In the Present Tense

February 25, 2011

Economic Justice

Filed under: Culture and the Bible, Present Truth — edoutlook @ 6:07 pm

I recently was asked a question about “economic justice.” Here’s an adaptation of my reply

 

The problem simply comes down to this: Justice in the human realm is relatively easy to define. Equality before the law, and what is known as procedural due process, having the law applied fairly and consistently. Even this has its problems, but they are not insurmountable.

The problem comes when humans want to establish absolute justice. We just aren’t capable of it. Sinful people in a sinful world lack the ability to reach perfection in any endeavor. When we add the word “social” or “economic” to justice, we find it nearly impossible to define in a way that it can be administered. Put another way, we find it impossible to identify.  Two people work for an hour, doing the same work. But one is paid twice as much as the other. Is that justice? We have pretty good authority that it just might be. (Matt 20:1-16).

Absent that example, what if one worker can finish an hour’s work in half an hour, while it takes the other one twice as long? If the first worker does twice as much, is it just for him to receive twice as much?

I do remedial counseling with a 40+ year old retarded man. I counsel him while he’s at work. He gets paid his standard amount, probably about minimum wage. I get considerably more for the hour we spend together. Is that just?

Bill Gates has billions more than I do. Is that just? In economic terms he has improved the lives of tens of millions of people. Is it not just that he should receive a small portion in return for that improvement? And yes, his wealth, though prodigious for an individual, is dwarfed by the value his software brings to just our own economy. In 1970, most people didn’t know what “software” was. This year, software and computer-dependent jobs will contribute several trillion dollars to our economy. That doesn’t account for multiple years, or many other economies. One tenth of one percent (0.001) of a trillion dollars is $1billion.

Is economic justice receiving what one deserves? If so, how can that actually be determinde? It seems to me we would have to be God to determine that.

There are individuals, I’ll use pimps as an example, who not only don’t deserve the money they get, they owe enormous sums to everyone. But the only effective way to do that would be to enslave them, and use what they produce to provide restitution. And some of what they owe is not monetary, nor can money provide remedy.

But there are those who are homeless, or unemployed, etc., whom we wish to help. This is not “justice” but “grace.” I suspect what those who advocate “economic justice” really mean is something like “economic grace.”And even here we face difficulty.

For one alcoholic, a little help will be all that’s needed to give him/her hope, and encourage them to rehab. For another, seemingly in identical circumstances, that same help would be used to get by one more day. Would it be either gracious or just to give them the same help? I cannot see how it would be. But how could we know which is which, not being God, able to read hearts?

And yes, I know of just such a case. My wife’s brother received just enough aid to help him get by. When we offered him help, on condition that he not practice his destructive habits (while living with us), he declined. He died an early death of self-neglect and abuse enabled by welfare.

One economist has said, “scarcity is a tutor.” It seems that God agrees. Because one of the first actions He took after Adam sinned was to make food more difficult to produce, and thus more scarce.(Gen 3:18,19). Humans simply lack the wisdom to know when one has learned what the tutor has to teach, and when one needs more tutoring.

“Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her. ”

Proverbs 8:10, 11.

 

November 4, 2010

For those sitting in darkness. . .

Filed under: Culture and the Bible, Present Truth, Surviving in Church — edoutlook @ 3:34 am

A young friend of mine just sent me a message which included this: “I’ve been wondering why I’ve been wasting my time being unfulfilled in the Adventist church I’m in.” Not only do I hear this same sentiment from many young Christians of nearly every denomination–I spent many years of my life feeling exactly the same way.

It feels like there’s no point to it all. I used to ask myself why did I even care? In my case, not only did I not receive any positive reinforcement, I was repeatedly vilified. I was accused of virtually every possible sin-even once of borderline adultery. Oh, in that case, it was a clear instance of confusing me with a different teacher at summer camp.

Had the pastor–yes, it was my pastor who made the accusation–bothered to inquire, he would have discovered the truth. When the pastor made the accusation in front of several church members, my wife burst out laughing. She had been at camp with me, and even spotted the offending person’s behavior before I did.

