Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wacky Wednesday--We Should Ignore The Old Testament

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

~Isn’t this what you already do, for the most part?
~Jesus fulfilled it, so we don’t need it anymore.
~You can’t obey it anyhow, so why bother studying it?
~The new is the replacement of the old. Otherwise, I’m baffled by what we mean by “new.”
~If you had to advise someone to read the NT or the OT, which one?
~If you were stranded on a deserted island without an NT or without an OT, which would you miss more?
~If you had to go on the mission field with only one or the other, which would you forego? Have you even read the Old Testament? How many times compared to the New?
~How hard is it to read the OT? Be honest, you know it’s difficult and obtuse.
~It’s very distant from us culturally. You have to basically become an ancient near eastern Jew to even understand it properly. It’s better to just ignore it than get it wrong.
~It portrays God as very different and regressive than the NT
~The moral codes are quite different. So shouldn’t we just focus on the parts that apply to us?

Wacky Wednesday--You Shouldn’t Vote

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

~Seriously, how would the world be any different if you didn’t cast your vote? You know it makes no difference to the outcome.
~Do you play the lottery? Why not? Aren’t all the reasons to not play the lottery pretty much the same reasons to not vote?
~Most elections are a choice between two bad alternatives. Why would you participate in a choice where either option is wrong?
~If Jesus didn’t come to establish a political kingdom, why should we be worried about doing so either?
~Taking sides in elections only causes needless divisions in the Body of Christ. How many people can’t talk civilly about their votes or intentions to vote?
~We are ambassadors to a foreign land, and ambassadors do not vote in elections, even though they are subject to the rules of the land.
~Retaining our purity to proclaim truth TO this world’s systems depends on us not becoming active participants IN this world’s systems.
~Voting costs a lot and gains you nothing.
~The most enlightened among us don’t vote, why should you?
~Economists don’t vote. Why not?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cross International

Cross International is an interdenominational Christian relief and development organization working in more than two dozen countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Latin America to assist the poorest of the poor, including Haiti, Guyana, Mozambique, Vietnam and Zambia. By working together with pastors, missionaries and churches, we ensure that the aid is reaching those who need it the most. Today, we are focusing on Mozambique, where local families are interested in taking AIDS orphans into their homes to care for them and raise them in a Christian environment. For $68 as a one-time gift, a child is rescued from the slums of Mozambique for an entire year. To rescue a child, call 1-888-979-2009 or visit Cross International on the web.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ethics: Is Abortion Ever Permissible?

In a very controversial case last November, Sister Margaret McBride (a nun of the Sisters of Mercy and member of the St. Joseph’s Ethics Committee) authorized the obstetric abortion of an 11-week-old fetus in order to save the life of the mother (a parent of four other children who was suffering a rare, life-threatening condition called pulmonary hypertension). The hospital has supported this decision, but Bishop Thomas Olmsted denounced it and announced her excommunication. He has been supported in this by the US Council of Catholic Bishops. So the question for today is two-fold: are there any cases in which direct abortion can be justified, and what should be done with a nun in a case such as this?

Abortion decision at St. Joseph's (chronological order):
Catholic doctrine on abortion (Catholic Answers)
Background: Christianity and abortion (Wikipedia)
Background: Abortion (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Background: Ethical, Religious Directives
Statements by Bishop and St. Joseph’s (AZ Republic)
Official statement by Bishop Olmstead (Catholic Sun)
Q&A on the case for the archdiocese (Catholic Sun)
Nun excommunicated (Catholic Reporter)
St. Joseph’s nun rebuked for life-saving abortion (AZ Republic)
Nun excommunicated (NPR)
Nun excommunicated for abortion decision (CBS)
Sister Margaret McBride: Don’t confess (NPR)
Sister Margaret’s choice (NYT)
Steadfast silence says it all (AZ Republic)
US bishops back Olmstead (Catholic News Agency)
ACLU asks feds to investigate (Catholic News Agency)

Movies That Have Impacted You

Pretty obviously, movies are one of the major forms of art and persuasion in our culture today. If so, then we would expect our own lives to be strongly influenced by them, just as painting or theater might have done so in the past. So today I thought it might be interesting to find out what movie or movies have had a significant impact on your thinking (good and bad) over the years. We’ll also talk a little about what qualities make a movie more likely to have such an impact.

