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Archive for September, 2006

Predestination: An issue that really doesn’t matter

Posted by Chance on September 26, 2006

Predestination is an issue that separates many denominations. Now, I am not going to discuss the merits or flaws of the theological idea of predestination, my purpose is to assert that in the larger scheme of things, the issue really does not matter.

I am not refuting that it is an idea worthy of discussion, because it is an interesting issue, and I don’t see any problems with debating it, to some extent. But I will argue that, when it comes to a Christian’s relationship with God, the issue does not really matter.

Wikipedia mentions that predestination teaches

God’s decision, assignment or declaration concerning the lot of people is conceived as occurring in some sense prior to the outcome, and
the decision is fully predictive of the outcome, and not merely probable.

Let me try to offer my own definition. In the T.U.L.I.P. acronym, I think the key concept concerning predestination is the ‘I’, which stands for Irresistible Grace. This means that when someone is called by the Holy Spirit to repentance, they cannot resist that call. This ultimately means that a person has no choice in the salvation process. Those who receive salvation are those who God chooses; they have no say in the matter.

One aside: Many people have problems with this idea; it is not one in which I personally believe, but I don’t think that affects the discussion here. But many people have emotional arguments against predestination, not sound theological ones. There are good theological ones that exist, but when you ask a random Christian about predestination, they will say that it just seems “heartless”, that God would choose who to save and who not to save. However, just because the idea insults our sensitivities does not mean that it is not true. Many atheists reject the existence of God for a similar reason: the idea goes against their thoughts on how things “should” be.

Getting back on track…

Again, I am not arguing for or against predestination. My statement is that, concerning the salvation process, and, concerning one’s relationship with Christ, the doctrine does not really matter. Some churches have one view or the other as part of their statement of beliefs, and I think that is fine, because I am not saying one cannot believe one way or the other on the issue.

A couple of points I would like to make:

1) One does not need to fully understand the metaphysics of salvation. I don’t want to go into an in-depth study of salvation, but in short, I would say one is saved when they realize they are a sinner and accept the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Some denominations would say that it is also necessary to make a lifetime commitment to Christ, and/or this salvation can be lost. Nevertheless, if I accept Christ, does it really matter how much say I had in the actual decision or not? Whether God overtly directs us or just tugs at us somewhat, do the underlying metaphysics of the decision really matter that much? God commands us to repent of our sins and to accept Jesus Christ as our savior, so we do that. Whether we do or have done so because of irresistible grace or resistible grace is not important, in my view. God tells us what to do on our end, how much free will we have in that is not vital in doing it.

2) One does not need to believe in predestination to appreciate the sovereignty of God. In light of the paragraph above, it is important to understand that salvation is indeed the work of Christ, not of ourselves. It is important to understand that God does have complete control and is sovereign, and some branches of Christianity that do not believe in predestination may tend to give too much emphasis on free will and the supposed ability to save ourselves. At the same time, not believing in predestination does not mean a disbelief in the total power and sovereignty of God.

3) One does not need to believe in predestination to avoid pride. Many of the Calvinist bent argue that not believing in predestination can lead to pride, because people attribute their salvation to themselves. They may also assert that one cannot truly be thankful for their salvation for the same reason. I disagree. Say that you are drowning and someone on a lifeboat comes to save you, offering you a life preserver. Is that person going to be prideful because they chose to grab the life preserver? In the same way, a Christian with the right perspective will realize they have absolutely nothing to be proud about, even if they believe that they can resist God’s call to salvation. Even admitting that one needs salvation is a step toward humility.

4) Predestination, as well as many other issues, should not be what church is about. Again, I have no beef with a church putting predestination in their list of beliefs or core doctrines. The problem I have is when it becomes the main focus of the church. But, I feel that way with any other issue. Of course, this leads to a bigger discussion of how much a church should focus on core beliefs without leading to denominationalism, etc… My parents for some time went to a Reformed Baptist (Calvinist) church. Even though I didn’t agree with their Calvinist doctrine (well, just indifferent, like I said, I don’t really care about predestination), what did bother me is that it was the constant focus of their sermons, instead of focusing on someone named Jesus.

