Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Paradigm Shift

hey guys....i posted a link to a speech by Donald Miller - I would love feedback if you can ever find the time. It is on my blog - click on "here".
he seems to articulate so much of what i have been feeling - it made me uneasy a bit too...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The God Battle: O.T. vs. N.T.

Funny thing happened last night... I was with a group of friends outside of Starbucks, and I walked next door to grab a drink about 11:30 pm. When I came out, they had all left! Can you beleve that? They all left! What a bunch of maroons.

So instead of bringing up rousing philosophical and theological topics in person, I shall do it the old-fashioned way -- by blogging.

One of the more common discussions I have with Biblically-educated non-Christians (i.e., people who are fairly well versed on the Bible but who just don't buy into it) is the topic of the Old Testament God versus the New Testament God. They talk about how the God of the OT is a wrathful God who seems to fit the profile of a mass murderer, killing women and children and doing a lot of stuff as an Angry Powerful Being. Yet, they say, we want to reconcile that with a New Testament God -- a God of love and peace and hugs and happy trees. Is our God distant and wrathful, or near and loving?

One of the things I usually talk about in these instances is Jesus, his death on the cross, and the temple veil tearing in two. Giving us access into the Holy of Holies, God's presence. To me, it's the perfect symbol of how our relationship with God "changed."

Yet we say that God doesn't change. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. Joe talked quite a bit in the comments on the tithing post about how God changeth not:

    Why would he require us to be people of faith for a millennium, then cold legalists for a couple of millennia, and then people of love thenceforth? Do we have a better covenant because we got a better God? Did the Son overthrow the Father? Did Paul overthrow Jesus?
Good questions, all. In my mind, if I keep things simple, I can understand. Yet the hard truth of God's wrath is shown time and time again in the Old Testament. Do we see that today? Did God just stop killing people for either sin or because they were in the way of his chosen people?

It seems as if we've got a couple of choices. Either,
  • God still does many of those things -- He shows wrath through disease, weather ("acts of God") and war. To be honest, my 21st century, peace-loving mind doesn't much like this idea.
  • Or, he doesn't do those things any more, or at least not to that extent, and he somehow has changed. Maybe we don't call it "change." Maybe it's his evolving nature, or an adjustement to his relationship with his creation.

I agree that "God changeth not," but the fact remains that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection was a major turning point in how God interacts with his creation. If we go by what most of our churches teach -- and most of them teach the New Testament 90% of the time with a few select Old Testament verses thrown in only to back up a specific topic -- then God doesn't seem to require as much of us as he did of the Jews 5000 years ago.

I ask these questions for the sake of discussion. It's difficult to know how to respond when people ask me about "the two Gods," especially because they aren't really ASKING, they are ACCUSING the God I serve of being the architect of genocide in many cases. We don't like to think too much about death and killing -- Christians generally pride themselves on valuing life, after all.

How do we reconcile many of the actions of God in the Old Testament with how we portray God now? And how do we respond when people charge God with mass murder?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Holidays?

If Joe can dedicate a blog post to getting upset about a Youtube video, then so can I.

Some family recently forwarded me a link to a video. It's a song (with a bunch of spoken word edited in) about people saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." The video can be found here:


My Mom asked my brother and I what we thought. It will surprise no one that I had a number of things to say.

First of all, I love the acappella group Go Fish. We have a couple of their CDs and the kids really like them. We used to listen to them all the time. Fun music. Fantastic. I'll get that out of the way.

Secondly, I... uh... STRONGLY DISLIKE listening to Brad Stine. I'm pretty sure that he is the comedian whose diatribe has been edited into the song... I recognize his voice and can tell by the stuff he says. He did stand-up at both of the Promise Keepers events I've been to, this year and a few years back. He drives me absolutely nuts. He's pretty much the redneck "conservative Christian comedian"... Equivalent to the Larry The Cable Guy and the guys on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, even down to the fact that he tries to have his own little catch phrase. He constantly talks about how America is God's country (I think he even used the words "favorite" once, which made me want to stand up and argue with him in front of 10,000 guys), and our Christian heritage, on and on. He can talk for an hour about the same sort of stuff as he does in the song.