What makes an impactful movie?
• Repetition
• Engages your mind
• Filled with memorable scenes
• Emotionally stimulating
• Popularity
• Taught you a lesson
• Gave you a picture you wanted to live up to or avoid.
• Created a frame of reference you wanted to share in with others or ordered your own understanding of your world.

Areas of life formed by movies
• What is heroic
• What is decent
• What is morally acceptable
• Should authority be trusted?
• What does the future hold
• Are people basically good or evil?
• Is violence the way to fight evil?
• What is justice?

Movies that have affected me
• Beckett
• Lawrence of Arabia
• Star Wars
• Blade Runner
• The Matrix
• Man without a Face
• Batman the Dark Knight
• Dead Poet’s Society
• Stand and Deliver
• Braveheart
• Planet of the Apes
• Miracle on 34th Street
• Karate Kid
• Rambo, Commando, Lone Wolf McQuade et al.
• Rollerball• Rudy
• Wall Street
• Star Wars Trilogy
• Bridge on the River Kwai
• Great Escape
• Babette’s Feast
• Adventures of Robin Hood

Movies mentioned by callers
• Tender Mercies
• Savior
• Sophie’s Choice
• Schindler’s List
• Tears of the Sun
• Into the Wild
• Exorcism of Emily Rose
• Life Is Beautiful
• Deer Hunter
• Signs

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

WW--Interfaith Dating/Marriage Makes Sense

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

~Isn’t this what multiculturalism is all about?
~How will world peace ever be achieved except if all the religions can get along this way? There are multiple paths to God.
~It’s important to learn to see things from multiple perspectives or paradigms? How much more alternative can you get than from a different religion?
~You can’t control whom you love.
~Conflict sharpens and clarifies things for both believers.
~You can’t know what the future holds for someone’s spiritual development anyhow.
~Religion and religiosity are just one aspect of a person’s life, not the totality of it. If it were the totality of it, then you could marry anyone who was a Christian, but we know that’s just not the case. So why not recognize that many other features of a couple’s life might be in harmony even despite this one not being so.
~People who don’t share religion can still be deep best friends. And we know that being friends with your spouse is far more important than most other things.
~Lots of such marriages work perfectly well.
~The kids get exposed to a variety of viewpoints and are stronger for it.
~Whom I marry is my choice, and it’s really none of anyone else’s business.
~Not all dating leads to marriage.
~It looks downright redemptive to marry someone else. This is just the most sacrificial form of evangelism imaginable. Plus, you can help win that person over by your example.
~Are you against interracial marriage, too?
~James Carville and Mary Matlin are both high-profile representatives of the two political parties, and they have a great marriage.
~What a narrow, dogmatic, judgmental thing to presume to tell people that only those who happen to share your religious beliefs are acceptable spouse candidates.

Response--Why interfaith dating/marriage is a bad idea
1. The real key is what sort of union you will have.
a. If I really love something and that thing defines my identity and shapes my decisions and entices my devotion, but it’s something that you reject or don’t understand, how can you possibly understand me fully?
b. Knownness is the precondition to real love.
c. We can’t resolve our arguments.
d. We don’t have a common community.

2. Problems might be averted in the short term, but they always show up in the long term.
a. Raising the kids
b. Going to church
c. Giving money
d. Vastly different cultural/philosophical baggage.
e. In the infatuation stage, you don’t notice the real problems that others who aren’t suffering your infatuation see.

3. Why is it that ever major religion in the world advises its devotees to marry within the faith?
a. Because God is supposed to be our first love. This is one of the few things all religions agree about.

b. If one person loves Jesus and another person does not, there is a limit to how close they can truly become.
c. You will unavoidably either let Jesus live downtown and move your spouse to the suburbs or else let your spouse live downtown in your life and move Jesus to the suburbs.
d. How do you pray to sanctify your sexuality if you can’t even pray with the person you’re merging your body and soul with?
e. Ask a man or a woman who is currently trying to work things out with an unbelieving spouse.
f. How would you take communion alone?

g. Marrying outside of Christianity is an admission that Jesus is not the main supplier of your needs and that you don’t believe He ever can be.

