Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The City of God against the pagans

This semester i am taking a bunch of sociology classes and the more I've been reading about criminal justice and the like, the more I have been wondering where God fits in "secular" society. As Christians living in a non theistic state, how do our convictions and presumptions fit into the law of our country? Specifically, I've been wrestling with the idea of grace and how we can (or if we can) apply that to criminals. I'm reminded of one of the closing scenes in Magnolia, where Officer Jim Kurring is driving and giving a sort of syliloquy about his job and the events of the last 24 hours and he says,
"Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail... That's the hard part of the job. That's the hard part of waking up every morning."
As simple as that line sounds, it was quite profound in the context of the movie (which I absolutely recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it. If you have go see it again and buy two copies for your friends). I agree with this line 100% but it is certainly something you wouldn't hear from most law enforcement officials or anyone involved the legal system. Forgiveness is not mentioned much or even at all to my knowledge when it comes to law enforcement. The law of the land these days is punishment and revenge. Blood cries out for blood. I will probably post about this some more later, but for the moment I am interested in what you guys think. Today we discussed 3 methods of policing in my crim. justice class. the first is the watchman method which is basically the idea that police presence deters and stops crime. If you have police patroling areas, place cameras everywhere, and monitor people heavily, crime will be lower. the Second method is the legalistic method. This idea is just to follow the law exactly. If you get caught going 1 mile over the speed limit, you are ticketed and fined. If you commit a crime and are given a 20 year sentence you go to jail for 20 years. It is basically a rigid system that bends for no one. The third method is the social service method where police basically are servants to the community. Crimes are dealt with through programs of counseling rather than rigid sentencing. This method does not exclude jail or prison but rather allows for alternatives. Each catagory has their strong areas and their weak ones. So what do you guys think is the best model (s)?
Dan, 8:07 AM | link | 3 comments |

Sunday, September 18, 2005

and when I can't see, i wake up to your eyes

So I've been listening to Further Seems Forever and have been pleasantly suprised. I usually don't like emo, in fact i can't stand it. There is just something about someone wailing about breaking up with their 17 year old girlfriend using cliched allusions to death and dying (that's right Hawthorn Heights, I'm talking to you ya' piss poor production pansies), that just seems meldramatic and self indulgent. But Further Seems Forever has really sone something incredible on thier latest CD. They have taken what is definitively emo and twisted it to make it profound. In most emo you have songs describing a downward slide from happiness to suffering (usually a break up or something similar). But Further.. has turned that around and started at the suffering and moves towards happiness. They write songs that move towards hope rather than wallowing in despair. It's as if Further is on an escalator at the Emo mall with their contemporaries on the escalator next to them. They are both meeting at the same level of the emotional escalator but Further is ascending while the rest go wallow in the basement bargain bin of masochistic mediocrity. There is still room for sadness in their music since a lot of it is written to a third party and deals with the empathy we should have towards those who suffer while offering them hope. Not only that, their subject matter actually warrants the use of death and dying as a poetic device since they are dealing with issues of sin and struggling to find God in a difficult world. Throw in some excellent musicianship, vocals and a powerful delivery and you have an incredible album that gives me hope for the emo genre.
So cheer up emo kid, there is hope for you yet, but probably not for that rediculous haircut.
Dan, 3:54 AM | link | 5 comments |

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Caught underwater, breathing; Breathing is hard

So I had an cool experience the other night. It was a Thursday and Sara and I went with some of out friends to the lighthouse is Michigan City. First of all, it was just a great time. We went with some really fun people and it was just nice to hang out and talk at such an awesome place. But what i really want to talk about was my experience at the lighthouse.
It was about 9:00 or so when we got there and it was completely dark. We walked out on this concrete isthmus that connected the beach to the lighthouse then walked around the lighthouse to this little area of concrete slabs. It was completely dark except for some light coming off the boardwalk and a little moonlight. As we were sitting and standing respectively, I walked down to the edge of the slab where the metal rods that supported the concrete from the inside were exposed from years of erosion. It was pretty windy that night and the lake had large peaking waves crashing into the beach. At the lighthouse, we were surrounded by large rocks that were placed around the lighthouse to break the water and prevent it from doing too much damage, though clearly the water had payed its toll on our particular location.
From where I stood, all i could see was black water that would creep every now and again pull back from the rocks and then lurch out in a white foam overcoming the rocks and pouring onto the slab I was standing on. As strange as it sounds, it acted almost animated; like some great beast crouching and then launching forward, clawing to reach you gurgling, hissing, and roaring the whole way. As i watched this happen over and over I couldn't help but feel some fear sneak into my mind as i wondered "what would happen if i got pulled out into the water? Would it crush me against the rocks? Would it pull me out away from shore/ Would nybody find me?"
That's when i realized that if i feel this way now, with satallites, cell phones, the coast gaurd (or whatever you call those guys that patrol the lakes) how much more would people have feared centuries or millenia ago when there weren't even well documented maps! At that point God pointed my minds eye (used poetically, not theologically, philosophically, or physiologically) to baptism. In Christ's time, water (as in Seas, Oceans, etc) was a symbol for chaos and death as it had been in Jewish tradition before then. To be baptized, to be immersed in water, is to enter into death. It is to be overcome by the swirling waters that covered the world and destroyed the wicked in the times of Noah and that killed the pigs filled with demons in the time of Christ. In our baptism we are drowned. The old man is left in those waters and, through Christ's gift of grace, the new man emerges.
As i looked at that black water and felt that fear run through me, I was calmed by this thought. That in my baptism I was brought beneath the waters where my body was dashed against the rocks and i was carried deeper and further from shore. But Christ brought me up just as He did with Peter when he stepped out of the boat and began to sink. Because when it comes down to it, we all sink. We all have this inexplicable tendency to pick up the heavy wieght of our past sin and adding the weight of new sin; as if we are chaining oursleves to the carcass of the "old man" and then trying to cross the water with it. But we cannot cross with this weight. And there is Jesus holding down his hand to us. All we have to do is let go of that sin we carry and grab onto Him. Forgive my analogy within an analogy, but it remind me of the last Indiana Jones where Indy is hanging over a cliff trying to reach this treasure he had sought for his whole life (which was the holy grail, but tht doesn't really matter for my point). He at that point must choose between grabbing this treasure and dying or reaching up to his father's hand and being pulled to safety. That is the choice we face everyday. Do we grab onto our sin, take back the old self. Or do we affirm the promise made in baptism and stay above the water through Christ's grace.
That's what came to me at the lighthouse that night with my friends. It's just incredible the places and times God speaks to us.

