An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Musings: “Cogitations of an Addled Mind,” one might call it, or “Mr. Toad’s Adventure,” for that matter. Most of what I write stems from a long brooding process, and here I present to you, raw and untamed, the results. (Some musings are on a devotional note, and others are seasonally-oriented.)

Tafel :: musings :: devotional

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Unique Doctrinal Statement

A friend of mine noticed that on Facebook, I describe my religious views as "unique", and quite understandably asked for an explanation. (Actually, I tend to use such lables to invite queries precisely so I can define my terms, rather than some societal average being foisted upon me and all others using a given label. Try asking me if I think gay marriage should be legal: I'll tell you I don't think straight marriage should be legal . . . guaranteed to give me my nice comfy soapbox for three-and-a-half minutes!)

So, "unique" religious views? Hmmm . . . where to begin . . . Generally, I believe that one should literally interpret the Bible, and one shouldn't write one's own wishes and prejudices into the Bible. This knocks out things such as "Baptists don't dance," "You shouldn't be friends with gays or Muslims," "Nudity is in and of itself wrong," and other such things.

Don't get me wrong: I do believe in separation, both ecclesiastical and secular. However, I don't believe in reading extra restrictions into the Biblical definitions of them.

Ecclesiastical separation I define thusly: you cannot fellowship with or minister with believers who are (a) unsaved and (b) hold incompatible views of core doctrines. Specific doctrines included in said core are open for debate, but generally including soteriology, parts of theology (such as the literal Trinity), most of Christology (especially the diety of Christ), and of course compatible definitions of the two types of separation.

Secular separation I define much more simply: "abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) And that's "appearance of evil" to the world — if a normal, rational non-Christian around you would see your actions as "un-Christian", they "appear evil". One might well challenge such old standbys as "no dancing" and replace them with more supportable "no salacious dancing" or even the more general, but more Biblical, "no overt public display of sexuality" (that takes the place of a "no nudity" standard as well).

Appearing evil is what I would describe as a secondary sin — the sin of appearing to sin — rather than primary sin — sin that is wrong in and of itself. One might do well to borrow a pair of terms from jurisprudence: mala in se are primary sins, while secondary sins form a kind of mala prohibita defined by milieu. Sin is of course not relative, but there is a specific sin ("appearing evil") which must of necessity encompass a flexible set of behaviours. (The concept of not providing a stumblingblock to a brother (Romans 14:13) is much more narrow, and rather adjures not leading a brother into primary sin.)

You're still wondering about my mention of nudity earlier, aren't you? Well, I believe in modesty (maybe not "skirts down to the toenails", but it wouldn't hurt!) as a separate concept from "number of square inches of epidermis exposed". Of course, lust being a primary sin, under any most circumstances I can imagine, public nudity would be a sin, due to the stumblingblock principle. However, someone whose clothes were on fire, I think, would be entirely innocent in removing them, no matter how publicly.

Moving on . . .

I believe that the central doctrine of anthropology is free will (and its concomitant individual responsibility), and that free will is not compromised by the complete foreknowledge of God. Soteriologically, individual salvation by the blood sacrifice of Jesus, necessary because of individual responsibility for one's sins in their entirety.

I hold to a complete inspiration of the original scriptures, and their preservation in the original form: while the KJV is the best English embodiment of them, and is free of errors of commission, it's nothing magic, and by simple virtue of being a translation, cannot be free from errors of omission.

I also believe the Bible is to be taken literally, except where it explicitly states that it is symbolic or parable. This knocks out that Biblically unsupportable "Church-age" exposition of the letters to the churches in Revelation, as well as equally-unsupportable symbolic views of Genesis.

So most of my core doctrinal beliefs would align me with self-proclaimed "Fundamentalists", but I don't use the term, because it generally also conjures up irrational rewritings and additions of a bunch of extrabiblical doctrines.

