Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Friday, August 27, 2010
"Churches are human institutions and to address the problem of church (small 'c') we must address both of its components: humanity, and institutionalism.
One of these components (humanity) will always be broken by sin until the second coming. That's not to say we give up hope on humanity, but it is to say that changing human nature is Christ's territory, not ours. Our efforts toward improving 'church' will be better spent on the other component; institutionalism.
Human institutions embody the characteristics of the people who comprise them, and churches are no different. Because of human nature people are sometimes gracious, sometimes critical; sometimes selfless, sometimes selfish; sometimes innocent, sometimes corrupt; sometimes transparent, sometimes guarded; sometimes honest, sometimes manipulative. All these inputs go in one end, and out the other comes a speckled identity the whole world over that we're forced to call 'church'.
Trying to maintain an institutional identity can sometimes work for companies and organizations; they emphasize positive customer experiences and product improvement and generally impact only a tiny fraction of an individual's life. For 'church' to attempt this masquerade is an instant invitation to criticism. Episode after inevitable episode of hypocrisy is illuminated for the world to see, exposing the difference between what 'church' hopes to be and what it really is.
And here lays our solution.
People have a very different type of relationship with other individuals than they do with institutions. People are forgiving of other people; understanding of their faults and weaknesses. A relationship between two people is give and take and frustration and harmony; it's messy and real, and that's the way it's supposed to be. I don't want that sort of relationship with an institution. Institutions won't receive that kind of grace from me.
The only way to overcome the weaknesses of 'church' is to discard the institution altogether. Let the REAL Church (big 'C') replace human institutions with human relationships, one by one, two by two, four by four -- at the leading of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, let the Spirit continue to work through institutions despite themselves, or let them limp along until they become irrelevant. Unless my history is incorrect, the Church thrived and grew at a faster rate -- even under oppressive persecution -- prior to the invention of institutional church by Constantine (~400 A.D.?) than it ever has since"
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I received plenty of great responses to my previous post on www.SteadfastLutherans.org. This was my second posting in reply:
I’m very thankful to all of you for your respectful, deliberate, and engaging responses. I had no expectation of a real conversation here and I’m delighted to see that I was wrong.
Eric (#9), I am also a layman with limited theological training and I appreciate your eloquent response. I am in fact a marketer by formal education and by profession, which leads me to address your concern for the language I used in my comment. While identified almost exclusively with profit-seeking corporations, marketing boils down simply to the equation of human communication; i.e., there is a transmitter and a receiver. Allow me to explain what I intended to communicate.
Take, for example, the conversation we’re having right now. My mind is formulating an idea and wrapping that idea in language, while my fingers are capturing the language in type. Your eyes are viewing exactly the type I transmit to you, and your brain is decoding the language back into ideas. So we have a 5 stage process (by the way, this is also true of all non-verbal communication): idea > language choice > transmission media > receiver > interpretation. Because I intend to express my ideas only to you, you are my audience. Because you are only one person, you are a very small (niche) audience. With context clues (the purpose of this conversation, this website, its historical context, and what little else I know about you from your post) I would be wise to choose the first three of those stages deliberately, so that you are most likely to accurately execute the final two stages and capture the desired idea.
Jesus did exactly that by teaching heavenly Truth in parables. Not only did he choose language familiar to his audience, but also subject matter and social contexts familiar to his audience; communication media that they were most likely to receive and interpret accurately. My point was that liturgical worship (in my experience) makes very shallow (if any) consideration for the contemporary context of its audience. In this way, liturgy fails to follow Christ’s example of communicating heavenly Truth - reaching into the lives of his audience with relevance.
I suspected it was a misstep when I used terms like “niche market” and “audience” in my post above because my understanding of those terms was different from yours, therefore ineffectively communicating my point. Ironically enough, your response has served as opportunity for me to prove it. The Message that liturgy carries is far too crucial to be allowed to be obscured by its antiquated and irrelevant media of delivery, let alone steadfastly obscured.
