Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Archive for the ‘the church’ Category

Sunday inspiration 7/20/08

Posted by Chris on July 20, 2008

I watch this at least once a week…

“I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel, but I’ll tell you what I feel about it: Hatred.  It is being exported from this country to Africa and Asia, selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor… People that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called ‘Gospel’…”

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Posted in christianity, homeless/needy persons, links of the day, the church | Leave a Comment »

Smile Train in Haiti

Posted by Chris on April 17, 2008

The Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org) is a really cool charity. They perform cleft-lip surgeries in poor countries. They are not the only group doing so, but are arguably the best at what they do. They practice a business-like, efficient operating model. It has allowed them to quickly increase the number of operations, passing the 300,000 mark recently. I think they just passed 200,000 last year, so they are doing quite well.

For people like you and I, the Smile Train has a great offer for donating money. All donations go towards surgeries- they have other funding for overhead. $250 funds one surgery. It changes a life. It can take away depression and social stigma and make available opportunities for a successful life. The video above is from a recent trip that the Smile Train founder made to Haiti.

Haiti: makes me so sad. So close to us in the US, it really is “our neighbor.” There is such physical proximity to our borders that we cannot ignore the plight of the Haitian people as something happening “over there.” It is under our watch. Furthermore, our government has been very active in the last 20 years, “influencing” its leadership. Watching this video reminded me of reading Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, an account of the doctor/anthropologist/public health expert Paul Farmer who opened a health clinic in Haiti. Farmer, while not a Christian, is guided by liberation theology and the message of Matthew 25 to care for the “least of these.” He sees Haiti as his neighbor, so much so that he forsook his Harvard coursework to do clinic work, returning only to take his tests. What can I do

Posted in globalization, human rights, the church | Leave a Comment »

2202 words on birth control and the Christian

Posted by Chris on March 29, 2008

The following is a response to a fellow blogger in a back-and-forth conversation we have had about the moral rights of the Christian as it pertains to birth control methods. He often blogs on the topic at his Lawn Gospel blog, but I came across the blog recently and am addressing his posts and comments on three different posts. If you want to understand exactly what I’m responding to, read each of the posts and comments. (1, 2, 3)

It is important to understand that our positions are very close on this issue, when you compare us to the rest of the world, or even American Christian culture. So while it may sound like I’m trying to present some opposing viewpoint, that’s really not the case. Instead, we have been discussing very precise points of disagreement. What we agree on is the presumptuousness in the attitudes of Christian couples when it comes to birth control, and the need for more honest, biblical, questioning of the ethics of the whole business.

The response starts now.

BH,

I’m going to bring three posts’ comments under one head here. First, I enjoyed your response about the relationship between the church and pro-life ministry. Second, I will respond to your question about the moral use of birth control by a Christian couple. Third, I will respond to your reasoning about the Biblical context of birth control. Actually, 2 and 3 will be one response, and I am going to use a parallel between health/medical issues and birth control. This parallel is not intended as one of moral equivalence but rather literal treatment of each in the Bible vs. the current cultural assumptions about each one.

I cannot, with scripture, refute your assertion that we have no right to separate sex from procreation (an act from its natural consequences found in the Bible). That argument must come from a “culturally fashioned assumption.” Instead, I will attempt to build up a nearly as tight defense for a biblical argument against most uses of medicine today. By doing so, I will challenge your assumption that the cultural assumptions are “unfounded.”

Do you have the right to separate leprosy from suffering and death (an act from its natural consequences found in the Bible)?? Unless a prophet or Jesus intervened, the person faced separation and death. Thus, it was, at a minimum, God’s providential will that a person with leprosy suffer and die unless He intervened supernaturally. Similarly, unless the Lord willed that a woman be barren, she usually had “a lot” of kids.

In each case, I can think of one method outside of God’s intervention, which one could pursue. Birth control was present in abortion or infanticide. An ill person could pursue a pagan solution- visiting a healer or following an ungodly superstition—hardly what we would consider medical treatment, in the context of Western bio-medical thought.

In the last few centuries, we have obliterated all the old conventions of how to solve “problems” in the world—including, but not limited to, the treatment of disease and birth control that does not require killing. I will ask you to suspend your culturally-conditioned assumptions for the moment (i.e., you are not allowed to point to distinctions within medicine, such as we shouldn’t remove a feeding tube but we should have open-heart surgery). These choices were not available at the time the Bible was written. In the same way that you are using the phrase “biblical context” in a very strict sense, so will I. The biblical context of medicine is limited solely to what was available and what people did. “Is any one of you sick? He should call the ELDERS of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:14) “When anyone has an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to the PRIEST.” (Lev 13:9) The only doctor whose diagnosis the Bible demands be sought is the Great Physician. There were doctors but I don’t know much about what they did. Hippocrates was ethical, but, in comparison to modern medicine, it seems that that was about his only contribution.