Another pastor said my “existence” was a problem for the church. That was the first time I truly felt suicidal. I share this not to disparage the pastors involved, nor to stimulate sympathy. I just want those now feeling that sort of discouragement, those “sitting in darkness” that I have been there. Occasionally, I return there.

I have no magic answers. I will not offer texts that tell you to have patience. One saint said to me many years ago, “Never pray for patience. If you do, God will send you trials!”

All I can do is share my own experience.

My parents sent me to a boarding academy, with predictions that I would love it there. In fact, that’s what I anticipated. I arrived on campus expecting only the best. Instead, I experienced three years of nearly unremitting hell. Happily, I did meet the girl I later married there. But several faculty members attempted to break us up repeatedly.

Some thirty years later, I went to a class reunion (my wife’s experience is much different, and I went for her). Much to my surprise, someone whom I did not remember–he had been a freshman my junior (and last) year–told me how my treatment of him had been so radically different than the way other upper classmen treated him. I had been an encouragement to him.

I taught church school for more than a decade. Although I enjoyed the classroom, and my supervisors and students praised my teaching, not all parents and pastors agreed. Politics came into the scene, and often I had to move because of displeasing someone whose money or station gave them power.

I left one school in the midwest in the late 1970’s purged by one parent–whose children loved my classroom. There had been a young girl there “saved” from her insufficiently pious family–that’s how the pastor’s wife had phrased it. I did not agree, and did what little I could to help the girl reconcile. This brought me censure, and appeared not to help the girl.

Thirty years later I met this now grown woman in New York City, of all places. She came up to me and after identifying herself, she said, “You were the one who knew what they were doing to me, all those years ago.”

I sighed, and said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”

She shook her head, “You were the only one who saw. In fact, it took me years to realize what they had taken from me. What I had lost.”

We talked for a while. I asked her how she recognized me at a distance, my hair now being gray. “I recognized your laugh,” she said.

I could go on. I have many more stories. But the point is not about how wonderful I was. Because at the very times I was encouraging or helping others–often unknowingly–I was personally going through great discouragement.

All this has taught me to view this text in perhaps an unorthodox way :

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.

Phillippians 2:14-15

You probably have thought of this in reference to the world at large. But we all know that the Enemy works hardest in the church, because that’s where he can do the most damage. All churches are full of sinners, some of whom are “crooked and perverse.” And it’s doubly disturbing when we encounter them in the church. All I can say is, if God has put you in such a place, it must be because He needs your light in that part of His world.

It may be years before you realize who may have been guided to safety, kept from discouragement by your light in that dark place.

It may not be much, but it’s what I can offer.

November 2, 2010

Political parties. . .and Churches?

I’m departing from the series on First Principles– well, sorta– because I want to talk about something that’s timely.

As I write this, it looks like a political tide of historic proportions is about to sweep the U.S. This is not a partisan post. I’m not going to comment on whether I’m in favor or opposed to either the current direction of policy, or the predicted wave of opposition to it.

Numerous commentators on both sides of the issue have pointed out that it’s not generally a good idea to tell voters that they are too stupid, or angry, or inattentive– whatever– to know what’s good for you. In my years, I’ve seen this from all sides of the political spectrum at different times. In politics, it’s self-defeating.

What concerns me is that I have often heard this same thing from evangelists, preachers, and other church officials. For example, “If they don’t respond to our evangelism, it’s because they are hardened in sin,” one might say.

“Yes, I know, it’s terrible how blinded people have become by the corruption in society,” another might reply.

I’ve actually heard serious people saying this things. Repeatedly. For many years.

Imagine a business saying “Our customers are just not bright enough to buy our product.” Or buying ad advertisement telling customers, “If you actually knew what you were doing, you would beg us to sell you our services.” A business that says that sort of thing would soon be out of business.

But churches and political parties often become so certain of how correct they are, that anyone who doesn’t come on board is stupid, foolish, or not paying attention.

