A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

Good Doctrine, and Salvation

posted by rgaffney

I’ve noticed a recent and disturbing trend in the modern church to act like people are saved by their good doctrine. This is far from the case. I wrote the following study to help combat that sort of thinking.

Matthew 8:29
Mark 1:24
Mark 3:11
Mark 5:7
Luke 7:34
Luke 4:41
And of course James 2:29
Etc.

What I hope you’ll notice from these passages is that demons have really impeccable theology. You were of course already intimately familiar with the earlier part of 7 where Satan himself reveals to have memorized scripture.

Now compare that with the disciples.

Matthew 17:4
Luke 8:45
Matthew 16:22 (also in Mark 8)
Galatians 2:11
Mark 10:35-37 (Note that he’s “teacher”, in that passage. Not “son of God” like the demons, not even “good teacher” like the rich young ruler. Not also Jesus’ reply “yeah you want to obey me, sure, sure, what do you want?” and of course their final desire.)

And my personal favorite: Matthew 16:6-7
Seriously guys? Jesus just fed a huge crowd of people miraculously, YOU passed out the bread! How do you think he has a problem with you now because he got hungry and suddenly he can’t take care of that. I mean Really?

But consistently, the disciples of Jesus demonstrate to us that they just don’t get it. They missed the point, they’re confused, they’re not sure who Jesus is exactly. The scriptures go to great length to communicate this “loserness” to us. At the transfiguration we learn that “the disciples were very sleepy” In the garden at Gethsemane they actually fall asleep when they should be praying. John, when recording the story of the resurrection, sees fit to inform us that Jesus Christ is raised, and death has been defeated, and the world will never be the same, and also that he’s the faster runner!!! (John 20:4)

Peter finally figures out who Jesus is “the Christ, of God” (Luke 9:20) but his revelation comes in a lackluster way. Not only because he completely fails to affirm the divinity of Christ “The Christ, Who is also God in the flesh” but also because immediately afterward (as we learn in parallel passages) he brazenly asserts that Jesus will never be crucified! leading to the famous “get behind me Satan” quote I offered above.
Now do this one on your own.

How many times does Jesus affirm the faith of children? Of Samaritans? Of thieves? Of people who have no idea how or what or who this Jesus character is but they’re sure they want a piece?

Jesus.

Jesus is who saves us.

Not what we do, not what we know, not the information we have about Jesus. Jesus isn’t what saves us, Jesus is who saves us, and he does it by grace, alone through faith alone.

Amen.

P-Con

posted by rgaffney

I spent a year in Collegiate Debate, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in school. I often lament that not everyone had the same experience. Debate is excellent for training one to think and communicate quickly and critically, It is an introduction to logic class on steroids, and it inbeds the information it teaches is a very permanent part of the brain.

To this day I can communicate with debaters more quickly and easily than almost any type of person. Both of us have been trained how to relate universal implications of intricate government decisions in 5 minutes or less, so when the topic of Nuclear disarmament comes up and they can say “Nuke Prolif increases MAD which reduces GTNW’s likleyhood” and I’ll know exactly what they mean. Then I can say “Martyrdom”  and they’ll know exactly what I mean. Debate over.

That means when we’re in a group arguing about whether to go to Panera or Carl’s for lunch she can say “CP Chipotle”  and I can say “No disads” and we can turn the car around and start heading there before anyone else has figured out what just happened.

It’s a beautiful thing.

One particularly powerful concept from debate is called “P-Con” it stands for Performative Contradiction. Here’s how it works:
Suppose you get the short end of the stick and are assigned to defend some terrible proposition. Maybe you are against a stimulus bill which, though expensive, is really the only choice we are to prevent the stock market from crashing. Well you know it, and you know the other team knows it and is preparing all sorts of arguments against any criticisms you can come up with for the bill because after all wasting money is better than everybody starving.

Suppose then that you get a brilliant idea, instead of opposing the bill on the grounds that it’s insufficient somehow, or to expensive, or full of pork, you oppose it on the grounds that it will save the terrible american capitalistic system, and in doing so, you render all of their preparation useless.
Suppose you speak passionately from the podium about the evils of capitalism and the free market society. You demonstrate that our rampant consumerism is destroying the planet and multiple third world countries, you enrapture the audience until they are eating out of your hand believing that if they continue to worship the almighty dollar they will never truly be free, and the only thing we can do to save ourself is crash the economy as soon as possible!