You said: “But I think we must first go back further and question our “right” to separate sex from procreation, our “right” to medically/chemical close the womb, and our “right” to wield power over the creation of the Imago Dei in the procreative process.” My point is that we do not accept medical advances based on our “right” to violate God’s sovereignty in the area of disease. There are other acceptable grounds, but they fall outside of the only acceptable means for fighting disease for God’s people in the scriptures.

In the arena of birth control, we are also presented with new means. Just as with medicine, that doesn’t mean we can just accept these new means without critical evaluation of two things: the methods and our motives. But I believe it does mean that the role of Biblical thought is not in the historical precedent of scripture, but in utilizing a biblical thought process for evaluating the new choices. Sex without procreation, aside from the intervention of the Lord, does not occur in scripture except for abortion and infanticide. Disease without death, aside from healing from the Lord’s anointed, has no clear precedent in scripture, and can only be pursued through fruitless pagan superstitions.

I recognize that one is much more of a moral issue than the other, but I draw the comparison as a way of saying that sex without procreation is not an idea we must accept exclusive of the realities of our culture and the new assumptions to which these realities have led. Just as the choices for resisting disease are no longer limited to fruitless superstitions, the choices for separating sex from procreation are no longer limited to the unethical ending of a life.

Briefly, I will answer some obvious weaknesses of this reasoning and its consequences, and try to maintain the parallel with medicine. 1: The abuses of widely available birth control– I acknowledge this, but more and more we are seeing the abuses being accepted under the umbrella of biomedicine thought. 2: The overall negative social consequences of the “contraception culture”– The same response as before (and indeed, here, the two issues begin to converge). 3: The potential of birth control to end human life- This only applies to certain forms of birth control and should be treated separately. 4: The danger of moral ambiguity– if we judge the morality of decisions based on the motives, “everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial.” This frustrates me too. But it’s a necessary part of the already/not yet struggle of the Christian pilgrim. We don’t have all the information that God has.

The usage of the following passage is probably somewhat out of its specific context but I think within the context of Pauline thought:

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Cor 4:4-5)

Paul repeatedly judges the sinful actions of believers in his letters. But I think he willingly condemns easily identifiable sins like stealing, sexual immorality, and laziness but only recommends conscience on the ambiguous issues. When it comes to eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul commands Christians not to be present at a feast to pagan gods—obvious idolatry—“you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too.” (1 Cor 10:21). But Paul concedes that eating meat sacrificed to idols (according to my study bible, this was most of the meat sold in the market at Corinth) was not only a matter of conscience but also culturally conditioned (do not be afraid to accept the invitation to a meal, or conversely, do not offend the weak brother).

So my argument comes down to saying that if using birth control can be an immoral participation in an ungodly tradition, but can also be a matter of conscience. And now, I will finally answer your question you posed to me: “when is it moral for a Christian couple to use birth control?”

1-A: it is not moral when it is an attempt to circumnavigate God’s sovereignty. Not in the strict/literal sense, but in the sense of motives such as: more kids will mean we can’t have the lifestyle we prefer; a dislike of children; choosing career advancement over family because of a love for personal gain; and the most common would be what you identify as the your biggest frustration: people passively ignoring the issue.

1-B: it is moral to make decisions for which a one subsequent action is some form of birth control (Driscoll makes this point); more kids will mean we cannot have the vocation God calls us to (a female professional athlete for instance—haha, I just thought of that); a love for abandoned children who need adoption; choosing to pursue overseas missions.

2-A: it is not moral to abandon childbearing because of fear of social or governmental repercussions. Many people will publicly insult us because of our large family. The government will fine us (a reality in China at one point, and a distinct possibility in the US if some get their way).

2-B: it is moral to take some measure to limit family sizes because of real threats. (This is dangerous, because, Moses may have never been born if you take this to its logical conclusion—but I will appeal to God’s sovereignty over the continuum of history and His grand plan of redemption to call that an impossibility). So a Christian family in China 20 years ago, when your second girl might be forcibly taken from you and killed, could make a moral decision to use birth control.

3- some more specific instances, and, a personal example, of the moral use of birth control. I believe Driscoll uses this one: a sick parent. What if a parent is terminally ill and should die within 2-3 years? Should they continue to pursue a course of action that would naturally lead to more children? I’m not saying it’s wrong if they do—only that they could make a moral decision to use birth control. Or what about a dad in the Marines going to Iraq? Might they deny each other for that time?
(an aside—I think you took liberties with that passage—I believe Paul’s point is about the sexual relationship between parents without any bearing on procreation)

A personal example: genetic disease. There is a history of genetic disease in my family. My parents took a course of action that both separated sex from procreation and ensured that I would not inherit disease (turns out, there would have been a 50% chance I had it). Huntington’s Disease is terrible, in fact there was a recent profile in the Washington Post of a couple who dealt with it for a much longer period than my family did in the case of my dad (an excellent and moving article- the caretaker husband is a model of Christian devotion in marriage). If, through “birth control” techniques, we can erase Huntington’s Disease, I’ll be thankful.