Again, predestination doctrine is a worthy discussion, and I am not saying it should be avoided. At the same time, I do not believe that an agreement or disagreement on the issue is essential to having a meaningful relationship with Christ. In fact, too much emphasis on the issue, either way, could detract from it.

Posted in Theological | 11 Comments »

Are you a Heretic?

Posted by Chance on September 25, 2006

You scored as Chalcedon compliant.
You are Chalcedon compliant.
Congratulations, you’re not a heretic.
You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in
every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

92%

Nestorianism

50%

Modalism

33%

Apollanarian

33%

Monophysitism

25%

Adoptionist

17%

Pelagianism

17%

Monarchianism

8%

Docetism

0%

Arianism

0%

Donatism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com

Go me! Again, another quiz I got from Michael.

Posted in Quizzes, Theological | 2 Comments »

The gods of college football have their vengeance

Posted by Chance on September 23, 2006

Since the inception of the BCS in college football, there have been many controversies concerning who is chosen to play in the championship, where some questionable teams are let in, and other good teams are left out.

Berry Tramel from NewsOK.com points out something that happened last Saturday (Sep. 16) in college football. I have to say, this is quite a bit eerie.

Blessed: Oklahoma, LSU, Nebraska.

Cursed: Southern Cal, Oregon, Auburn.

In the last five years, BCS controversy has avoided us twice, with Miami-Ohio State and USC-Texas. In the other three seasons, college football has been faced with a square peg, round hole dilemma: three contenders for the two slots in the ultimate game.

2001: Nebraska, which didn’t even make its conference title game, gets in the Rose Bowl; 10-1 Oregon is left out. Oregon routs Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, and Nebraska is rolled by Miami in the national title game.

2003: OU, which didn’t even win its conference, and LSU get in the Sugar Bowl. Top-ranked USC is left out. SC wins the Rose Bowl, and LSU beats the suddenly-flat Sooners for the title.

2004: OU and USC get in the Orange Bowl, unbeaten and untied Auburn is left out. Auburn wins the Sugar Bowl to finish 13-0; USC wins a non-competitive Orange Bowl 55-19.

What is so weird is that, as Tramel points out, 3 matchups last Saturday involved these very same 6 teams. LSU, OU, and Nebraska, formerly blessed teams, all last their games last week, and they all lost in matchups to the previously cursed teams, Auburn, Oregon, and USC, respectively. These matchpus were not in the same pairs as mentioned earlier (i.e. Nebraska playing Oregon, Auburn playing OU), but that actually makes it all the more strange.

As Tramel says

Many reports identify the infamous Gordon Riese [official who blew calls at the Oregon-Oklahoma game] as residing in the hamlet of Portland, Ore. We have found this to be untrue. Riese lives not in the Pacific Northwest, but somewhere in the stars. Somewhere the football gods assemble and right the wrongs of the college gridiron.

Think of Riese as Clarence, the bumbling angel who so many Christmases ago was dispatched to Bedford Falls to save Jimmy Stewart.

[…]
Riese, who apparently makes Clarence seem like an archangel, and his buddies in stripes blew an onside kick call every which way possible, giving Oregon the chance to rally in the final minute for a 34-33 victory over OU.

Some Southern Seraphim in Auburn ruled against LSU on a crucial fourth-down replay in the final minute, and Auburn survived 7-3. The call was less obvious than the Eugene pilfering, but LSU feels no less cheated than do the masses marching down the streets of Soonerville.

Out in Los Angeles, where perhaps Clarence was stationed, having earned his wings and able to fly in from the East Coast, no divine intervention was necessary. Nebraska, wearing surrender white, packed its give-up gear, took a 28-10 beating at the hands of SC and was glad to get out of town with a tour of Universal Studios.

Three big losers in college football’s game of roulette exacted a measure of justice. The note came due on three big winners of past autumns.

What truly happened in Oregon? Gordon Riese earned his wings.

Not buying it? I didn’t think so. But maybe this will make you feel better. Still, even after Pay the Piper Saturday, It’s a Wonderful Game.

A little poetic justice evening out the flaws of the BCS.

