The issue is massive, and I won’t try to summarise it here, but I wanted to share an interesting historical character that I think is fully relevant to the topic. Continue reading “ethical violence?”
Of course, I’m not a neurologist. Heck, I haven’t even spent any considerable amount of time browsing Wikipedia entries on neurology…
I have been thinking, however, about life, our brains, choices and the like…
Without delving into how our brains might have developed or evolved into the state they are, I think it’s just fascinating how they work now. As we live life – as we see, hear, things, say things, do things, have things happen to us, touch things, are touched by things, etc., etc. – a correlating ‘network’ of associations, memories, etc. is continually being ‘built’ somehow, somewhere under our hair…
I’ve been thinking about this ‘networking’ process as it relates to the choices we make in life, and what we control and we can’t… Continue reading “the neurology of self-control”
In 1992, Gary Chapman published the first edition of ‘The Five Love Languages‘, which is a well-known book in Christian circles. It offers 5 very practical ways of understanding how your mate shows affection.
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
I don’t want to disagree with his 5 points, because I think they are quite helpful, but I do want to share some further thoughts I’ve had about them. Continue reading “languages of love?”
A very recent post had a moral bent, and the ensuing comment-discussion quickly observed that morals are based on values and eventually focussed on the question of what (if anything) underlies our values. In other words, are values grounded ‘on’ anything? Or, are they as free and changing as the various expressions of human cognition/thought? In this post, I want to try to explore this question further. Just one thing before I begin: Continue reading “true love: stranger & friend”
I’m well aware of this topics’ controversial nature. In fact, that’s part of the reason I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. What I do not want to do is quote verses or provide what I think ‘the Bible says’ about this issue. Of course, I do have a view on that, but that specific pathway into this topic has been almost ruined for all kinds of reasons, not least simplistic applications of various texts. As with any other discussion, the use of words is key. At one extreme, the sheer number of terms being created (‘pangender’, ‘omnisexuality’ and ‘heteronormativity’ to name but a few) does not seem to help fruitful discussion, but at the other extreme, many can fail to appreciate the complexity of the issues being discussed. Because of this complexity, it would be easy to spend huge amounts of time trying to address everything that has ever been said about human sexuality. But, of course, that’s the job of a lengthy dissertation or something. My hope is to fruitfully contribute to the conversation. Quite simply, I want to raise two concerns I have relating to human sexuality.
I’ve got a quick thought to share…
It’s easy to distance ourselves from people like Hitler and Stalin. We can’t imagine such horrible evils. I mean really, what was the rest of the world doing, right? Why didn’t someone stop him sooner? I guess they just stood by and said, ‘Who are we to say otherwise?’
While I’m sure it’s not a one-for-one analogy, many would say that the large number of modern abortions is comparable to the genocide of those days, and that the same thing is happening today, and still, the world stands by and says, ‘Who are we to say otherwise?’
Now, abortion is a huge issue and I’m not going to take the time to offer a well-nuanced and carefully phrased view, but what if this was actually the case?
One of the small, behind the scenes things that helped bring an end to the regimes all those years ago was people using their voice to let the world know about what was really happening, not what they wanted you to think was happening. (go out right now and watch the movie ‘Sophie Scholl’ – it’s incredible!)
My point is, they didn’t start by physically going in with guns blazing. Some had to make the difficult but necessary decision to not act then and there, but to wait and tell others that could make a bigger, more permanent difference.
What if abortion is a modern-day genocide?
Well, if it is, I think something needs to be done. But what? Try and get the law changed? Use brute political force? Fund Christian political lobby groups?
I think that’s not the wisest way. I think we’ve got to face the fact that the abortion issue, as horrible as it is, is only a part of a much more foundational issue – toxic and destructive human sexual values and practices…
Changing laws won’t last. It won’t help. We’ve got to do the difficult work of influencing people. Now. With grace and truth.
That’s my quick thought…
Though many Christians would like to try – and sometimes do try, I don’t think we will ever be able to solve all the world’s morality problems. I’m thinking we might as well get used to it.
But in spite of this, we just love to try and ‘battle’ against the world’s morality. Now, I’m not advocating moral relativism – where right and wrong are determined by what you had for breakfast. I most certainly believe in true good and true evil. What I am suggesting, however, is that rather than it being our job to sort this out, we are to trust God to do so. When we try to sort out the good/evil thing, we are trying to so something that only God can do.
This mistake is actually at the heart of the Garden of Eden story. Adam and Eve were given absolute freedom in the garden to eat from any tree they liked, and were forbidden to eat from just one tree. Genesis 2:16-17, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Good and evil were held secure by God – no assistance or meddling needed.
Well, tending the garden and eating from any of the other trees just wasn’t enough. They apparently wanted to help God with good and evil as well. The key verse is Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and was a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of it’s fruit and ate.” The results of this are in Gen. 3:22, “…the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil…’ ”
All talk of apples and snakes aside, let’s see what the story is getting at – she ate from the tree that she thought would make her wise! All of the other trees in the garden were ‘good for food’ and ‘pleasing to the eye’ (Gen. 2:9), but this tree had more. This isn’t simply about eating an apple when you were meant to stick to oranges and figs! Neither is it talking about Eve simply wanting more wisdom to make better life choices. This is much more serious. This is the inversion of the creator/creation relationship! This is about Adam and Eve trying to take God’s place!