4. You can't choose who you have attraction to, but you can choose who to invest yourself and your life in.

5. When I used to talk to my students about how to select a spouse. I called this the unbreakable never, never, never, never, never, never do it rule.

6. Marriage is a community decision, and you become part of a community with family and friends. Or haven’t you ever been to a wedding before?

7. Analogies

a. Would a single mother ever marry a man who didn't like, didn't care about, or didn't get along with her children? Why not? Because she can't be united to him if he can't be united with her in her love of them.
b. Would you marry someone who didn't love America and wanted to live somewhere else? You could only agree to this if you also didn't love America very much.

8. On dating in particular, don't date anyone you wouldn't marry. The point of dating is pre-marrying.

WW--Christians Shouldn't Be Sports Fans

Note: Before reading the following arguments, please understand that they are not what I believe. On Wednesdays, I deliberately argue for wrong ideas, challenging my listeners to call and defend the obvious right answer, which is usually far harder than one would expect. This is a summary of what Wacky Andrew will be arguing, not a representation of what real Andrew believes.

~Causes division over things that do not matter.
~Causes distraction from things that do matter.
~It makes you unhappy with a reality which is not as interesting as sports.
~Wastes time and money.
~You spend $200 on a jersey so you can sit and drink beer while you get angry at a referee and frustrated at your team for underperforming? That DOES sound Christian.
~The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, self-control….
~If you ever find yourself booing another human because he wears the wrong jersey, something has gone horribly wrong.
~We aren’t supposed to be attached to the things of this world.
~Have you ever listened to a sports commentary show and thought to yourself, “My, those boys are sure some devoted Christians?”
~The first shall be last, but we don’t exactly honor the Pittsburgh Pirates do we?
~Do you cheer for Jesus the way you cheer for your team?
~Your heart should jump and weep over the lost and sin rather than over points on some electronic board in a stadium of drunks somewhere.
~If sports fanaticism isn’t idolatry, I’m not sure what is.
~You lose at least as often as you win, and at the end of the year, all but one team will have lost in some spectacular way.
~Something with so little significance shouldn’t be capable of making you so happy or sad.
~Why invest emotionally in something you have no control over?
~Doesn’t the serenity prayer teach us differently? God grant me courage to change the things I can, peace to accept the things I cannot, and wisdom to know the difference.
~“Some of us share a growing concern that sports not only have become a threat to religion, but in some respects may have become a religion.”
~At judgment day, the thing I am least looking forward to is a replaying of the videotape of my life. But to be honest, the pain of such an experience pales in comparison with the prospect of being shown a video of all the things my life could have been with the time I wasted.
Response--In defense of sports fans
1. Appreciation of beauty, virtue, excellence, artistry, amazing feats.

2. Default setting
a. Something isn’t explicitly Biblically prohibited
b. It doesn’t run afoul of any clear Biblical principles
c. It brings people joy and satisfaction.
d. It is by default okay.

3. This is really a subset of two much broader allegations:
a. Christians should not care about anything
b. Christians should care, but only about really important things

4. Some people have a false notion of the correct orientation of Christians to the things of this world. We are to simultaneously hold them loosely and also cherish them. Consider my children. What sort of parent would I be if I didn’t absolutely love them, but what sort of Christian would I be if I did not recognize that God gives and God takes away?

5. Sports gives us a chance to practice virtue.
a. Justice is a key idea of sports. Honor.
b. If we abandon sports, then only the worst sorts will dominate.

6. I have much more in common with a Cubs fan than I do with someone who doesn’t care about sports at all.

7. If Christians can play sports, then it sure is odd to say that other Christians can’t support them and that they, themselves, cannot be fans of the game.

8. You learn how to control your emotions and handle disappointment, especially if you are a fan of a team that loses a lot. You learn loyalty and unconditional love. What woman wouldn’t want to marry a Cubs fan?