Well, the Bible makes it pretty clear that people–including ourselves– are in fact stupid, foolish, and not paying attention. That simply gives us a better idea of what our task is. It is precisely sinful, corrupted, hardened, foolish, and inattentive people it is our duty to reach.

Put another way, both political parties and churches that bemoan the condition of their audience should instead recognize that it is their message, their marketing, their communication that is lacking.

Next time you hear someone talking about how difficult it is to reach the audience, be aware that they’re really saying: We don’t know how to do our job. Because a prerequisite to learning is admitting our ignorance.

 

October 12, 2010

First Principles

I apologize for the long delay between posts. I’ve been unbelievably busy.

 

This blog is for believers. If you don’t believe in God, there are other posts I’ll write just for your consideration. My friends know I don’t insist people believe what I do, but welcome honest questions.

But this one is just for those who believe in God, specifically the God of the Bible.  And I don’t intend to argue fine points here. Quite the opposite. I’m interested only in talking about broad truths. Not details about the six-day creation, or exactly the role of women. Though they are important, that’s not what I want to discuss.

My dear sister reminded me recently of something I shared with her some thirty years ago. She said it had spared her from many a strange doctrine. I know it has always served me well, so I share it here.

Many of the debates and issues which rage in the church through the years can seem quite confusing. Often both sides of the debate appear quite reasonable, or at least plausible. Sometimes neither one seems clear. Time and again I have found refuge in “First Principles.”

Jesus demonstrated this approach in the question regarding divorce. He was asked if men could divorce their wives, as Moses said. Note the subtle trap. “Do you agree with Moses? or are you heretical?” Rather than taking the bait, Jesus resorted to first principles. “In the beginning it was not so.”

If we believe in God, and that He communicated the important things to us through the Bible, then we cannot go wrong with first principles. Belief in first principles comes down to something this simple: When God created human beings and the earth they lived in, He knew what he was doing. Whenever we are confronted with a teaching that says to us, either implicitly or explicitly, “God didn’t know what He was doing,” then we know something is wrong with the teaching.

Let me give you another example. More than thirty years ago, a bunch of cassette tapes were circulating (for those under 25, think of them as podcasts) which declared that we should eliminate all oil and oily foods from our diet. Lots of conscientious and health-conscious people went about doing just that.

As a teacher and school principal at the time, a number of church members asked me my opinion. I said, “It can’t be right.” That surprised them. Some wanted to know my credentials as a dietitian or nutritionist– I had none. Many wanted to know how I could be so certain. For me it was a simple case. Fruits and nuts were part of the diet God gave man in Eden. Few things contain higher percentages of oil than nuts. So, “Did God know what He was doing when He gave us nuts to eat?” My answer had to be yes, God knew what He was doing, and that meant that the teaching about eliminating all oily foods couldn’t be true.

Another quick example. In grad school, Education students had to take a course titled “Comparative Education,” which explored the similarities and differences of education in various cultures. Since I was at Andrews University, my class was itself very international. One student was from Hong Kong, another from Egypt, a third from Thailand, yet another from the West Indies– and so on. One day during discussion, our Egyptian student, a young man, began to declare that the problem with education in the US and most of the West was “co-education.” Educating young men and young women in the same classes, he maintained, could only lead to immorality and corruption.

Since this was the late 1970’s (I know, I know, I’m really old), and the remnants of hippie culture dominated American campuses, it was hard to argue with the fellow. After his verbal volley, the teacher, instead of answering him, asked the class members to answer.  As each of my fellow students answered, it became increasingly clear that the main arguments they had were cultural– in other words, “In my country, we do it this way.” The debate was hardening, not resolving. Finally, the teacher looked at me.

“All I know to do is to go back to the Beginning,” I said. “In Genesis it’s clear  that Eden was the first school, Adam and Eve the first students, and God their teacher,” I continued. “That sounds like co-education to me. If that was God’s ideal design in the beginning, I don’t see how it can be ‘the problem’ today. We humans are sinful, and we have problems, so those problems show up in all our institutions. But unless we have clear direction otherwise, it seems to me that God’s first plan is still the best.”