Posted in Sports | 3 Comments »

At least we have more than 5 Bibles

Posted by Chance on September 22, 2006

A recent report says.

(New York-AP) September 21, 2006 – Televisions have taken over the average American home. Nielsen Media Research says the average home in the US now has more television sets than people to sit down and watch them.

The researchers say there are now 2.73 TV sets in the typical home, compared to just 2.55 people.

Nielsen says half of American homes now have three or more TVs, while only 19 percent have just one. In 1975, 57 percent of homes had only a single set.

Nielsen also says more people are watching more television, as sets are turned on for more than eight hours a day in the average home.

The average person watches four hours and 35 minutes of television each day.

I must say, somewhat red-faced, that I have 5 TV’s in my home, for just my wife and I. Well, and a little one on the way (found out last week!). However, not that I feel I have to justify anything to anyone, I feel I have a good explanation. My wife and I each brought a TV into the marriage, with the bigger one being 19 inches. However, in a short amount of time, 3 TV’s were given to us. My in-laws had a small TV they weren’t using that they offered to give us. We decided to take it just to have another TV for when we move into a house, maybe something for the guest room. Well, the house we bought had a TV that the prior residents left in the living room; it is about 31 inches. Then, I have a friend who works for Ultimate Electronics who delivers television sets. Sometimes the person simply gives the old TV to him (usually it requires repairs of some sort). Well, someone gave him a 48 inch HDTV, which meant he had to do something with the 50-inch older TV he got from a customer previously. Well, I ended up with the 50-inch.

And that is the story of how our family obtained 5 TV’s, only paying for 2 of them.

Posted in TV | 5 Comments »

And all this time, I thought I was cooler than Michael.

Posted by Chance on September 21, 2006

Guess not. I am nerdier than 68% of the population.

I am nerdier than 68% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Props to Michael, where I first saw the quiz. (See, I’m not a nerd. Nerds don’t say “props” do they?)

Posted in Quizzes | 2 Comments »

Where Do I Go From Here?

Posted by Chance on September 21, 2006

I find myself burned out posting on political topics. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed posting, and the discussions in the comment sections that follow, including the debates with Dan and Michael. I still have a passion for political topics, but I think I just need to take a break from posting on such subjects.

But the question is, on what else do I post? I’ve been trying to post on other things the past few weeks, such as topics on music, sports, and topics involving the church. Still though, I like to have an underlying theme, and underlying philosophy behind my posts. For some time, I had a theme of liberty flowing through my posts and viewing different issues with respect to that. Anyway, I don’t know what the future holds for this blog. And I could change my mind at any time. As soon as I post this, some topic could immediately come to mind. The point being, I don’t really have a plan right now.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Freedom of Conscience and the Pursuit of Happiness Can Go Together.

Posted by Chance on September 18, 2006

The Cato Blog discusses how some people think doctors should be forced to perform abortions or pharmacists to provide birth control, even if it violates their conscious. The blog states:

Some doctors say it violates their conscience to perform abortions or provide artificial insemination for unmarried or gay people. Some pharmacists believe that the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and their religious commitment forbids them to dispense it.

And now some patients and activists are demanding laws to force health professionals to dispense the care the patients want, no matter how it violates the health worker’s conscience. Activists who march for a woman’s right to choose want the government to overrule a pharmacist’s right to choose.

Now, some make the argument that no one is required to be a pharmacist or doctor, and that if they want to pursue those occupations, then they have to take on those obligations as well as those privileges. Okay, I understand that argument, but I don’t think people have to choose one or the other: freedom to live by their conscious OR pursue their dream, whatever that may be. As David Boaz says,

In a country of 290 million people and 14 million businesses, we should let these issues sort themselves out in the marketplace. Chances are that major drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreen’s are going to insist that their stores fill all prescriptions. If they have more than one pharmacist on duty at a time, then they may be willing to tolerate pharmacists who avoid filling certain prescriptions. If they do insist that all pharmacists be prepared to fill any prescription presented by a customer, then pharmacists who can’t accept such rules will have to look for jobs elsewhere. And if customers encounter a pharmacy that won’t give them what they want, then they will have to find another pharmacy.

