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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the distance of celebrity

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home. (Larry Norman, April 8, 1947- February 24, 2008)

i was thirteen years old and had just returned from a camp where a kid had stirred my curiosity, citing the lyric...

sipping whiskey from a paper cup
you drown your sorrows til you can't stand up

... as being by the same guy that wrote i wish we'd all been ready

(note: i wish we'd all been ready was a big camp and youth group favourite in the 70's due to evangelical christianity's mildly obsessive answer to the uncertainty of the cold war: end times prophecy and the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. nothing like giving young christian kids a thrilling spiritualized alternative to the basically godless paranoia regarding an impending nuclear holocaust... existential anxiety is, after all, supposed to draw us towards God!)

i went down to the christian record store in kamloops (it was called 'the real thing' and sported a rather suspiciously coca-cola-esque logo on some of the signage) to see if they had any of this guy's stuff. the church lady behind the counter, taking note of the only other customer in the store at the time- a rather elderly little woman with a big purse- hesitantly put needle to vinyl and the opening guitar statement of the rock that doesn't roll clumsily broke the silence until the first full band shot and a rather barbaric 'wooh!' challenged the wall that had, up until that point, separated my faith and my aesthetics.

no one has ever been able to rebuild that pallisade...

the fact that only three years later i would hear the call of God to a life of ministry during the song 'one way' at a show he did at the orpheum in vancouver is just part of the impact of this guy's loaves and fish upon my own terrestrial visit.

those of us on the perimeter recognize but fail to realize the loss that is experienced by those within the small circle...

still, i sent a text to my brother this morning:
Dang... Larry Norman is gone. I'm really sad...
like when Freddie (
mercury) died.
Something important to who I am is lost.

so much for the distance of celebrity.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

we'll have to do a few more tests

(i posted this on a different blog, but thought that it might be fun to talk about here...)

in a talk i gave recently, i began with a little quiz.

the idea was to establish that, with regard to the Bible, we all have defaults within us that are imprinted through our socialization, and often these defaults affect us the way 'blind spots' do... our picture of things (in this case, our interpretations of passages of the Bible) is distorted by them or, perhaps more accurately, riddled with holes by them.

the challenge is to know ourselves- to know where we tip in this way or that- so that we can more objectively (if that is possible) deal with the revealed word of God and receive the blessings of grace, wisdom, insight and perspective that are to characterize our every thought and action...

at least that's the plan.

so anyway, i presented a couple questions from Scot McKnight's Hermeneutics Quiz as presented in the winter 2008 leadership journal (volume 29 no.1)... the idea is that a (1) for any given question represents a more conservative spin, whereas a (5) represents a more progressive approach. (3) would indicate moderation- somewhere in the middle.

there are no white hats or black hats here. it is not that (1) is Christian and (5) is heretic, or that (5) is cool and relaxed while (1) is uptight. these questions are posed mainly to raise some key issues regarding how we interact with scripture. in scot mknight's words:

This quiz is designed to surface the decisions we make, perhaps without thinking about them, and about how we both read our Bible and don't read our Bible. Some will want to quibble with distinctions or agree with more than one answer. No test like this can reveal all the nuances needed, but broad answers are enough to raise the key issues. On a scale of 1-5, mark the answer that best fits your approach to reading the Bible. (If, for example, you fall between response 1 and response 3, give yourself a 2.) Then total the points and your score will reveal where you land on our hermeneutical scale. (mcknight)

ha ha- important to indicate that it is, in fact, the writers' scale. the results of an instrument like this are largely inconclusive, but they do provide us with a picture- even if the picture is drawn in one's wrong hand using crayon!

anyway, here is the rest of the quiz. take it with someone fun.
see it as an alternative to playing scrabulous for hours on end!

feel free to take it on your own and then log onto (
to compare your perspective place in the hermeneutical cosmos to some 'big names' in the parallel universe refered to as 'the church.'


A. The Bible is:
1) God's inspired words in confluence with the authors.
3) God's inspired words that arise out of a community and then are written down by an author.
5) Words of an author who speaks out of a community's tradition, but which sacramentally lead us to God.