I still believe this. If Eden was the perfect plan, then the closer we can approach to it, the better.  I believe in all things, God knew what He was doing. And so many, many questions of today that seem perplexing to some, seem much simpler to me. I will mention one are that I will take up in the future, and that’s the environmental movement. First principles have a lot to tell us about that.

As always, I welcome comments and questions. I have offered this because it has literally spared me many an anxious moment, and helped me navigate some of the trickiest currents we encounter in life. I commend it to you.

September 3, 2010

The Challenge

Filed under: Bible study, Evangelism, Law and Legalism, Present Truth — edoutlook @ 9:40 am

I’ve been reluctant to take the next step, but to be true to my readers and my calling, I feel compelled to continue.

The Adventist Church, and virtually every other denomination or even independent congregation of which I am aware, is geared toward producing hollow III churches and leaders. That’s because evaluations are made on the basis of “success.” on numbers. Whether it ‘s the membership, attendance, or tithe, we assess and promote on the basis of success.

Numerous consequences follow. First of all, no institution is fond of “dark nights of the soul.’  Pastors and leaders who enter the dark night actually question success.This literally appears to be heretical to those above and below them in the organization. So institutional forces discourage and often punish the inward journey.

Necessarily, then, we end up with many in positions of leadership who are “hollow III’s,” individuals who have not found their personal identity and purpose.

These leaders will also discourage others from entering the dark night, and thus stunt the spiritual growth of any who listen. It also results in a church largely made up of those below level III, that is of those in the Romance and Discipleship stages.

In fact, in most congregations of which I have been a part, being in the Romance and Discipleship stages is the path to church office and leadership.  As someone has said, people generally rise no higher than their leadership. This alone insures that most of our congregations will be stuck at levels I and II.

This explains why so many have such a negative view of Christians in the advanced world. The main examples they see are “successful” preachers. And so people ask, as the song did, “Would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?”

More likely they encounter Discipleship members, intent on learning, and often enforcing, all the “rules” as they understand them. This “gnat straining and camel swallowing” religion turns them off.

And those in the Romance phase seem simply delusional. If we want to have spiritually growing congregations, then we are going to have to change what we look at and what we measure. As Baptist Bob Logan warned us, “We need to change the role, the function, and the compensation of our pastors.”

Right now, we’re looking at the wrong things, and rewarding the wrong behaviors, from top to bottom. The problem is not only that we need to change, but that change will threaten Success, and perplex Disciple level believers. Indeed, if our model is correct, then leaders who attempt these changes will likely have made it to level V, the Outward Journey. And again, if our model is correct, as soon as the vast majority of Level II believers become aware of the leader’s true Level V status, they will kill him.

Having said this, is it therefore impossible to make such changes? No. We’ll explore how in future posts.

August 19, 2010

The Startling Conclusion

Resuming the stages of faith and leadership.

Somewhere along this journey comes– the Dark Night of the Soul II– which I simply call “Gethsemane.” Yes, Jesus had two dark nights of the soul, and as he told us, the servant is not greater than the master. We can expect no less– unless we short-circuit the process, and choose to stay at an earlier level. But if we choose growth, we will encounter a second dark night of the soul.

The First, like Jesus temptation in the wilderness, tempts us with easy choices. Indeed, in M. Scott Peck’s “The People of the Lie,” which is an examination of evil, Peck’s conclusion is that the real evil is making easy choices. Not only do I agree with it, it frightens me. Because I’m always tempted to make the easy choice.

When we get to the dark night of the soul II, to Gethsemane, we are overwhelmed with the sense of futility. We know who we are, we know our mission in life, but it seems that we will make the sacrifice and receive nothing in return. After a whole lifetime of seeking and struggling, is this all there is?

And the answer comes back, as it did for Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Perhaps our witness seems ineffective. The darkness appears stronger than our small candle. Like the flower that blooms unseen, we may think that we have lived in vain.