Does this mean my parents made a moral decision? No. It just means that it’s possible. Not all the alternatives are morally equivalent. The motives for any action, including this one, will always be tainted somewhat by sin.

I mention this last because I don’t want to use it unfairly to induce guilt against one who would disagree. I also am able to remove the personal nature—I have no problem considering whether or not the method of my conception was perfectly in line with God’s moral will (puts me in pretty good company). And what’s the point of what-if’ing about my own nonexistence?

Rather than justify more liberty for Christians considering what to do, I would join you in challenging presumptions. However, I will accept certain cultural assumption. I hope that a combination of my theoretical view and personal life experience will give me credibility to state my case and get people to listen. Similarly, I hope the same for you, with the addition of your credentials as a minister of the gospel.

BH, I ask the following of you (or anyone) if you choose to respond. I know that my logic is not perfect. I may not always have the correct word usage either– my apologies, I am neither a wordsmith nor naturally-adept at being concise. I have no doubt you could point out flaws. If there is something that is so blatant that it renders my point irrelevant, by all means use in your response. Otherwise, I’d like to know: what is your reaction to the specific examples I gave of justifiable birth control use? Do you give any credence to the idea that birth control choices can stem around primary factors other than separating sex from procreation? And how do you make the distinction between birth control and medicine comparison as far as what is morally acceptable on the basis of God’s sovereign will?

Posted in about me, christianity, ethics, the church | 8 Comments »

man, i just did this an hour ago…

Posted by Chris on June 7, 2007

I read this a while back and just found it again on my computer:

It was a cold winter’s day that Sunday. The parking lot to the church was filling up quickly. I noticed as I got out of my car that fellow church members were whispering among themselves as they walked to the church. As I got closer I saw a man leaned up against the wall outside the church. He was almost laying down as if he was asleep. He had on a long trench coat that was almost in shreds and a hat topped his head, pulled down so you could not see his face.

He wore shoes that looked 30 years old, too small for his feet with holes all over them as well as his toes sticking out of one shoe. I assumed this man was homeless, and asleep, so I walked on by through the doors of the church. We all gathered for fellowship for a few minutes, and someone mentioned the man laying outside. People snickered and gossiped but no one bothered to ask him to come in, including me.

A few moments later church began. We all waited for the Preacher to take his place and give us the Word, when the doors to the church opened. In came the homeless man walking down the aisle with his head down. People gasped and whispered and made faces. He made his way down the aisle and up onto the pulpit and took off his coat and hat. My heart sank. There stood our preacher…he was the “homeless man”. No one said a word. The preacher took his Bible and laid it on the stand and said, “Folks, I don’t think I have to tell you what I am preaching about today.”

~~Author Unknown

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Titus don’t care ’bout yo past!

Posted by Chris on August 31, 2006

one day at work, the following thought popped in my head:

“I want to see homeless men become elders in the church”

and why not? here is what Paul writes to Titus in the epistle,

“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Titus 1:6-9

be; are; is. what do these underlined words have in common? present tense. an elder must meet a certain standard that measures his current life. Paul did not instruct Titus to look for men “born into the tribe of Levi; who obtained an education from the priests; who were never beggars.” One sentence in that passage refers to the past– “the trustworthy message as it has been taught”– but the requirement is that they hold firmly to it in the now, not to have always held the correct doctrine or theology.

many of the stereotypes of homeless men, “bums” you might say, would exclude them from currently serving as an elder. for example, drunkenness or lack of self-control. Furthermore, in the New Testament Paul shuns those who are idle and do not work for their food. Jobless, homeless men, even if sober and well-read, do not qualify as elders. They are not upholding a home, do not have the capacity to be hospitable, and are not blameless in a measure of their work ethic. however, what about ex-homeless men?

without a doubt, there are ex-alcoholics as elders. there are probably many elders that once lacked discipline, or self-control, or who struck out in violence (replace with ‘homeless’ with convicts/parolees and i think the same argument should be made). so we should not exclude them. maybe you agree. but I want to see homeless men become elders, not just allowed in a hypothetical situation.

how can i say that? if the gospel of Jesus Christ has any hope to offer, surely its promises would be most sweet for a homeless and destitute person. the person who runs to Christ, abandons their old life, and overcomes destitution bears a powerful testimony. Jesus said, “the one who has been forgiven much, loves much.” i would expect this person to love their Savior very much. I would expect elders to be drawn from a pool of people that love their Savior very much. for Our, The Church’s benefit, raise us up elders who can “encourage others” as Paul says by their firsthand knowledge of the glory of God! I want to see homeless men become elders!

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