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A Narrow View of the Glory of God

A Narrow View of the Glory of God

Engraved from the original oil painting in the...
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Peter Kirk links to Roger Olson on why he defends Love Wins. Now I haven’t read Love Wins and it isn’t on my reading list. The reason for this post is to comment on this (Peter quoting Roger Olson):

I think that is what offends critics of Love Wins–the suggestion that God doesn’t get what he really, perfectly wants.  That seems to them to demean God, to lessen his glory. …

And yes, I could have gone directly back to Olson’s post for the same quote. I suggest you do so, because Olson covers all this in more depth.

My major problem with Calvinism could be summarized by saying that it seems to me to force God to want something that humans can understand and accept. What if what God wants is a universe filled with creatures who can choose whether or not to love him? It may turn theologians’ brains into pretzels, but why should it be limiting to God’s glory to want that instead of to want what Calvinists prefer that he want?

It seems a very narrow few of God’s glory, and frankly strikes me as something more like a desire for God’s simplicity or comprehensibility, than one for God’s glory.

I can’t understand how a God who can set off the big bang and who knows the end from the beginning can also make creatures with choice. But I suspect he can.


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Dave Black Has a Question on Ministry

Dave Black Has a Question on Ministry

The Jesus ParadigmYou can find the full context at The Jesus Paradigm (extracted from Dave Black Online). But here’s just the question itself:

When will appeals for vocations to the ministry end? And when, in their place, will the church encourage all of its members to seek God’s will for the area of ministry in which they can most effectively be used by Him?

Good question. But before I look at it, it brings up an interesting phenomenon I’ve noted in the church. My wife was mentioning to me how every pastor she has ever talked to about testimonies in the church service (having someone other than the pastor talk a bit on Sunday morning) says it sounds like a good idea. (Hint: Read 1 Corinthians 14.) Yet nobody ever actually does it.

Similarly in youth ministry, I’ve encountered many, many people who think young people should be more involved in the church in general, including leading and speaking, but it rarely happens. I recall one church that agreed generally in a meeting that the young people should be made welcome in the service with the adults and allowed, even encouraged to speak. But it didn’t actually happen.

Thus back to the call to ministry. I can’t remember anyone I’ve talked to who doesn’t agree that every Christian is called to ministry, to service. There’s some disagreement as to the distinction of different calls, for example, is a call to full-time ministry substantially different from a call to teach Sunday School? But when it comes right down to it, much of the ministry is done by the professional staff.

I recall a conference at which my wife Jody and I were both speakers. The other speakers, three of them, were all ordained. We were teaching about prayer. During the last session, the local church pastor made a call for people to come forward for prayer, and invited the pastors to come forward and pray. Odd, isn’t it? Is prayer a function of the ordained clergy? It reminds me of a former bishop here who was speaking at our church. He remarked that he really loved to have people praying for him who weren’t paid to do it!

In the Methodist church we have a long, daunting process through which we put young people who are “called to ministry,” but we’re pretty random about anything else. When I first discussed how I could serve in the United Methodist Church, already equipped with an MA in Religion, the only thing the pastor could think of was to become a candidate to be a pastor. When I pointed out just how little my training or gifts had to do with pastoring a church, he had no idea what to do. I worked at it and found a place, but the church as a whole didn’t know what to do with me.

Then there’s the multi-page survey, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but cannot possibly be the only thing we use to get people involved. Some people won’t identify their own gifts. I wouldn’t have checked a box for children’s ministry, for example, yet I’ve been invited to teach the third grade class at my church twice so far this year, with good success. (If you know me, you’ll realize that all glory for that must go to God. It’s a miracle!)

I think there would be an incredible transformation of the church if we just began to do the things we all know we ought to.

So I have a different question: Why is it that we don’t do these things that we’ll all generally agree we should do?


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Christianity and Insanity

Christianity and Insanity

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...
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A couple of days ago downtown I passed a church sign, and in the changeable portion of the sign it read: Revival! | Thursday Night | 7 pm.

Now that’s a common enough sign on churches these days. Many churches have a tradition of an annual revival. At the same time each year an outside speaker is scheduled, and there are revival services. This sequence of events is the annual “revival,” and one supposes that following these services, the church is “revived.”

Of course, also by tradition, when the scheduled time for next year’s revival comes around, the church will again be in need of revival. And so it goes.

This is a pattern in the church. We take a moment of special blessing from God, and we build a building, create a schedule, appoint a committee, and make it into a series of traditional activities we can place on the church calendar. And then we keep doing the same thing irrespective of results.

We’re like Peter on the mount of transfiguration. We see the vision, and then we want to put up a shelter and make the place of blessing a place to camp. Unfortunately, unlike Peter, we seem to miss the moment when Jesus tells us to move on.

If insanity is to be defined as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results, then Christianity seems to have fallen into insanity.

It’s not that I’m opposed to organization, structure, or even tradition. But tradition is only of value when we learn from it, not when we repeat it blindly. If I read the Bible correctly, one of the strongest traditions is that we’re called to keep moving, not to set up camp.

The worship service can mark the grave of worship in the church. The revival meeting can mark the grave of spiritual growth and life. Somehow we need to learn to prayerfully and openly meet each new challenge rather than simply repeating the things we’ve done before.

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