9. There is tremendous value in learning how to be invested in things you can’t control
a. This is called love
b. The opposite is called apathy
c. The idea that you should only love things you can control is called selfishness.
d. Love of a child you can’t control.
e. Love of humanity you won’t control.
f. Love of a country.
g. You don’t control anything 100%.
h. Which is more pernicious to Christian character: devotion to things that seem to matter little or devotion to self?

10. Vicarious identity is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian.

11. Non-individualism is vital to Christian thinking

12. “Our theologians have written volumes on the theology of work, but there has been little effort given on their part to developing a theology of play. Certainly very little has been written on the theology of sports.”

13. “A theology of play is important because heaven is probably more about play than it is about work. We gain a sense that when this life is over we will have ceased from our labors (Heb 4:11). The afterlife is Biblically depicted as a time of celebration and fun (John 7:37). The question is whether or not we who have learned to work with Christ wil know how to play with Him. Will we be able to learn how to frolic with the Lord of Creation in play that transcends time and space? It may be that those who cannot play cannot be part of the heavenly kingdom.”In praise of athletics because it raises, even for a moment, our transcendent awareness.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Parables Of Jesus 2: Workers In The Vineyard

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells one of his most confounding parables. How can people who only worked part of a day get paid the same as everyone else? Why would the man who hired them give out these payments deliberately in front of the all-day workers? What point was Jesus trying to make, and to whom?

Post-show thoughts:
Again, some fantastic comments by callers. Here are my own notes on the meaning of the parable:

A. To whom is it addressed, how does this matter?
1. Disciples.
a. Don’t be like this.
b. Beware, because you’ll tend to be.
c. He is preparing them to see the Pharisees in a whole new, and terrible light. Remember, most of these guys have never been to Jerusalem before, and never have seen the religious elites .

B. General observations
1. Notice, particularly the use of "Friend." This is meant to be redemptive.
2. Is your eye evil because I am good? Greed and covetousness are sins of the eye to which we are blind and become blinded by.
3. Everyone is getting paid at the end, and for having done work, not for nothing.

C. How would you have written it differently?
1. He would have hired all the workers at the same time in the morning.
a. Why not do so?
b. Were the early workers shirking? Not likely, or he would have said so at the end.
2. Pay the latecomers the proper amount proportional to their work.
3. Pay the latecomers in order last, so as to keep it a secret. Not to offend the "weaker brother."
4. Even if you can truly agree with everything else, wouldn’t you be angry with them at the end rather than saying, “Friend?” At the very least, he should show frustration with their insult of his generosity, but he doesn't. This is reminiscent of the Prodigal father's response to the elder brother. Tender.

D. Why does the owner do this?
1. The owner deliberately does this to be seen by the others.
2. He is clearly trying to provoke a reaction in them.
3. Their covetousness is stimulated, but pretty easily so.
4. Why would he do this?
5. What point was He trying to make to his hires?
6. Does this seem like a proper thing to say to them?
7. How do we know this isn’t really meant to be a parable about economic matters or workers in the field? Because it’s a really inappropriate thing for him to do and say to them in that context. Unless there is some broader or longer horizon for their relationship, as in the kingdom of heaven.
8. By analogy, is our joy supposed to be from what God gives us or from the mere gift of working in His vineyard?

E. The Early Workers
1. Why are they disappointed?
2. They got what they negotiated for, right?
3. The parable tells us they saw what had been done for the later recruits, and they began to have higher expectations.
4. The same amount of pay can either be seen as a great gift (to someone without regular employment, at the beginning of the day) or as an insult (to that same person seeing someone else get as much for doing less).
5. They went from being grateful for having any work at all to being resentful at not being paid even more than they deserve.

F. What is their sin?
1. Envy, covetousness, discontentment.
a. They aren’t thinking how much better off they are than the guys who didn’t get hired at all.
b. They can’t rejoice at the blessings given to their brothersc. Anyone with children relate to this one?
d. Even though the brothers don’t get more than they do.
2. If you were one of the people out early in the day and you had a chance to pick which group to be in or what to do, would you go early and work hard all day or go late?
3. If the early workers do what is expected of them and are rewarded properly, they should have nothing to complain about.
a. Compare the elder brother in the Prodigal son.
b. But still don’t resent those who do not do and are given grace for their late participation in the game.