But of course the darkness can nevery overwhelm the light. We can never know which life we have touched that will have great results, and which would have not happened for our witness. And no flower ever blooms unseen. For the Father of all notes the fall of a sparrow, sees the light from a smoldering flax, and traces the thousands of tiny influences that lead a soul to salvation.

We live to Him and for Him, or we live for naught. And when we claw our way through Gethsemane, when we reach the conclusion “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours–” we come to the last stage: Unconditional Love.

The wrongs we have suffered no longer matter. The sacrifices shrink into insignificance. Having come into complete accord with God’s will, we can no longer hate anyone.

Now, I don’t claim to have inhabited this exalted state. At times, I think I may have visited. I have met others who certainly appeared to have attained this state.

One would think that, when a person attains this unconditional love, peace would result. And internal, spiritual peace does (once again, I have visited, not attained). But that does not mean that the world is at peace with us. Quite the contrary. For if you love everyone, then you also love my enemies, and I find that particularly upsetting.

It’s interesting that nearly every one of the Disciples died a violent death. What we know of their deaths, they approached them with peace in their hearts. They were not killed because they had done violence, but because their existence was a reproach to those around them.

When confronted with Christ, or with a truly Christian person, there are two basic reactions. We see this in the gospel. The Pharisees saw Christ, and said, “Why does he have to be that way?” The disciples saw Christ and said, “Why can’t I be like that?”

True saintliness almost always evokes both those extremes. We either aspire to be like that person, or to be rid of his or her offensive example.

And this leads to M. Scott Peck’s final dictum on these stages of development. Once again, they are:

I. Romance

II. Discipleship

III. Success

IV. The Inward Journey

V. The Outward Journey

VI. Unconditional Love

Peck said, when you are one stage ahead of those around you, they admire you. When you are two stages ahead of those around you, they are perplexed by you. When you are three stages ahead of those around you– they will kill you.

I was startled when I first heard this. But then I realized I had seen it again and again. Many, many church members get stuck in the first two stages. Those who are in Romance are horrified and frightened by someone embarking on the inward journey, with its Dark Night. For them, everything’s wonderful, so anyone struggling must be ‘losing his faith.’

For the person in Discipleship, with its earnest seeking to internalize all the rules and norms, someone embarking on the Outward Journey appears to be breaking all those rules. Worse, his very existence brings tough questions to the Disciple’s world view that are not easily answered, situations with which the Disciples’ rules simply cannot cope.

In both cases, the main remedy appears to be to simply cast out the troubling individual.  They will kill you.

There’s more, but this is enough for now.

August 11, 2010

Drums?

A young friend asks about drums, specifically a drum set in church or for worship.  I suppose we’ve made progress. No one seems to object to the guitar anymore. The short answer is that there will never be an end to people attempting to make lists of good and bad instruments, foods, books, ideas– what have you. It saves everyone the trouble of thinking about things, about making judgment calls. Just adhere to the lists, and you will be OK.

Of course, one big problem is that the lists change over time. At one point, the organ was considered taboo, since it had been associated with gladiatorial combat. Come to think of it, I’ve known quite a few churches where “Who gets to play the organ” battles were somewhat reminiscent of gladiatorial combat. But I digress.

Of course, all this,in Adventism, is predicated on one reference–although repeated in several places– to “shouting, with drums, music, and dancing,” that took place in Indiana in the Holy Flesh movement of the early 20th century.

It’s always interesting how these passages get parsed out. For example, rather than taking what happened as a whole, critics like to single out drums and dancing. It seems to me that shouting is a staple of certain types of preaching which is deemed quite acceptable. Nor have I seen any serious attempts to ban all music.

But why should that be? If all these things, “shouting, with drums, music, and dancing” were bad, why should some be banned and others accepted? I just don’t buy it.  I’ve posted this video before, but I think it bears repeating.

Does anyone seriously contend that this Nigerian carol is inappropriate? It is not the type of music I grew up with, but I cannot listen to it without being profoundly moved.