Pastor Rossow (#11), you have clarified several other points of miscommunication for which I am responsible - many thanks to you. The first is this:
No on has claimed divine authorship of the liturgy.
Perhaps I’m thicker than the average bear, but I do understand the liturgy in question to be referred to as the “Divine Liturgy”, which is also understood to be “inerrant”, correct me if I’m wrong. You (and others) clarified the difference between liturgical style and liturgical content. Liturgical Lutheran content is strictly scriptural and I 100% agree that scripture is the sole reliable source for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (divine and inerrant). However, I think liturgical style has been the greatest source of my frustrations in the traditional Lutheran church (hence my certain ethnic musical association, also mentioned by Eric in #4), because things like order of worship, chanting, hymnody (which is a word I’ve never seen before yesterday) and musical style are entirely social constructs. They were social constructs in ancient times, in Luther’s time, and in our time today. How can we claim the inerrant nature of any of these things? They were not laid out in scripture as instructions for us. What makes an ancient or medieval style more worthy than a contemporary style? What is the purpose of trapping scripture’s crucial message of Truth in irrelevant, outdated social media that acts as a barrier between the message and its audience?
I am a huge fan of Martin Luther and his story of church reformation was the unadulterated work of God. God most certainly used him to break the message of Truth free from the established religious hypocrites, back into the language of the people - back into relevance for the desperate masses for whom it was always intended. I don’t know how happy Martin would be with a church under his very name that chooses, steadfastly, to limit the transmission of the Truth for which he fought so radically by winnowing away the otherwise available options for its transmission. We are not called to be of the world, but we are called to be in the world. So who are we to be cloistered away, poo-pooing the worship and outreach of the active majority of Christ’s body while their hands heal and hearts feel and feet walk - constantly striving to live into Jesus’ example?
Sure, the Lutheran church is theoretically and rhetorically accepting, but in practice it has placed far too many barriers between it and the world it was commissioned to reach, all in the name of preventing error from entering worship. My reference to David merely served as one example where genuine worship and praise to the Lord existed outside the Lutheran liturgy - to prove that it’s possible. Not only that, but to remind us all that humanity has been worshiping our Creator God for millennia previous to liturgy’s conception, and that the Holy Spirit is alive and well among the believers who worship daily and weekly without it, despite their errant ways.
I assume your reference to I Corinthians points to the second half of chapter 14. Here Paul encourages orderly worship so that those led by the Spirit to speak or prophesy can be heard one at a time, allowing those in attendance to receive the message. Again, the Paul’s point is on effective delivery of the message to its audience. Whether by oration, gregorian chant, ancient hymn, or set to rock and roll music, Paul simply advises the clear communication of the Gospel message. If I missed it, please point out the scripture that infers a preference of one order of worship over another, or one style of delivery over another.
I have many more thoughts on your collective responses, but it’s really late here on eastern time. I hope to post more later, specifically on these subjects:
–“How do I a sinner stand before a holy God?”
–”You are more interested in ‘moving’ people than having sins forgiven.” (directly related to the first)
–”The Spirit is found where Christ’s word is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.” (By virtue of the fact that this takes on more forms than merely the Lutheran liturgy, the steadfast denial of those other forms intentionally limits the media by which the Spirit may choose to move. The Spirit is active and dynamic - meeting us in our hearts - living.)
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
I'm interested by the relationship of husband and wife. Now, God created Eve specifically for Adam; her form, her heart, her mind, the passions of her spirit and the strengths and weaknesses of her character, all designed to compliment those of Adam. They were meant to unite as one by their design and there was little ambiguity in their relationship to one another - as simple as a nut and bolt.
But as they multiplied and their generations of offspring spread throughout the earth, I wonder how the process of choosing a mate evolved. I wonder if, or for how long, multiple "wives" or partners was the acceptable practice. I also wonder if this was by God's design for a time. Moses refers to Eve as Adam's wife (Gen, 2:25) and the next reference to a "wife" is Cain's (Gen. 4:17). After the introduction of Eve, it is assumed that by man's nature and the desire of his heart he will "leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). If a man is to find a wife and become one flesh with her, it makes sense that the role of "wife" is referred to only in the singular, for how can a man become one with more than one?