" we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place. I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows, those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble."
Dan, 6:43 PM | link | 2 comments |

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Papa was a rolling stone

It's been a while since my last theological rant, so I've decided to delve back into the world of heresy, blasphemy, fallacy, and outright silliness. Today we look at Generational Curses. To those of you in mainstream denominations, this may be an unfamiliar concept to you. The basic idea is that the sins of your forefathers bring a curse upon your family that will cause them to either commit the same sin or suffer a related malady due to the sin. This belief pops up in here and there in some pentecostal charismatic groups but has mostly been supported by the Word Faith movement. The proof texts for this are: Exodus 34:7
'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'

Leviticus 26:39-42
Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their fathers' sin they will waste away. But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers.

As well as Exodus 20:8; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9; 27:15-26; 28:58-59 and several other similar verses that all pretty much say about the same thing. Let me begin my discussion of this issue by saying that I am in no way denying that generational curses have or continue to exist. I will not go into what form they take or how they work in this particular post, but what I will say is that Christians cannot be afflicted with generational curses. This notion that is going through certain channels of the church of repenting for generational sin is based on OT verses read out of context, a seemingly complete dismissal of the New Testament and that Jesus fella' we all like so much, and a smorgasbord or logical fallacies. We'll first take a look at the OT.

Generational Curses are from God
It is important for this discussion that we remember that generational curses or any curse mentioned in the books of the Law are God's just and righteous judgement upon his people. They are not from the devil or demons. Every scripture that supports the concept of generational curses makes it clear that it is God who has issued them. "Cursed be anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by observing them." All the people shall say, "Amen!"
So if curses are from God, why would he continue to curse those whom he has washed white as snow? Why would he punish people for their sins after He has justified and sanctified?

Generational Curses are not inevitable

Even in the OT we see the prophets dealing with the question 'what about children who uphold the law, shall they be punished for their fathers?' There are several places in the OT that answer a resounding "NO!" such as 2 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deut. 24:16, and most notably Ezekiel 18:14-20 which says, "
"But if this man has a son who sees all the sins that his father has done, considers, and does not do likewise, who does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife, does not wrong anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,
withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no advance or accrued interest, observes my ordinances, and follows my statutes; he shall not die for his father's iniquity; he shall surely live.
As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, he dies for his iniquity.
Yet you say, "Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?" When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own."

Christ's atoning death removed all curses

Galatians 3:10-14, 23-29 clearly show us that the curses of the law no longer hold us.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith... Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise"

In verse 10 Paul quotes Deut. 27:26 and 28:58 both of which directly deal with generational curses. He makes a two fold arguement in this chapter against generational curse. 1) Christ's death atoned for all sin thus freeing us from the curse of the law. 2) We are now adopted sons and daughters of God! He is our Father and I can guarantee that there won't be any inherited sins from Him (he's done pretty good at keeping the law, you know, being perfect and all).
Some might argue that they agree that Christ's death frees us from curses, but that we must ask for deliverance, refering to Lev. 26 where God called for people to confess their sins and the sins of their father. This is problematic for several reasons. First, it disregards what confession meant in the old testament. This is not confesion as Christians know it to be. These people would have had to perform a sacrifice to atone for the sins. But we no longer need to atone for our sin since Christ was a perfect sacrifice. To apply this verse to Christians just because it uses the word "confess" is hammering a square peg in a round hole. Secondly, the theology of the generational sin proponents taken to its inevitable conclusion would claim that it is our confessions that justifies us. But Paul addresses this directly in Galatians (as well as many other places) and tells us that it is faith that justifies us. Through faith we are reunited with God and made holy. Once we are reunited with God we are filled with the Holy Spirit and from the Spirit we cry 'Abba, Father' andgive our confession. Christian confession is not an atoning act, it is a sign of our love for God that comes from the Holy Spirit.
In the end, the teaching of Christian generational sin defiles God. To say that God will give us the gift of grace that will save us from eternal damnation and ushers us into His Holy Kingdom but He won't take away that pesky curse is foolishness. It's like someone forgiving your debt of $1,000,000,000 but leaving your $1000 debt just for the heck of it. It makes no sense!!! To also say that regular your faith in Christ isn't enough but that you have to go through a special deliverance turns God into a fickle god reminiscent of the pagan myths. As if God is listening to our prayers asking Him to heal us and he shakes His finger and says "You didn't say the magic words!" That certainly doesn't sound like a God whose heart was so broken for His people that he took on flesh and bone and suffered the worst possible death to be with us again.
Dan, 10:37 AM | link | 1 comments |