B. The Bible is:
1) God's exact words for all time.
3) God's message (instead of exact words) for all time.
5) God's words and message for that time but need interpretation and contextualization to be lived today.

C. The Bible's words are:
1) Inerrant on everything.
3) Inerrant on matters of faith and practice.
5) Not defined by inerrancy or errancy, which are modernistic categories.

D. The commands in the Old Testament to destroy a village, including women and children, are:
1) Justifiable judgement against sinful, pagan, immoral peoples.
3) God's ways in the days of the Judges (etc): they are primitive words but people's understanding as divine words for that day.
5) A barbaric form of war in a primitive society, and I wish they weren't in the Bible.

E. The story of Hosea (the prophet) and Gomer (his wife) is:
1) A graphic reality that speaks of God's faithfulness and Israel's infidelity.
3) A parable (since, for example, God would never ask a believer to marry a prostitute).
5) An unfortunate image of an ancient prophet that stereotypes women and too easily justifies violence against women.

F. The command of Jesus to wash feet is:
1) To be taken literally, despite near universal neglect in the church.
3) A first centruy form of serving others, to be practiced today in other ways.
5) An ancient custom with no real implication for our world.

G. The gift of prophecy is:

1) Timeless, despite lack of attention in the church today.
3) An ancient form of communication that is seen today in proclaiming scriptural truths.
5) No longer needed and dramatically different from today's preaching.

H. Prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible are:

1) Permanent prohibitions reflecting God's will.
3) Culturally shaped, still normative, but demanding greater sensitivity today.
5) A purity-code violation that has been eliminated by Christ.

I. The unity of the Bible is:
1) God's systematic truth that can be discerned by careful study of the Bible.
3) The gospel call to living by faith that is expressed in a variety of ways by different authors in the Bible.
5) Not found by imposing on the integrity of each author in the Bible to conform to overarching systems; the unity is in the God who speaks to us today through the Word.

J. The Holy Spirit's role in interpretation is:
1) To guide the individual regardless of what others say.
3) To guide the individual in tandem/conversation with the church.
5) To guide the community that can instruct the individual.

K. The injunctions upon women in 1 Timothy 2.9-15 are:

1) Timeless truths and normative for today.
3) Culturally-shaped but, with proper interpretation and transfer, for today; e.g. we can learn from how Paul address a situation with uninstructed women in Ephesus.
5) Need for early Christians, bound in the first century, but not for today.

L. Careful interpretation of the Bible is:

1) Objective, rational, universal, timeless.
3) Dialectical, relational, culturally-shaped, timely.
5) Subjective, personal, culturally-bound, time specific.

M. The context for reading the Bible is:

1) Solely an individual's responsibility.
3) The individual in conversation with, and respect for, church traditions.
5) The confessional statement of one's community of faith.

N. Discerning the historical context of a passage is:

1) Unimportant since God speaks to me directly.
3) Often or sometimes significant in order to grasp meaning.
5) Necessary and dangerous to avoid in reading the Bible.

O. The Bible:

1) Can be examined and understood without bias.
3) Can be understood but with biases.
5) Can be partially understood by a reader with bias.

P. Capital punishment:

1) Should be practiced today because the Bible teaches it.
3) Should be examined carefully to determine if it is the best option today; some instances of capital punishment in the Bible are no longer advisable.
5) As delineated in the Bible, pertains to ancient Israel; such practices are no longer useful and should be universally banned.

Q. Tattoos:
1) Are forbidden because of Leviticus 19.28
3) Are forbidden in Leviticus as idolatrous marks, which we know from study of the ancient Near East.
5) Are permissible because the purity codes are not for Christians today.

R. The requirement of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 5.29) not to eat any meat improperly killed (strangled instead of having the blood drained properly)

1) Is a permanent commandment for all Christians today.
3) Is for Jewish Christians only.
5) Is a temporary custom for first-century Jewish Christians, and is no longer a concern for Christians.