Then suppose your opposition asks as a POI “Say where did you get those sunglasses?”

“Oakley why?”

“P-Con”

You just lost the debate.

The reason is because it’s now obvious to everyone that you don’t believe a word you are saying (and if anyone missed it. your opponent will be sure to make it clear to them in his next speech) His argument, which he offered simply by saying that half a word  ”P-Con” is that by reviling yourself as a person who shops for designer eyewear you have betrayed a truth within your heart that you cannot possibly be the anti-capitalistic hippi you claim to be, so even if he doesn’t show your argument is false, you have proven it by persisting to live in contradiction to it.

And it really is that brutal, P-Con, you lose! This debate is now about your sunglasses.

This comes up in other ways also:

Suppose you are assigned to defend same-sex marraige and you happen to mention that “this is a way to ensure equality for the gays”

“The Gays?” did you mean “The GLBT Community?” P-Con, You Lose.

Suppose you have built yourself halfway into a Kritik about profanity, and the evils thereof, but you happen to stub your toe as you return to your seat, shouting an expletive.

“What do you just say?” P-Con, You Lose.

I can’t tell you mow many times I’ve wanted to explain this to non-debaters.

Say I’m arguing about theology with some friends of mine within earshot of a freshman girl from Point-Loma

“Ummmm… Excuse me, but like, Arguing is stupid! It’s like, not like, you’re going to convince one another”

“Oh Yeah, arguing is stupid huh? Would you like to argue about it?” P-Con! now leave me alone!

Here’s the point, and I know I took a long time to get to it, but I was having fun.

Most people do not have the vocabulary to describe what I just described, and if you are a Christian, and you try to tell people about Christ, and you try to counter their arguments You might very well win. Christianity is true which comes in really handy for winning arguments about it. But if you don’t live as if it’s true, If you are a nasty selfish argumentative person, they will not believe you.

Even if you’re just a little xenophobic, or just a little hypocritical, or you got drunk that one time and kissed that girl you shouldn’t have… They won’t believe you.

They might not be able to explain why not, They might not know why not, They might offer other objections that they do understand to what you’re saying, but if you do not get your life straight those objections will never run out, and the people you talk to about Jesus will never believe you, because your life and your words form a performative contradiction so they know that you don’t really believe what you are telling them to.

P-Con, You lose

Key:
Nuke Prolif: Nuclear Proliferation- The spread of nuclear weapons technology to new countries.
MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction- The concept that you won’t destroy me if you know destroying me would also destroy you
GNTW: Global Thermal Nuclear War-  WWIII which most debaters can show is likely to happen if the other team gets their way, regardless of what that team is arguing for
CP: Counter Plan- An option that had not yet been considered
Disad: Disadvantage- A negative result of the plan coming to fruition
POI: Point of Information- A question asked during the middle of a debate round by ones opponents
Kritik: a Critique- We debaters refuse to use the hegemonic male-dominated spelling of the word critique because it is just another tool the white man uses to keep us down!
Point Loma: Point Loma Nazarene University- A Christian College on the beach in San Diego, California.

Language Learning

posted by rgaffney

I believe that the language a person speaks is one of the most important, if not the very most important factor in determining how they think. If you speak English you think in English, and that comes with all sorts of connotative meanings to English words.

I’ve studied some Spanish, but not nearly enough to begin to think in Spanish. When I speak Spanish, I have to translate what my friend is saying into English in my head, then formulate a response, and then translate my English response back into Spanish.

Eventually through practice I’m told it’s possible to develop enough fluency for me to begin to think in Spanish, and I aspire to do that, not only because it would help me avoid embarrassing mistakes, but also because Spanish has a different feel than English and learing to think in Spanish could hardly help but open my mind.

When I think of what it means to “Know Jesus” I have very little choice but to use that English word “know” in my head. “Know” is related to “Knowledge”. It associates in my head with facts and figures and books. I automatically think of knowing Jesus in terms of what I believe, and whether or not those beliefs correspond to reality sufficiently.