But by the seventh generation of human beings, "Lamech married two women, Adah and Zillah" (Gen. 4:19) - the first occurrence of polygamy in scripture. I thought for a moment that maybe he had two wives because the first had died at some point, but in verse 23 he speaks to both at once.
In the very next chapter we learn that Lamech is the father of Noah - only one generation previous to the flood. Now, we know the flood was God's reaction to man's thorough wickedness and sin, so we shouldn't assume that the people of Lamech's generation were still close to their creator. The were obviously living lives of disobedience and distance from Him. According to Noah's genealogy, Lamech died only five years before the flood. I think he's very likely to be among those who brought pain to God's heart at the time Noah was instructed to begin building the ark.
I wonder, was Lamech's polygamy a contributing factor to God's displeasure with man? And not just Lamech's, but that of any other man on the earth who had taken multiple wives. Isn't polygamy contrary to God's design? I've got some reading to do yet, but I think I'll wrestle with this throughout scripture. I think of David; the man after God's own heart, who had concubines and I-don't-know-how-many wives. How can that be? I also think of one of Paul's letters in the new testament, which mentions that any leader in the church should have but one wife. Does that infer polygamy was a generally acceptable practice among the Jews who had recently been converted?
This will have to be a point I revisit.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
This is after Cain has killed Abel and God has banished him to wander the earth, which will also no longer produce fruit for him as punishment for his crime. This seems a pretty fitting, if not lenient, punishment for inventing murder. Of course, today we're all-too familiar with homicide and it's not a stretch to understand the implications of exile; separation from home, family, and familiarity. But this was more severe still, because cultivating the soil to bear fruit was Cain's livelihood. It was his work, his profession, his method of providing for his family, and the trade he learned from his father, Adam. This was among the very first learned behaviors between one of the very first father/son relationships. In only two generations of human existence there's hardly such a thing as heritage, but this was about as close as it gets. Fittingly, Cain has been deprived of it.
Anyway, at verse 14 Cain petitions God on his own behalf, claiming that this punishment to wander the earth would cause "whoever finds" him to kill him. God responds by putting a mark on him and announcing that whoever might kill Cain would be avenged seven times over. Needless to say we don't hear anything about Cain being harassed after that. But it was here that I realized Cain had other people to worry about on the earth.
At the time of Cain's sentencing, humanity consisted of much more than the happy little four-person nucleus of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel as I had always pictured. Adam lived a total of 930 years and he was 130 when Eve gave birth to their only other named son in the Bible, Seth - after Abel's murder (Gen. 4:25, 5:3). So Adam could have been 129 or 130 years old already at the time Cain's exile, meaning that it's physically possible for the first of his offspring to have been 128 or 129 years old as well. If Eve never delivered twins or multiples and had about one child per year until this time (remember, it was their job to multiply and populate the earth), then there could have been up to 127 other second-generation humans with Cain and Abel. Assuming the age of 14 before any of these offspring were fertile themselves, there could have been as many as 3348 third-generation human beings at this time (following the logic of a 50% female population and a reproduction rate of one child per year after age 14). These women could have turned out a total of 3477 first, second, and third generation humans for Cain to be concerned with at the time of his exile. Not to mention any fourth, fifth, or sixth generations in even larger populations, the oldest of which could have been 87 years old already. This means roughly tens of thousands of people at risk of judging or killing Cain as a wanderer on the earth.
All this to say that I was originally confused about why Cain was concerned for his safety, but there was obviously more happening on the earth than I originally pictured. Understanding this moderate estimate of reproduction rates and population growth also helps me with the picture of everybody "marrying" or "laying with" people who could not have been farther in blood relation than a first cousin. I guess when the numbers so quickly reach that of a moderately sized rural American county, kissing your sister isn't quite so much like kissing your sister anymore.
I'm still confused by the issue of gene pool diversity, but you've gotta start somewhere, right?