S. Adultery
1) Deserves the death penalty, as stated in the Old Testament
3) Was not punished by death when Jesus confronted it, and therefore death is not a Christian punishment.
5) And divorce were governed by Old Testament laws from a primitive culture, very different from our own; just as these concepts developed within Bible times, our understanding of proper punishment has been improved.

T. Sabbath
1) Was never eliminated by New Testament writers and should be practiced by Christians (on Saturday).
3) Developed into a Sunday worship observance for Christians, and Christians should not work on that day.
5) Turned into Sunday for Christians, who need to worship together (weekly, on any day) and can work if they think they need to.

so there you have it.

there are some guidelines and such at the end of the article, but being that Leadership Journal is a rather tough magazine to find anywhere, i will summarize and then encourage anyone reading to go online to find out more... intellectual property what it is and all...

(note: i have tried very hard to not project my own opinions on the followup here, offering instead a 'zip file' of the article- an 'executive summary' of sorts. remember that the results are skewed if you started working the numbers creatively by going off the scale- higher than 5 for 'extreme-sports progressive' or integers etc for 'radical right wing' responses! ha ha)

idea: count how many 1's, 3's and 5's you marked... the category with the highest number of responses is probably your default.

idea: add up the points... the total scores range from the low 20 to a possible high of 100...

  • the conservative hermeneutic group scores 52 or lower, with an emphasis on the authority- ongoing and normative- of scripture, tending to hold to the maxim if the Bible says it, that settles it. literal readings can lead to rather literal applications.
  • the moderate hermeneutic group typically scores 53-65, and could be seen as the voice of reason and open-mindedness, being conservative on some issues and progressive on others. moderates can often be open to charges of inconsistency because of a flexible hermeneutic.
  • the progressive hermeneutic group typically scores 66+, but there is quite a dramatic difference between 66 and 92 in perspective. the progressive tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, but still considers it the Word of God today. the challenge to the progressive is to not allow the Bible to be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text seems to clearly say.
Wherever you land on this scale, it is my hope we all will engage the seriousness of how we read the Bible- and don't read the Bible

(Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park University in Chicago, blogger on

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Christian Persecution - What Should We Do?

Over the past 2 years - and mainly in this last one - I notice my blogging efforts into the more conservative arena of the Christian faith is met mainly by scorn (and mainly by those professing to hold the 'true faith'). I do believe I am up to 8 bloggers banning me, condemning me, insulting me, and denying me as part of the faith. Question is - what can I do?

Here are a few statements from 2 fellow bloggers (names won't be mentioned):

"proves to me that you are not interested in God’s Word as the principle truths from which you debate from. And to use your words: “…this stuff is brought to my rememberance.” No wonder you are confused. To bad you don’t think you can learn more by studying the word. To bad you think you got it all...I will not bother you again"

"SAM, I hope you see the hypocrisy in that statement. He is coming back to his own thinking and not what scripture says...And for Societyvs to make such a big admission that he doesn’t hardly ever study scripture and relys on his remembrance for debate, well, you can have it. I will not cast pearls….”"

"Societyvs, OSS - At times I may read a good point or two… but it seems more often than not, yall about make me sick...your blatent disreguard for the inspiration of New Testament sickens me...reasoning things out is fine, but twisting scripture to fit your reasonings is not. - So you make me sick and I do not want to debate you further."

As Elton said 'Can you feel the love tonight?' Thanks Yael and Just1 for these comments:

"Society…, Society…, Society…., Wow! you got flamed big time" (Just1) and "You’ve got one on me, Jason, I didn’t get the ’swine’ insult at least" (Yael)

This isn't new to me - everytime I set foot into Conservative lands I always end up getting people seriously steamed. Late in 2007 a prophet and his pal pretty much judged me to smithereens (over Halloween) and another blogger refused to be associated with me (over defending gay rights). I have this weird feeling - this ain't going to stop sometime soon?

So I ask - why do Christians persecute other Christians - and for that matter - people in other faiths? What is it about our own teachings that drive us so bonkers to judge another person so harshly we can have not a single thing to do with them (which to me is pretty much condemning an individual)? What is it in our faith that makes us say we love but hate instead?

Anyone care to be honest at the altar today?