I wonder if we eat from the same ‘tree’ today. Do we try to tackle morality (good/evil) in our own hands? Who are we to do that!? Please don’t hear me saying that morality doesn’t matter. It matters so much that it takes God to sort it out! Yes, the ‘garden’ needs tending (Gen. 2:15), but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that God needs our help sorting out good/evil. The more we focus on sorting out the world’s morality problems, the more we show we don’t trust God to do it.
May we eat freely from all of the life God has given us.
– Paul in Galatians 2:9-10 NKJV
It’s hard to imagine just how wrong it would have felt to many faithful Jews at that time even to entertain the idea that Gentiles could be justified by God simply by faith – no Jewish-ness (‘works of the law’ – Gal. 2:16) required. The accomplishment of Jesus had not only surpassed every hope of the Jews, but had also come with a sharp word of prophet-like judgment to them as well. All nations were supposed to be blessed in Abraham and by Abraham’s descendants. Instead, they had taken on some of the characteristics of the various empires that had continually been oppressing them. As N.T. Wright brilliantly puts it, God’s rescuers needed rescuing themselves. The invitation to Gentiles had always been open throughout Israel’s history, but for the most part, it was an invitation that wasn’t getting delivered.
The language of the New Testament is vibrantly coloured by the tension of Gentile-Jew relations, but the language of our world isn’t. Perhaps this can keep us from noticing how often we can take up the same attitude towards people who do not share our faith in Jesus. Our self-righteousness is often disgusting. In the same way that Paul talks about Gentiles ‘doing the things contained in the law’ (Romans 2:14), many people today are doing great things for the world with no faith in Jesus at all. God’s people are identified by faith, and this doesn’t give us the right to make it harder for people that don’t look like us to come to this faith. Not only will we have to be more willing to allow them join us in our work, but we may have to humble ourselves and join them in their work.
Remembering The Poor Today
The leading apostles gave the ‘Gentile side’ of the ministry to Paul and the one thing that was of utmost importance to both of them was care for the poor. One does not have to read the Bible for very long to see how God is angered when His people don’t care for the poor. Multiple prophecy-warnings by prophets in the Old Testament, Jesus in the Gospel narratives, and the New Testament all confirm this concern of God that is to be our concern as well.
What keeps us from ‘remembering’ the poor? Allow me to suggest that our minds are on other things. If you live in a Western nation in the 21st century, that means that you are bombarded with advertising images and slogans that are determined to keep your mind on whatever it is they are trying to sell you. We need to re-capture the eager-ness of Paul and his fellow Apostles (or more importantly, the eager-ness of Jesus our Lord) to care for the poor. Comfort, convenience, home-improvement, investment (let alone drowning in debt), fashion and the like should all take a back seat to our eager-ness to remember the poor. There are countless ways to serve the needs of less privileged people around the world. We must make it our priority.
You really must go and see the movie that my wife and I (and others) saw recently.
It’s called ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ It chronicles Al Gore’s message about global warming that he’s been sharing for more than a decade. To say it is a must see would be a grave under-statement. The theatrical trailer can be viewed at http://www.climatecrisis.net
Now, many of you may be thinking, “Oh yeah. Global warming. Yeah, some scientists say that this is a problem, others don’t. I’ll wait till it’s really an obvious problem before I get too worried…”
I used to think this way.
I don’t now.
Gore has done his homework. And more importantly, he has talked to a lot of people that have done their homework. This is his life passion. But even this isn’t the reason that you should go see the movie.
You should go see the movie because you need to see what Western culture and life-style does to the planet. God’s planet. The Creator’s planet. The planet God has left in our hands. This is not a side-issue in God’s economy. There are no side-issues.
I am from a region in the United States (which – as many of us know – contributes the most towards the demise of the Earth) called the ‘buckle of the Bible belt.’ Christianity has been so established in this area, that these Christians enjoy many privileges that other Christians have never known and probably never will (and probably won’t be any worse off…). I know what it’s like to live a comfortable ‘Christian life’. You don’t have to go into a normal bookstore to get your favourite Christian books, because you can go to a Christian bookstore and avoid having to be exposed to books that don’t align with your world-view. Heck, in some places, you can go to a Christian bookstore that aligns more comfortably with your denomination. What’s more, many Christians see this as a demonstration of God’s favour on them.
In addition to enjoying the benefits of the established nature of Christianity in the U.S., American Christians (mostly) live identical lifestyles of comfort, convenience, busy-ness and everything else stero-typical of what it means to be an American. Most Christians would assume that the American Dream is fully harmonious with God’s Dream. While I cannot – and will not – include all American Christians in this description, it fits the strong majority quite well.
Why the rant about American Christians?’ Well, I used to be one, and as a participant of such a culture (or sub-culture, actually…), I cared less about the world around me and mostly about my safe, comfortable Christian-hood. A warning about global-warming wouldn’t have phased me much, and I probably would have just shrugged and said, ‘Well, Jesus is about to come back, so what does it matter?’ After all, Al Gore is a Democrat (which 98% of American Christians consider to be obviously not God’s political party), and so therefore he obviously can’t be a Christian and why would we care what he has to say? I know, it’s a little cynical, but it’s not far from the truth…
My point? Care of the earth is an issue at which Christians should be at the fore-front. No, I’m not saying abandon issues such as abortion, family values or other ones. I’m just suggesting that we need not treat this as if it were something that is un-important.
Go see the movie.
(Note: I just want to add that I’ve now seen and heard too much from either sides of the debate to fully commit to either position. But having said that, even if we aren’t causing global warming as much as some think we are, there are still plenty of reasons to live differently and be eco-friendly, etc.)