Now, some people live in small towns, where they do not have easy access to the doctors or pharmacists they want. But birth control, for instance, is a service, it is not an entitlement. We are not granted the right to have sex without the possibility of getting pregnant.

Boaz also points out some counter examples for liberal-leaning folk, just to bring the point home. Should anesthesiologists be required to take part in a state execution?

Boaz also brings up the issue of how state intervention leads to more state intervention.

this is an example of how one state intervention generates the demand for additional interventions. We say you can’t be a pharmacist unless you get a state license, and now you want to say that that license should empower the state to impose morally offensive obligations on those who were required to get the license.

I don’t think the state should demand people to disobey their conscious to pursue an occupation that may be their life’s passion. Some may argue that the state has a right to impose such moral expections upon people pursuing certain fields, but I don’t think we even need to demand such a sacrifice from people. There are enough people in each field to meet the demands of a plurality. Yes, it may be more challenging for some people based on where they live, but we should not feel entitled to such services.

Posted in Politics | 12 Comments »

The Wal-Mart Dilemna

Posted by Chance on September 15, 2006

There are several posts about Wal-Mart.

Glen Dean: Loves Wal-Mart
Lee: Neutral on Wal-Mart, thinks it is another battleground for conservatives and liberals.
Katherine Coble: Breaks away from conservative fellows and hates Wal-Mart.

Each post makes good points. But one thing I want to discuss. Kat refers to another post that says

Sure Walmart has low prices that are good for poor people. But they also make people poor by refusing to pay what a decent price for the things they sell.

I want to address this particular argument. I know liberals (and Kat) have other good arguments, and I don’t mean to ignore them, but I want to address this particular one. There are 2 extremes, it is really a sliding scale, but I will present it as 2 options for clarity.

Option 1) Pay people good wages, charge more for products.

Option 2) Pay people poor wages, charge much less for products.

Here is the issue I have. Wal-Mart critics point out the problem with Option 2, because of poor wages. But here is the issue. Option 1 also has a negative tradeoff as well. Wal-Mart critics have done a fine job of pointing out the problem with Option 2, but in my mind they have failed to demonstrate why Option 1 is a superior, even moral option. The fact that a certain option has a negative tradeoff is not enough to convince me to go another route, when the other option has a negative tradeoff as well.

This is what Wal-Mart critics must do. Demonstrate that it is better for the economy to pursue Option 1, rather than Option 2. Why exactly is it better to pay someone a certain wage, instead of selling cheaper products? The liberal will argue that everyone has the right to a decent wage, but one could just as easily argue that everyone has a right to groceries or toiletries at a “decent” price.

And this is really part of a larger economics problem. With free trade for instance, we can have cheaper products, but we run the risk of losing jobs, or have lower paying jobs for Americans.

I would argue that the burden of proof is on the Wal-Mart critics, because I believe on must make the case for government to intervene. However, I still believe that free marketers must make their case as well. Why is Option 2 better than Option 1? Will lower prices of products make up for lower wages? Will the gain of jobs in the lower classes compensate for loss of jobs in the middle class? Will there be a net loss of jobs in the middle class?

This is a complex issue. All I am saying is that criticizing low prices because they lead to low prices is not a sufficient argument; because high wages lead to high prices. Both sides, but especially those that want government intervention, must demonstrate why one option is better than the other.

Posted in Politics | 18 Comments »

The End of Sunday School?

Posted by Chance on September 10, 2006

I am not here to bash anyone’s ideal model of how a church’s ministry system is set up. But as a layperson, I just wanted to provide a perspective on a trend I see in churches today, at least non-denominational ones.

Small Groups, or Life Groups, are the new craze in the non-denominational churches, and not just the mega-churches. Basically, people at church form small groups of, say 5-10 people or 4-6 couples, just to list an ideal size. These groups typically meet at a person’s house some time during the week, and not necessarily Sunday.

I don’t know the whole story or history behind it, but this way of doing extra-sermon activities became popular in the mega-churches on the West Coast, and the idea has grown more popular, at least in the area in which I live.

