries. I sacrifice many things so I can honestly live what I believe about Christian money management.

Sometimes I critique public figures – specifically Christian public figures – for behaving in ways or speaking words that I believe misrepresent Christ. In no way does this mean I think I have it all figured out.

But you know what? I do some things better than Mark Driscoll does. Like knowing how to correctly, contextually interpret 1 Timothy 5:8. I do that better than he does. Maybe Christians aren’t supposed to say this (*shrug?*) but some of us are better at things and some of us are better at other things. Mark Driscoll is a powerful leader and figurehead – he strikes chords with people, especially, I hear, floundering men who need to get their acts together. But that doesn’t mean I think he should be shepherding, writing books, or using poor exegesis to tell people erroneous things about Christ and the Bible. Because he chooses to do all of those things, and also regularly claim to speak for the God I worship, I feel no reservation about critiquing his ministry and letting other people know my deep concerns about what he says.

Do I do it perfectly? No! He makes me too angry and emotional. But, if we’re being brutally honest, that’s because (in his own words) “there’s a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” and there are ministries devoted solely to helping ex-Mars Hill members heal from the brokenness they experienced from the teaching (and sometimes actual person) of Mark Driscoll.

I care about broken people. Ergo, Mark Driscoll upsets me.

Moving on.

So I don’t just complain about Mark Driscoll. I read and study and care so much about properly representing my faith. I open myself up to learning from those around me. I am willing to sacrifice anything to the guillotine of truth. If I’m not willing to, how can I truly call myself a disciple of Christ? I may come to different conclusions than many, but I’m doing it in sincere passion and devotion to the God of the Universe, and I work daily to humble myself and listen to his truth, no matter who’s speaking it.

And again, I’m not good at everything. I never ever have pretended to be. So while I point out specks, please be aware that my own logs are not being neglected.

I know the logs are there.

But that doesn’t mean other people don’t have them. That doesn’t mean I pretend other people’s specks and logs don’t exist.

So my petition is, don’t assume you know about my life and the things I do or don’t do because of what ideals I hold, what arguments I participate in, and which leaders I criticize. If you’d like to know about those things, I’d be more than willing to share them with you.

Iron can only sharpen iron by clashing and making sparks. That’s what so many of us Outspoken Young Persons are trying to do: sharpen ourselves, sharpen others, and cause some sparks that maybe (if we’re lucky) burn up some choking weeds, card houses, prisons or facades.

The gold will be fine – our sparks won’t bother anything of worth or value or strength.

“A Disgraceful and Dangerous Thing”

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

St. Augustine, from “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”

“It’s the Church’s Job”

Have you ever heard, or said, these words?

“Of course we should be taking care of the poor. But that’s the church’s job, not the government’s. And besides, he government is horribly inefficient.”

I’ve heard them. I’ve said them.

And of course that’s true.

But guess why our (their, any) government is trying to take over the specific duty of caring for the poor? Because the church is failing.

If every christian family, if every church, in the entire United States of America, did everything it possibly could to help the poor in its midst, at its doors, maybe the government wouldn’t need to have such massive food stamps programs or pass legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

Why do we spend so much energy saying “it’s the church’s job!” instead of just doing our jobs?

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason (Romans 13:4).

The government will wield the sword, make no mistake. It’s easy to apply that verse to matters of capital punishment. But, maybe, in this time and day and place, just maybe the sword is for our wallets and our overstuffed bellies.

If I’m tired of my neighbor taking “my hard earned tax dollars” for food stamps to stay alive, maybe it’s time to forego my daily Starbucks trip and and start buying them lunch so they don’t need the tax dollars quite so much.

I’m going to be brutally honest. I applaud efforts at giving I see in my community and family, but I don’t exempt anyone from this: we suck at giving. We really, really suck at giving.

Our megapastors buy mega-houses and drive mega-cars.

We fritter away thousands of dollars sending our indecisive freshmen kids to expensive, private Christian colleges when they don’t even know what they want to do yet, and who are perfectly capable of taking Bio 101, Comp 101, and College Algebra at the local community college while they figure it out.

We pay hundreds of thousands of dollars so doctors can do fancy things to our eggs and sperm, because we simply can’t bear the thought of missing out on the glorious pregnancy experience, and holding a baby that looks like me is more important than taking in a foster kid, adopting an older child, or starting a trust fund for a niece or nephew to get an education or, I don’t know….. have food for the rest of forever.

I have always, ever since I can remember, felt this ache in my heart about money. I am blessed and rich and privileged, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time. And in this middle-class American suburban culture (the only culture I’ve ever known) – we’re just obsessed with spending money on things we don’t need.

So guess what? Politicians are always going to fight for bills we think are crazy. The government is going to govern too much, and we’re going to be grumpy about it all. That’s a fact. I don’t like it any more than you do.

But please, please, the next time we fidget and find ourselves wanting to say, “it’s the church’s job…”

-do it. Do that job. You’re the church. You’re holding Christ’s emblem. If you want the government to stop doing the church’s job, then the church better get it done right.

