Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Widget Company

(I do not normally feel comfortable with likening the Christian church to a business, but sometimes the analogy works.)

The Widget Company got together a sales task to determine why they were losing market share and what to do about.

"What we need is more advertising," stated one eager young executive, "A high quality ad campaign will help us immensely."

"And we must appeal to felt needs," said another, "We must convince people that having a widget will save their marriage, further their career, and improve their sex lives."

"We should redo the decor of our stores," said an older member, "We want something quiet and conservative, that conjures up a feel of reliability. All our salesmen should wear suits and ties and our saleswomen nice dresses, and they should behave in a reserved manner. The music should be quiet and soothing."

"Not at all," said a younger member, "People today are interested in friendliness. and openness.  We need casual clothes, upbeat music, and a decor to match."

"We should serve refreshments," gushed a lady from mid-management, "and have greeters at the door. We should make everyone who comes in feel they are part of one big happy family."

"We should be always be celebrating something new and having special events," said a young man newly hired from another company. "We should continually have new lines and new sales. Celebrate all the holidays and invent other special themes to capture people's attention."

The office boy stood up trembling, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, fearful to inject his foolish question. "Excuse me," the office boy stammered, "what's a widget?"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Power of the Resurrection

Paul wanted to know the power of Christ's resurrection (Philippians 3:10). What does this mean? The one thing it clearly does not mean is a life without problems. Paul immediately follows "knowing the power of the resurrection," with "knowing the fellowship of Christ's sufferings." To understand this, we need to understand what the power of God is for. We are told our adequacy is from God, who has made us adequate as servants of the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:5,6). God is not someone we draw on, like the Force in Star Wars, to accomplish our purposes. Rather, we are His instruments (Romans 6:12-14) to accomplish His purpose in the world (Ephesians 2:10). It is then we will know His power working in our lives (Colossians 1:28,29).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Fanastic

How should a Christian deal with the various claims of fantastic things in the world? These could include such things as UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster. How are we to explain them? Now for the Christian, there are certain things that can be eliminated as contrary to Christian teaching; (ghosts conflict with the Biblical picture of the afterlife; see Hebrews 9:27; Luke 16:19-31). There may be others which have been given a pseudo-spiritual significance; (some beliefs in UFOs fall into this category). But we are still left with the question of what we think of these things.

We can dismiss them as simply mistakes. Someone saw a weather-balloon or an animal moving at a distance and mistook them for something else. This seems a little simplistic to me as an adequate explanation of all  sightings. Also, such a mistake is much easier to make if you already have an idea that these things exist. There is also the question of fraud. This undoubtedly also happens. There are people who will do things for notoriety or because they like a good story. However, those who see such things are frowned on as crackpots. While this may indeed be the explanation of a specific case, I question that everyone who claims to have seen such things can simply be written off as a fraud.

They could be a legitimate natural phenomenon. Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster could simply be unusual types of animals. (I do not believe Big Foot is the missing link, but it could be an unusual type of ape.) But the fact that the Loch Ness monster never seems to appear when the serious investigators are looking for him makes me cynical. As for UFOs, I tend to lean toward the Klass plasma hypothesis, which makes them a natural phenomena but not extraterrestrial. (This is, they are really an usual type of plasma which is produced under certain conditions, appearing as a large variously-shaped, bright object.) But some such explanation must be considered as a possibility.

Another possibility is that they might be demonic. If we live in a supernatural world, we should not be surprised if we encounter things of supernatural origin. Nor should we be surprised if demonic forces use natural phenomena or  impersonate things that do not exist to accomplish their purposes . While I think it is simplistic to assume all such phenomena are demonic, I think it is also simplistic not to consider the demonic as a possibility. Especially in the cases where there is a direction of worship or something that approximates worship, away from God to some other object. 

But in the end, each case has to be evaluated on its own merits. I think we should avoid the view that dismisses such things out of hand (often with the attitude that people are stupid) or immediately ascribes them all to the demonic. Let us carefully investigate before jumping to conclusions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Attitude of Division

Paul speaks against divisiveness in 1 Corinthians 1:10-12. What is this divisiveness, and how do we avoid it? Scripture makes it clear there is a point where we must stand for truth, even to the point of dividing over it (Romans 16:17; Galatians 1:8,9; 2 John 9-11). Now there is the question of how serious a disagreement needs to be before it becomes an issue. But there is a more important issue of attitude.

One problem is too great an emphasis on human leaders (1 Corinthians 1:13-17; 3:4-9; 4:1-5). Now human leadership is a gift from God (Ephesians 4:11), and we should honor and be subject to them (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17). But we must be careful of putting them in the place that only belongs to Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). It is God who is in control of our lives to accomplish His purpose, and He should always have first place (Ephesians 2:10; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 127:1,2). We need to put our ultimate trust in Him, not personalities.

There is also the problem of too great a trust in our own wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-31; 2:1-5; 3:18,19). Now I need to be careful here; there are some who will carry intellectual humility to the point of not believing we can really know anything. Scripture makes it clear there is such a thing as truth (John 17:17; 8:31,32; Ephesians 4:15), and it is a specific and knowable thing (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Isaiah 43:10,11). But it is one thing to trust in God's truth and another to trust in our own human ability to dogmatically establish every detail of truth. We should approach any issue with caution, knowing that our heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and the world is full of traps for the unwary (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).Therefore, we should be careful not to build up teachings on an insufficient basis or to be excessively dogmatic about things that are not that clear-cut. And we particularly need to beware of adopting a position simply to show how much better we are for holding it or how much cleverer we are than someone  else for having discovered it.

Now I do not want to claim that I am immune to these errors and have everything figured out. But I do believe we all (including myself) need to be careful blowing issues out of proportion and dividing over things that are not worth dividing over.