The idea behind small groups is that they allow members of the church to have more intimate and genuine relationships. I’ve heard it said as people “doing life” together. In some ways, small groups are preferable to the Sunday School model, because it allows (forces?) people to be more open and accountable with each other.

For the reasons listed above, I do see small groups as a great thing. I think many times we show up at church, and maybe even Sunday School, and do not form meaningful relationships. I believe Christianity has become, to many people, a place where we put on our best face on Sunday and pretend like everything is okay. Small groups allow people to get real.

But here is the issue I have. Small groups appear to be replacing Sunday School, not complementing it. Very few non-denominational churches in my city actually have Sunday School; they do just about any ministry beyond the sanctuary through the small group format.

So why is this a problem? When my wife and I moved to this city, we wanted to go to a church where we could connect with people our age. Now, I don’t think we should choose a church solely for such a reason, but fellowship is important. We thought a church with a young adult Sunday School would be ideal. As a couple visiting a church, it is very hard for us to jump right into small groups, and I believe it is that way for many couples. For many, small groups cannot be a first step when it comes to connecting with people. How awkward is it to show up to some stranger’s house? Furthermore, what if it turns out you do not even like the people? Here you are, starting a class at some person’s house with people you with whom you do not connect.

That is why I believe Sunday School is necessary for people to connect. It provides a place to meet people in a less-intimate setting. From there, small groups can form more naturally. No, people should not choose a group based on where their friends are, but the Sunday School does provide a nice intermediate process between sanctuary and close relationships.

Here is a criticism I have heard against this model. People can spend their life attending church and Sunday School without forming close relationships. They just show up, without actively engaging in any way. With small groups, this is less likely to happen. That is true. But I believe the church can only do so much when it comes to encouraging their members to form close relationships. Also, those people who are not truly engaged in Sunday School are not very likely to enter a small group in the first place. When you give such a person the choice between a small group or nothing at all, they will stay home.

By having a Sunday School and small groups, a church can have a setup that is more welcoming to new people and have options available for people to engage in more intimate relationships. The church should encourage formation of small groups, but they can only do so much to encourage this, and eliminating Sunday School, in my view, is not a reasonable option.

I know a few of the readers of this blog are or have been involved in the ministry, or are close to someone involved in the ministry, or they may just attend church regularly. I would be curious to know what their thoughts are on this topic, and if it has even been an issue in their church at all.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

My Album Meme

Posted by Chance on September 7, 2006

1. One album that had the biggest impact on your musical tastes.

I would say The Joshua Tree by U2. Before then, I had listened to primarily aggressive alternative rock, which helped me be angry all the time. This album helped me realize I could listen to positive, uplifting music that was still actually good.

2. One album you would want on a deserted island.
Achtung Baby by U2. It is one of my favorites, and it has variety in the songs. Also, it is very repeatable, as mentioned in my previous post.

3. One album that pumps you up.
Again, For the First Time by Bleach. Bleach is my favorite Christian rock band. This album has 11 full-throttle songs. Only slow song is at the end.

4. One album you like to chill out to.
Birds of my Neighborhood by The Innocence Mission. If you like folk music at all, I would recommend this band.

5. One album you liked immediately.
A Boy Named Goo by the Goo Goo Dolls. High-energy punk rock that is instantly catchy.

6. One album that grew on you.
Feeling Strangely Fine by Semisonic. Not all songs are as radio-friendly as their one big hit “Closing Time”, but they are really good.

7. One album you wasted money on.
This is a tough one, as I’ve learned to like just about any album I’ve bought. I would probably say Monster by R.E.M. with a caveat. I think R.E.M. is a great band, and their album Monster is probably pretty decent. But when I bought it I was much younger, and only listened to things that were catchy right away. I don’t have the album anymore, but if I listened to it today, I may actually like it.

8. One album you wanted as a kid, but your parents wouldn’t let you buy.
This may not apply to everyone, as some parents are more permissive than others.
Throwing Copper by Live. Yes, Live is pretty tame compared to something like gangsta rap, but I couldn’t listen to any music that had many bad words when I was a kid.

9. One album on your wish list.
X & Y by Coldplay.

10. Tag people.
Whoever reads this and is interested, feel free.

Posted in Music | 3 Comments »