Saturday, January 15, 2022

on giving/stewardship and "the Prosperity Gospel"

I see "the Prosperity Gospel" (PG) as a spectrum rather than a 0/1. I'm "in the middle", seeing important errors on both sides. Hard-core PG treats God like a vending machine who is mostly interested in our material well-being. Unacceptable. But there's another side that is gnostic, imagining that what we do (in this case, what we give of our time/talent/treasure) is irrelevant to our bodies, souls, and well-being. Aside from being a form of cheap grace, this view errs in assuming away the impact of our thinking and our decisions on our well-being.

To me, a Proverbs-like view and an understanding of giving as a "spiritual discipline" are best: there is a general relationship between giving and well-being (giving and stewardship make us better people which results in spiritual well-being and often, material well-being too), rather than a gnostic non-relationship or the mechanistic/materialist view of the hard-core PG'ers.

Related posts: -My all-in-one post with all previous Joel Osteen posts (including a lengthy review of Your Best Life Now).
-A FB-discussion-turned-blog-post on Robert Morris' sermon at SE and related topics.

Friday, October 29, 2021

on Trumpers, anti-Trumpers, January 6th, and a self-emasculated media

Rebecca Panovka rings true for me in her Harpers critique of Trump & anti-Trumpers. Thoughts here (from Trumpers, anti-Trumpers, anti-anti-Trumpers and others of us "in the middle"):

"[Trump] invented facts as he needed them, flooding the field with misinformation. He tossed off a lie, and by the time the media had scrambled to fact-check him, he had already moved on to the next one. For the most part, his supporters were undeterred when his lies were unveiled, because they understood he was saying whatever was advantageous, not speaking as an absolute authority...He antagonized the press but never made moves to dismantle it. Even when he contested the 2020 election result, he made his case through lies and lawyers rather than recruiting the kind of organized military force that might have executed a bona fide coup. On January 6, there was no serviceable plan because Trump never made the defining totalitarian effort to bend reality to his fictional world. His lies never progressed beyond the singular goal of saving face."

"Trump’s loudest critics spent his time in office wringing their hands over 'alternative facts,' worshipping fact-checkers, and fetishizing factual truth—declaiming Trump as an exception and yearning for a return to normal. But amid the criticism, they did little to examine the status of truth under previous administrations. Trump was not the first liar in the Oval Office, and unlike some of his predecessors, he was fiercely challenged by an adversarial press and an opposition party keen to decry his every statement. Rather than a calculating liar with an all-embracing plan, Trump was an opportunist able to exploit a lack of public trust in the institutions charged with disseminating facts. The journalists who nitpicked his statements managed only to preach to the proverbial choir, while his most ardent supporters [were] convinced that the media was aligned with the 'deep state.' The press, after all, had already proved itself unequipped to dismantle the fictional reality constructed by the architects of American empire."

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

the roots (and growth) of social/political incivility

The incivility described here by Byron York results from at least four key principles:

1.) Govt is always about the use of force-- by some against others, sometimes at the behest of voters (even when it's 51-49%). People in the 49% don't like that much. 2.) In the last few years, "the elites" have been increasing uncivil to the common folks-- in ways ranging from "sophisticated" (e.g., hypocritical references to science) to crass (e.g., "the deplorables"). Absent turning the other cheek, ratcheting up incivility is predictable. 3.) Incivility is predictable from both the powerful (who can do whatever they want) and the marginal (who have few options to respond). We saw more of the former under Trump; we see more of the latter under Brandon. 4.) Declining "morals" (of various sorts) will lead to various "sins" of action, words, thoughts, and motives.

Thoughts? Other principles?

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

why would people have a biblical worldview with the usual approach to discipleship in the local church?

Here's what we observe (in this article, other evidence, and everyday life):

-many people in churches
-many people believe they have a biblical worldview
-very few people (6% in this survey) have a biblical worldview

This is troubling but not surprising. The #1 problem is the church's failure to disciple well, relying mostly on the minimal impact of sermons, light/passive small groups, and light/large youth groups. Few pastors/churches have a vision or a plan to focus on discipleship-- ironically, failing to implement/emulate the ministry model of Jesus. (What Would Jesus Do? Not rely on great sermons and passive small groups!) The result is that people are discipled much more by the culture than the Church.

One way to remedy this for you locally: join a "Getting Equipped" that will start just after Labor Day. (Details below or PM me.) Long-term or non-local: Check out and let me know how we can help you fulfill the ops/commands of Ephesians 4:11-16 and the "teaching them to obey all" of the Great Commission.

Friday, August 20, 2021

discipled strongly by politics, lightly by pastors, or rigorously through the Word and with Jesus

David French dropped an ouch that I read in another article: "Most conservative white evangelicals spend far more time listening to right-wing radio and TV hosts than to their own pastors."

A broadside with Biden-levels of policy accuracy but an important kernel of truth. Let's break it down...