While the song is nice, and I understand the sentiment, the problem I have with Brad Stine and those kind of discussions, is this:

Christians in America are not persecuted.

We have it so easy here that we have to come up with something like this and call it persecution, as if it's even an issue. We do the same thing with our kids not praying in public schools, or not having the 10 commandments on a courthouse lawn. We make it as if because of these things, we are being "persecuted."

Christians in China being jailed or killed, and in the Middle East? That's persecution.

Christians in America don't know true persecution, and I think it's one of the reasons so many Christian Americans are so lazy and uninvolved with Christ, and each other. I'm supposed to get angry and make it an "issue" if a non-Christian wants to say "holidays" rather than "Christmas"?

I realize that for the most part, I'm probably preaching to the choir here. I know stuff like this has been discussed before by some of the contributors over there on that sidebar >>>. But I still think it's worth discussing, because stuff like this is debated ad nauseum among American churches and American politicians.

If a Wal-Mart greeter wishing me "Happy Holidays" is persecution, I'm curious what we would call it if we were being eaten alive by lions and wild animals, with people cheering on the carnage from the stands.

Anyway... Who knew that a silly Youtube song would provoke such debate?

*Shout outs to my Mom for sending me the link, and Bill for being a Brad Stine fan. I know you're reading, Bill.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Should the Church Teach Tithing?"

Take a look at an interesting view on whether the church should teach tithing here.

More specifically, he puts together an argument about why he is "opposed to supporting churches using the false doctrine of NT tithing instead of better New Covenant freewill offering principles."

I'll sum up his main points, but go read it if you have the time.

  1. N. T. Giving Principles in Second Corinthians 8 and 9 are Superior to Tithing.
  2. In God’s Word the Tithe is Always Only Food!
  3. Money Was an Essential Non-Tithed Item
  4. Abraham’s Tithe to Melchizedek Reflected Pagan Tradition.
  5. Tithing Was Not a Minimum Required from All Old Covenant Israelites
  6. First-Tithes were Received by Servants to the Priests.
  7. "It is Holy to the LORD" Does Not Make Tithing an Eternal Moral Principle.
  8. First-fruits are Not the Same as Tithes
  9. There are Four Different Tithes Described in the Bible.
  10. Jesus, Peter, Paul and the Poor Did Not Tithe
  11. Tithes were Often Used as Political Taxes.
  12. Levitical Tithes Were Usually Taken to the Levitical Cities.
  13. Malachi 3 is the Most Abused Tithing Text in the Bible.
  14. The New Testament Does Not Teach Tithing.
  15. Limited Old Covenant Priests Were Replaced by All Believer-Priests.
  16. The New Covenant Church is Neither a Building nor a Storehouse.
  17. The Church Grows by Using Better New Covenant Principles.
  18. The Apostle Paul Preferred That Church Leaders Be Self-Supporting.
  19. Tithing Did Not Become a Law in the Church until A. D. 777.
His conclusions:

    In God’s Word, “tithe” does not stand alone. It is the “tithe of FOOD.” The biblical tithe was very narrowly defined and limited by God Himself. True biblical tithes were always: (1) only food, (2) only from the farms and herds, (3) of only Israelites, (4) who only lived inside God’s Holy Land, the national boundary of Israel, (5) only under Old Covenant terms and (6) the increase could only be gathered from what God produced.

    Therefore, (1) non-food items could not be tithed; (2) clean wild game animals and fish could not be tithed; (3) non-Israelites could not tithe; (4) food from outside God’s holy land of Israel could not be tithed; (5) legitimate tithing did not occur when there was no Levitical priesthood; and (6) tithes did not come from what man’s hands created, produced or caught by hunting and fishing.
There is much more detail and scripture in his argument, but I've just copied the main points for those too lazy to go read the whole thing. Thoughts? Anyone?