If I spoke Spanish I wouldn’t have that problem because I would find in my bible a variant from the root “conoser” which is related to “ser” meaning “to be” it is a word that refers to familiarity, as in “I know my friend Jessica” while contexts like “I know the formula for the area of a triangle” use a different Spanish word. (“Saber”) it would associate in my mind with the person of Jesus, as an associate of mine, and being familiar with his ways.
And that’s just one word!

Do you know how many words Spanish has?!?!?!

So I’m excited by languages and language learning, I think it’s a force for peace, unity and broad mindedness. Which is why I was so incredibly excited when I found this.

It’s called “Where Are Your Keys?” and it’s an open sourced language learning game put together by some nerds in Portland who are obviously insanely awesome. I’ve not played it, They’re in Portland, but I’ve read up on it and watched some videos, from what I can tell, it’s like Mao, but instead of a soul crushing sensation that you are wasting your life, you get to learn Mandarin.

I think the church should rock this thing. Do any of you readers know anybody in Portland?

PS. If you don’t know what Mao is, e-mail me, we’ll get a game on!

Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage.

posted by rgaffney

Mawwaige!Would somebody please explain to me how having a battle with the federal government in the courts about the interpretation of the constitution is supposed to protect the sanctity of a God ordained institution between men and women.

Seriously, use the comments section and explain it to me, I just don’t get it.
How can we possibly say out of one side of our mouths that marriage is a sacred institution which God alone is in control of, while at the very same time saying that if this or that bill passes it will be ruined?

It seems to be that the only way we can truly interfere with marriage in the church would be to allow ourselves to become convinced that what the government has to say actually has anything whatsoever to do with who is and who is not married in the eyes of God!

So on one side we have the holy institution of marriage, a part of what Lutherans call the “Right Hand Kingdom” a Godly practice undertaken by two people who love each other and form a covenant to death. And then on the other side you have the civil institution of marriage, a part of the “Left Hand Kingdom”, wherein two people decide to file with the state in order to garner certain benefits and hold all assets jointly until they file for divorce.

And these two things, though they often coincide, have absolutely nothing to do with one another. the fact that they are both called “marriage” is an unfortunate circumstance. But considering the word “bow” can mean anything from a decorative knot to a device used to play a violin I should think were more than able to overcome the idea that the same word might have two different meanings.

This is a lesson I really wish we would learn well as a church, it affects more than our theology of same-sex marriage.

Consider the number of young couples, who being sexually tempted, remember the words of their youth pastor, and decide to get married. And so they file with the state and have a left handed ceremony, but fail utterly to comprehend the significance of a lifetime covenant of sacrificial love with one another. I call it “Premarital Marriage” and it is notably more damaging and immoral than premarital sex, what it essentially does is create two problems out of one, where now the couple is not only sexually active prematurely, but also married in the eyes of the state, causing problems with bitterness, divorce, and children.

And speaking of divorce how many couples in the church today have broken their covenant before God to love one another in sickness and in health? How many married couples hate one another? How many supposedly unbroken homes exist where husband in wife sleep in separate beds, separate rooms, or separate houses because they can’t bear to look one another in the eye? Ans what is it that’s gone wrong with a church that tells such couples not to file for divorce, because that would be a sin?

That is the same perverted logic that causes catholic school girls to become pregnant at 15 because they thought using a condom while having premarital sex with their boyfriend would be immoral. At the point where you hate one another, you’re already divorced. The paperwork just makes it easier come tax time.

Now just to be clear: I’m against divorce, and against premarital sex, I think young couples should get married, and older couples should seek reconciliation in their marriages, but I also think that if you are not going to do that then you might as well be honest about it in the eyes of the state and make it easier on yourself.

So in closing consider this:

When you fall in love, and promise one person that you will be theirs and they will be yours as long as you both shall live, and when you have a wedding in Paris at Notre Damme presided over by Billy Graham himself and doves descend into the sanctuary as a sign from heaven above that even The Father God is celebrating your union on this day, remember that even on that great morning there will be couples plotting the murder of their spouses in their heads, teenagers driving to Vegas, to “make it legal”, former strippers marrying 70 year old millionaires for their money, and a whole host of illegal immigrants marrying for citizenship. But none of that will matter. You will be joined in the eyes of God with the person you love and the US government could do nothing to tarnish that in a million years.

And neither can Adam and Steve.

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