G. Applications
1. What are some situations where Christians may be prone to grumble like this?
a. Church growth
b. Ministry size and influence
c. Personal income or prosperity after longtime in the faith.
d. Late in life conversions
2. Was this intended as an economic statement about equality or communism?
a. Why predicated on free enterprise, then? b. It’s certainly not meant to show some mandate about justice, but about generosity.
3. Two ways of relating to God
a. As getting what you are dueb. As receiving gratefully what He generously gives.

H. Modern retellings
1. Employees at a company. Christmas bonus for everyone, including the guy hired in December.
2. Guy comes off the disabled list in October, and the team wins a World Series.
3. The guy who starts every game and is voted MVP gets the same ring and compensation as the guy who sat the bench the whole time and batted once.
4. Some guy gets hired into the union and starts out at the highest pay grade everyone else had to work years to earn.
5. The authors of a movie shop it around and eventually some big name attaches himself to it at the end as one of the co-producers for full credit along with them.

Why Do Jews Reject Jesus?

With the exception of a fairly small number who convert to Christianity, Jews as a whole do not regard the relationship of Judaism to Christianity in anything like the light most Christians do. Whereas we tend to think of Christianity as the most true and natural form of Judaism (some have called it “completed Judaism”), most Jews view this not only as an error but even a fairly offensive notion. We are baffled they don’t accept Jesus. They are baffled we would think they should. So, I thought it might be interesting to explore just what is going on in the general Jewish rejection of Jesus.

Great Comments from people and calls on the air! Here are my own answers to the question:

A. Silly but tragically common answers
1. They are stupid
2. They are evil
3. They are stubborn
4. They don’t know the Bible. It is hardly true that most Jews know the Bible less well than most Christians. It is also a silly point since the Pharisees and Scribes knew the Bible very, very well and still rejected Jesus.

B. Legitimate concerns
1. Historical Mistreatment
a. They have been long mistreated by Christians
b. They have long been alienated from Christians as persisting in a false religion.
c. The idea of Judeo-Christian harmony is extremely new historically, less than 100 years old in fact. The very idea of them being compatible, in other words, is novel.
2. Jesus did not come and usher in a golden age of political triumph over enemies and enduring peace. We fully believe that He will in the future at the Second Coming, but the whole reason we believe that is because it is a massively important part of the prophetic role for the true Messiah in the Old Testament. No matter how many prophecies Jesus did fulfill, it must be granted that He has not yet fulfilled these.
3. Jesus wasn’t special
a. Others raised the dead
b. Others proclaimed wisdom
c. Others were martyred.

C. Sociological/psychological
1. Give up their very identity as members of the Jewish community
2. You simply cannot be a Jewish Christian as far as most Jews are concerned. To convert to Christianity is to die to Judaism.
3. Imagine how absurd you would think it if someone said, "Convert to Al Queda, it’s the true home of real American patriots."
4. Loss of family
5. Viewed as a traitor to an already embattled and beleaguered race. Everyone is always trying to stamp out the Jews. The Christians want to do it by making us just be like them.

D. Analogical
1. How do you feel about Mormons and their claims?
a. To possess the true understanding of the Bible
b. To be the heirs of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ
c. To think that you need saving yourself

E. God’s sovereignty
1. God has not opened their eyes yet
2. God has a later plan for the Jews

F. Theological difficulties
1. Jesus claimed to be God, which is blasphemous
2. Trinity is heretical, violation of monotheism.
3. Christians can’t be “true Jews” since we disobey the vast majority of the Old Testament Law, especially Kosher laws and Sabbath, let alone profaning God's name by so casually using it.
4. Vicarious atonement is unjust. How can someone else pay for an evil man's deeds?
5. Mercy toward the evil is unjust.
6. They believe they know God already, they’ve been “God’s chosen people” for three thousand years, haven’t they?
7. The way Christians treat God with familiarity bordering on contempt is disrespectful.

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July

Since Christianity and preaching were so important in the early country, I thought one great way to celebrate our independence and also remind people what the intellectual atmosphere was at the time of the Declaration would be to look at some of the sermons of the time.

Political Sermons of American Founding Pt 1, Pt 2 (Liberty Fund)