If Christ can cast demons out of human beings who were once their willing hosts, cannot inanimate objects be employed for His glory as well? Things are just things. What we do with them is what makes them a blessing or a curse.

Shouting, drums, music, and dance can be used to deaden the moral faculties and lead us into sin; or they can be used to the glory of God.

Legalism, on the other hand, is always deadly. At the GC session this summer, Pastor Paul Frederick from India addressed gathering with these words :”One of the most serious problems facing the Christian church today is legalism. It wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer. Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession. Legalism is an obsessive conformity to an artificial standard for obtaining salvation. But when we are living by grace, we realize that everything we need in our Christian experience is a gift from God.”

There followed a performance of an Indian song praising God, accompanied by hand drums.

To this ear, it sounded both uniquely Indian and uniquely Adventist in the same way that “Mas Alla del Sol” sounds both uniquely Adventist and uniquely Mexican. And the drums added to that effect.

June 23, 2010

Elijah’s Razor and Social Justice

Filed under: Christianity and Politics, Culture and the Bible, Present Truth — edoutlook @ 4:14 am

I see a great deal of talk today about being a “social justice Christian.” Although supposedly a theological stance, it usually devolves into a political one: favoring certain government remedies for social ills, such as government healthcare, for instance.  Many Christians are almost tripping over one another to declare themselves “social justice Christians,” in what appears to be an attempt to distance themselves from “ordinary Christians.”

As indicated in the previous blog, I’m going to apply Elijah’s Razor to that issue. And when I do, I find that, as well-intentioned as they may be, most of these remedies are treating the symptoms, not the disease.

Just take a look at these statistics. Children from a fatherless home are:

  • 5 times more likely to commit suicide.
  • 32 times more likely to run away.
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
  • 14 times more likely to commit rape
  • 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
  • 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution.
  • 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

And that’s just the beginning. For a fuller (and more frightening) description, go here.

Years ago, when I was regularly in contact with the legislature, members of both political parties wanted to implement measures to deal with “at risk” children. I still hear that concern mentioned, in connection with certain social policies. Well, I’m no longer going to remain silent.  You want to really help ‘at risk’ children? Then don’t enact policies that encourage fathers to leave, or women to be single mothers.  Too harsh? Try this on for size:

“”Daughters of single parents are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.” (that’s on the same page as the previous data)

Should we provide help for single mothers? Of course. But we must be careful to do it in ways that do not encourage other women to become single mothers, and condemn further generations to fatherlessness and all that entails.

So Elijah’s Razor compels me to oppose anything that weakens the incentives to marry carefully, and then to stay married. Want to decrease child abuse? Then make cohabitation illegal, and enforce it. Find that too coercive? Then don’t talk to me about “at risk” children. A cohabiting male is much more likely to abuse mothers and children, both physically and sexually. End cohabitation, and you will dramatically reduce abuse.

And no, this has nothing to do with legislating either religion or morality. The costs to society are enormous. If it’s reasonable to prohibit one person from dumping their trash on another’s property, it’s reasonable to prohibit them from polluting the neighborhood with behaviors that injure us all.

No doubt this will alarm some. But it is time that we are all alarmed by the damage being done to the family.

And before anyone hyperventilates, I am not proposing that we outlaw everything that is injurious. Lying is injurious in various ways, but unless you do it in court, or in a contract or other legal document, it is not illegal, nor should it be. There are many behaviors that are wrong, but are not and should not be punished by the government.

But today’s “at risk” children may well be tomorrow’s felons. Yes, as Christians, we should do all that we can to help those already at risk. But one of the best things we can do is to help prevent more children being put at risk by the irresponsible behavior of adults.

June 21, 2010

Elijah’s Razor on Father’s Day

Filed under: Culture and the Bible, Present Truth, The End, Women in the Bible, Worship — edoutlook @ 2:57 am

I’ve been contemplating this for some time. I’ve hesitated, because I am generally suspicious of manifestos and ultimata. I’ve wondered whether I should go out on this particular limb. As this Father’s Day comes to a close, I feel compelled to finally declare myself.