Dear John Piper and Mark Driscoll: Please Stop Trying to Take God Out of Things

Sorry, ahead of time, to my compatriots & readers who feel uncomfortable calling out fellow believers for wrong-headed theology. Yes, I know everyone means well. But “means well” without “and goes about it rightly” leads to a lot of danger, hurt, death, and pain, though, so…I’m going to do it. I don’t mind if you to it to me, either, just so you know. Especially if I ever become a mega-pastor-prolific-author with a ginormous worldwide platform. Please, for the love of God, if that ever becomes me, call me out on my crap, pronto.

I just read some well-meaning, but somewhat confusing words from John Piper about how “Doing a good deed for others with no view to any reward” is wrong, godless, and to be avoided (you can read more here). His main point, I believe, is well-meaning. Even appropriate in ways. As believers, we should do things primarily for the glory of God – not for ourselves or others or some nebulous standard of right and wrong.

But if it is directed toward Christians, does that even need to be stated? Christians, by DEFINITION, don’t believe in nebulous standards. They believe in Yahweh and Jesus Christ and that good flows out of him, and bad flows out of opposition to or distance from him. So most of the article seems fairly pointless to me.

Then he speaks of reward. It’s ungrateful, he claims, to speak of “doing good with no hope of reward” – because we do in fact have a reward in Heaven. That’s great and all, but that misses the point of a really really large percentage of the Bible, and what Christianity is all about. “Eternal reward” is not the point of Christianity. God wants us to know him – that’s the point of Christianity. Christlike-ness, communion with our Creator, living in the rightness of his plan, building God’s Kingdom here on earth while we can…that’s Christianity. If the saga of Wisdom books found in the Bible teach us nothing else, it’s that -here on earth- doing good for the sake of holiness and God’s approval is a worthy, worthy cause. I suppose we can drag Heaven into it. Heaven is cool. But it’s really beside the point here, isn’t it?

However, Piper is not only talking about Christians, it seems. Later in the article he mentions the oft-repeated idea that actual love and actual goodness are impossible without knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ. To a point, I understand and agree – there is no love without God. But where I differ with John Piper and Mark Driscoll, and apparently a fair amount of Christians, is that I don’t think you can remove God from a given situation. You cannot remove God from love.

It doesn’t have to be that atheistic love is Not Really Love. Maybe that atheist is just participating in God, whether he knows it or not. We alienate and exclude nonbelievers every time we pontificate on such things. Many people who don’t acknowledge Jesus as Saviour (for whatever reason) believe in a a higher power, or believe in universal right and wrong. That instinct in them, from my own Christian perspective, is evidence that God has indeed written his law on the hearts of men. Our sense of justice and mercy, our selfless deeds, stem from souls that were created in God’s image. Even if someone doesn’t believe that, I believe it – and it strengthens my belief in God as a majestic, invasive God.

When I say invasive, I mean that you can’t escape the God I worship. He is everywhere. He’s in the altrustic, atheistic help that a young man offers to an elderly woman who’s dropped something valuable out of her purse. He’s in the yoga studio (sorry, MD). He’s in the sea in the belly of a fish. And as the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis proudly affirms in his Narnia series, he is in the heart of the pure, sincere worshiper and servant – even if they’ve nominally been worshiping Tash and not Aslan.

(I think God can tell who is really following him, and who is not…even if we’re confused about it ourselves)

God is in every good and true thing. How could he not be?

Jesus said whoever is not against us is for us. Why do we make enemies where God invites friends?

God blessed Rahab because she wanted to do right. Rahab, the pagan prostitute who knew nothing of Yahweh except his brute force. God was in Rahab’s right-for-the-sake-of-right. Rahab was blessed, rescued, and grafted into the biological lineage of Jesus Christ. Right-for-the-sake-of-right just means we haven’t glimpsed God in the world, doesn’t it? Just because you call “Godliness” or “righteousness” something else, something closer to your own understanding, that hardly negates the presence of truth. That hardly negates the presence of God in the world.

What I’ve Learned from the Internet This Week

What The Internet Told Me This Week…

1. Apparently, when young Christians write about why they are leaving the church, they’re not REALLY leaving the church for those reasons. By claiming to disagree with specific theological emphasis, politicizing of Christianity, shaming, excluding, and the barriers many churches have erected between faith and science…

…what they really mean is that they think the church should follow their every whims, cater to their personal tastes, and abandon the truths which have lasted since the dawn of the church.

2. Apparently Christians are not allowed to have differing opinions on Atonement Theories. Even though there are many-

(Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Satisfaction, Penal Substitution, Sacrifice, Governmental, Recapitulation, Expiation/Transformation, Reparation, etc)

-and no one theory has ever been declared Orthodox by Christendom, for a denomination to dislike one, or wish to pull one out of focus, inherently makes them “liberal” and discounters of Actual True Scriptural Doctrine.

(tgif?)