So, is that unique? I think it is, since I find few who hold to such a set of beliefs. However, I believe as a whole it's a Biblically-supportable set of doctrines, so it's unfortunate if it is too unique (I know, I shouldn't qualify words like "unique"!), but . . . eh.

Oh, and I don't believe cannibalism is malum in se. Murder, yes, but cannibalism as a whole? Chew on that for a while! (Yes, I used a pun. I am incredibly ashamed of myself.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Voices from the Gambia

The piercing voice breaks the stillness of the evening, disturbing the solitude. The noise was startling at first, then distracting, as other voices chime in.

Is it an announcement? Some sort of singing? Chanting? The loudness of the P.A. system make it sound like it’s right next to our compound, but it is coming from the village mosque, over one kilometer away.

The voices continue. Concentration is difficult.

We ask: “What is happening?” “Oh, perhaps a ‘teaching’ for a special holy day; or maybe recitations for someone’s marriage or death. It’s in Arabic. Difficult to know what they are saying. Get used to it; happens often.”

The voice returns. It’s still dark. It is 5:30 AM! “It’s a call to prayer:; the first of three over the next hour, each coming from a different mosque. We try to sleep; but we think . . . If they are praying, why aren’t we? We who claim to know the Living God and call Him “Father”.

It’s early Sunday morning: voices of children come drifting into the compound. They seem to be reciting verses and singing songs. What a beautiful sound! Is it a Sunday School class?

“Yes, in a way. It’s the boys and girls attending classes at the nearby Koranic School going through their recitations and praises to Yallah.” We long to teach them about Jesus . . .

A weekday afternoon: we hear the sound of singing. We go outside. A vanload of men passes by on the road, amplifying their songs as they drive through the town. “It’s a men’s retreat. A Muslim version of ‘Promise Keepers’.” We pray: “May it someday be a Christian group.”

Evangelism and training go on almost daily in our village here. But we are not part of it. We are the “outsiders”, the “unbelievers”. How we wish this very religious atmosphere could be one of true worship — not only of God, but of His Son, the One Who came to be the Saviour of the world, the One they do not know.

So wrote Missionary Jim Entner on October eighth, 2003. It raises an interesting question, does it not? Why are so many lost, dying, and yet more devout than we who have the truth? Have we no care for their souls?

The Muslim has no Father God, since Islam teaches of an Allah who is a taskmaster: easily provoked and hardly appeased, capricious, even. We who know the true God, the one who loves and cares for the world, surely can be more devout worshippers of and witnesses for our God than they can theirs — don’t we have it infinitely better?

I read this prayer letter at Mission Prayer Band while at Pensacola Christian College

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Treading the Untreadable Waters

I was just talking with one of my roommates, B__, and he really straightened me out a bit. You see, another of my roommates, A__, and I get along in exactly the same way that best friends do not. I had been feeling quite self-righteous about it, because for the first five weeks of this ten-week internship I had been making quite a few overtures to him. We never really clicked, though; and I even get the feeling he resents my asking him if he had a good day.

Now, B__ told me that we as Christians do have an obligation to reach out to those which are different from ourselves, and not just sequester ourselves with those who think and act like us. I thought I had that covered, so I became defensive (though I don’t think I came across that way). I started talking about how I’m not like that, and I get along with almost everyone, and I reach out to people that are different. Really, I do. I brought up an example, a girl named K__, also on this same internship, with whom I get along famously — you couldn’t find two people who disagreed more on highly significant issues.

That satisfied him, and he then said, “Well, sometimes we just have to learn to know when to shake the dust off our shoes and move on.” About then is when I finally gave in to the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I started thinking.

“I’m thinking, maybe I ‘kicked the dust from my shoes’ a little too soon.”

He started mulling that over, and we talked a bit more. Then he said, “You know, we have Divine protection. We can tread on waters others can’t. That gives us a bit more of a responsibility.”

You know, it does, doesn’t it? That’s something I don’t think about nearly enough. I think God’s had enough of ivory-tower Christianity.

Scraps, July 27th, 2004, while living at an apartment in Aiken, SC.