-I'd bet my ranch that the same applies to "politically active/interested" folks of various ethnicities and ideology. So, why pick on certain folks by ideology or especially by race? #WhiteGuilt

-By "conservative" (and liberal), I'm guessing he means theologically so, since there are only a handful of conservatives or liberals politically-- Christian or otherwise. (As always don't confuse GOP with conservative or Dem/Left with liberal.)

-Why would these folks listen to their pastors more than they listen to radio/TV, since pastors only provide a half-hour per week?

-Why *should* they listen to their pastors more than that to be faithful disciples of Jesus? Discipleship can only be lightly served by a weekly sermon. #RollUpYourSleeves #GettingEquipped

-All this said, Christians are not disciples of Jesus often enough. To French's broader point, they should be reading the Word, listening to godly counsel, and engaging in biblical community much more than radio/TV of any type-- political or otherwise.

-Punchline: All of this stems from both church leaders and laity falling prey to various temptations-- failing to offer and failing to accept-- ways in which one might engage in rigorous discipleship with Jesus. #DisobeyingEphesians4_11thru16

Lyman Stone on changes in American religiosity over time

Had read this summary/excerpt earlier, but just finished the longer research piece (in the first comment below). Really nice work, if you're into this question. (The longer article is long, but you can skim a lot of it.)

Key findings for me:
1.) Reiterates the importance of understanding the 1950s as a religious aberration-- not the end of a long period of intense religiosity from the early days of the American experiment. This includes a surprisingly low level of religiosity in our earlier years as a country. (See: my Touchstone article on Herberg's classic book about this.)

2.) The 1st Great Awakening may have changed which churches people attended, but did not have a big impact on overall religiosity.

3.) The correlations and likely somewhat-causal impacts of dramatically increasing and then declining marriage-- and increased secular education (length of days, # of days and years)-- on religiosity.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

articles on the 20th anniversary of 9/11

A beautiful piece by Jim Kushiner in Touchstone based on history, providence, and Christian theology. 

Jennifer Senior's account in The Atlantic is a powerful, personal, and poignant article on 9/11's impact on one family. 

Stephen Presser in Chronicles on the Surveillance State subsequent to 9/11. We're still bearing "fruit" from the largely-bipartisan willingness to (heavily) trade-off liberty for security. Just like the mid-1990s GOP success and Bush II's profligacy killed off most of the conservatives, 9/11 and President O-bomb-a killed off most of the liberals. Now, we're mostly left with Lefties, Righties, and a ton of feckless pols and enabling partisans.

George Packer's article in The Atlantic has much good analysis in it. 

1.) Setting the context about the relative peace/prosperity that we faced (and confident complacency that we chose) between the end of the Cold War and 9/11. Tech advance made it seem as if economic woes  and body bags in our military efforts were a thing of the past. 

2.) How we ignored the Islamists for a decade when they had been trying to get our attention. This is excusable for the general public, but not so much for the bureaucratic failures and in-fighting that prevented us from realizing, assessing, and mitigating the dangers at hand. (Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower is excellent on this. Here's my review. See also: the Netflix series.)

3.) He argues that there were three "influential scripts": the US as innocent advocates for freedom (conservative interventionists); "blowback" by relatively powerless people against powerful interlopers (Libertarian-- or at libertarian/liberal on this issue; see: my review of Pape's book which provides the academic analysis of this concern); and the US as duty-bound to use its military to support human rights and "democracy" ("liberal interventionists"). In practice, the interventionists of both stripes dominated the political arena, until it became increasingly obvious that intervention wasn't working all that well. 

4.) The Islamists won in a sense-- as we "fell into the jihadists' trap and embarked on an undefined, unwinnable War on Terror, while imagining, as Bush declared, that 'it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing'." (I had forgotten that quote of amazing hubris.) But in the long-run, they didn't win-- at least in a positive manner-- having "receded as a strategic threat". 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

a little trip to Owensboro, etc.

Tonia and I got away for two days last week-- centered on Owensboro, but stops before/after as well. It was a nice little trip-- and maybe the last destination for us in our area, within a two-hour drive. (In the past, we've been to Indy, Cincy, Lexington, Evansville, Horse Cave, Frankfort, Madison, and Columbus/Nashville/Brown County. If you have other suggestions, let me know!)

Our itinerary: 

-hiked the Hemlock Cliffs trail in Hoosier National Forest

-lunch at Soup-n-Such Bistro and visited the monastery at Ferdinand

-Owensboro (Day 1b): Bluegrass Hall of Fame; Museum of Fine Art; dinner and strolling the riverfront

-Owensboro (Day 2a): W. KY Botanical Gardens; World's Largest Sassafras tree

-Bill Monroe birthplace and museum

-Abraham Lincoln birthplace (National Park) and museum

-dinner and then, the movie "Nine Days" at Village 8

All of it was at least good/solid. (Results may vary with your preferences.) The bluegrass stops were better than expected. But the highlights were the art museum (much better than expected) and the riverwalk (really nice). Their high school looked like a college building. It got me wondering how they got so much money or how effective their government must be. 

Anywho, I can definitely recommend our trip to you if you're looking for two days away.