This blog is titled “In the Present Tense” because I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and I believe the uniquely Adventist contribution is the one of “Present Truth.”

As George Knight has documented, “Present Truth” was not a single doctrinal position, but rather a dynamic concept of bringing God’s Word to bear on the most important issues of a particular time and place. In 1843 it was the Second Coming. In the summer of 1844 it was the “Tenth day of the seventh month.” In November 1844 it was the Heavenly Sanctuary. In 1859 it was the 7th day Sabbath. And so on.

Some other place and some other time I will explore this concept in greater detail, but today I want to focus on what I believe is Present Truth today, right now. What I think is the most important thing to realize here and now.

Frankly, I expect that this will result in a good deal of criticism, even ridicule. That’s one reason I have put it off until now. But, on this Father’s day, I feel impelled to declare my mind.

I believe that the most important thing for today is found in Malachi 4: 5, 6.

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

From our earliest days, Adventists have considered themselves the Elijah movement, those who act as forerunners of the King, as we proclaim the Second Coming. But for some reason we have been hesitant to proclaim what the Bible clearly designates as the Elijah message: Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children.

One consequence, I believe, is that we are hemorrhaging young adults at lethal rate. And few seem to either note it or even care. Another symptom of this failure to emphasize this crucial truth is that we are engaged in essentially trivial controversies.

Gay marriage, women’s ordination, worship wars, music –these are but a few of the highly controversial issues that generate so much heat and produce so little light among us today. And I believe that focusing on turning the hearts of the fathers to the children either resolves these disputes or puts them into perspective which makes them manageable.

You may have heard of Occam’s Razor, which basically states that the simplest explanation that takes all facts into account is likely to be correct. Well, this is my razor–call it “Elijah’s Razor.” From now on, if one side of an issue can be shown to aid in turning the hearts of the fathers to their children, then Elijah’s razor says that is the preferred position. If it  detracts from that cause, Elijah’s razor condemns it. If it has no effect either way, then Elijah’s Razor declares it irrelevant.

That’s it. That’s my declaration. I don’t want to pick any fights or start any controversies. But if someone asks me about any issue, from gay marriage to government health care to women’s ordination to worship and beyond, I’ll apply Elijah’s Razor. And there’s no better time to declare this focus than Father’s Day.

June 8, 2010

Growing in Faith II — Discipleship

Filed under: Law and Legalism, Surviving in Church — edoutlook @ 3:23 pm

The second stage in this critical journey is Discipleship. Someone at this level often seeks a mentor, and is very conscientious about their faith. This is often a sort of ‘fundamentalist’ stage, where everything is black and white. In the first stage, Romance, everything was beautiful. In this stage, everything is right or wrong.

Some note that many young believers who do not abandon faith become very legaistic. That’s natural, as this Discipleship stage is an indicator of growth. So is abandoning faith, in an odd way.

Remember that at this stage, everything is black or white. It is only natural that some, seing a lot of tares, a lot of hypocrisy, a lot of imperfection in the church, should choose to abandon it altogether. They, too, are entering a Discipleship phase– looking for something better. Those who truly seek will surely find.

Of course, some abandon faith because it represents the easy path in today’s society, and the easy choice is seldom a good one. On the other hand, there are those who never progress beyond the Discipleship stage. They can be just as destructive as those who become opponents, because these permanent Disciples can become mentors for others, thus stunting their growth.

The most important concern is continued growth. Growth is painful, but things that cease to grow die. So when we see someone in the Discipleship phase, those of us who have progressed from that position should offer assistance and affirmation. If we simply condemn them, we fail to understand this whole growth process, and perhaps give evidence that we have not progressed past Discipleship ourselves. After all, condemning someone who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with us sounds a lot like black-and-white thinking. So instead of that, why not offer to share whatever we can?

We need to see the fundamentalism of the Discipleship stage not as good or bad, but as a necessary stage of development.

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.