Wednesday, October 22, 2014

HUMAN NATURE BEING WHAT IT IS.

I've noticed something. People are people. It generally doesn't matter if they call themselves Christians or atheists or Democrats or Republicans or ministers or Americans. They still act like people and with human nature being what it is, that's quite a story.

Case in point. Watch people angrily react to what they perceive as failure and go to the opposite end of the spectrum in order to correct it. Talk about overkill.

I've seen it in church life. A pastor is perceived as not a good people person [though he is a great bible teacher] and upon his leaving the church, the people go for a "people guy" with a winsome personality whose preaching is geared to feeding children, both biological and spiritual. No ability in the pulpit, but all the kids of both kind love him. It's wonderful. For a while. Then he's in trouble. [The attention span of children being what it is.]  He, of course, hasn't changed at all from what he always has been. He's just himself. But now he's not enough for the people. Overkill with it's harvest.

Or, take a pastor who is a great person but is as weak as motel coffee in those two cup packets in the pulpit. [That's weak, trust me.] He leaves and the people go after a "thunder and lightning" orator who disappears from Monday to Saturday except for those chosen few who are admitted into his presence. But it's wonderful. For a while. They are, after all, hearing real preaching now. [In their estimation at least, since a sane conversation by the man in the pulpit with the people in the pew on a Sunday morning doesn't qualify as preaching in their eyes.]  The T&L [tThunder and Lightning] guy has arrived. Then he's in trouble too, though he hasn't changed since his loud arrival. It's human nature being what it is.

[Though redeemed human nature does have the wherewithal to change behavior to reflect the Life of the Redeemer.]

But it's not just churches and church people. Observe the current political landscape as evidence. If Bush said it, did it, thought it, people wanted it different this time round with Obama. Now politicians of his party are running for office on the premise of being different than Obama. Trust them. [They say.] They will be different. They will be, human nature being what it is, I promise.

Then there is human nature being what it is with things that don't cost you something. Those no-cost things wind up being under-appreciated and abused. It's just human nature being what it is.

I remember when I first realized I had to begin charging a non-refundable registration fee for the couples attending a pastors and wives seminar that Mary and I taught in the eighties and nineties. On our first one we invited fifty couples who had responded to our invitation. We planned for them, registered them,  expected them, but half of the registrants didn't show up. This was when there was no charge for the conference at all.

So charge we did. The cost was a non-refundable pre-registration fee of twenty-five dollars a couple. We charged them. They paid it. They showed up. It was that simple. [They didn't know that we would be giving a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to the Baptist Book store waiting for them upon arrival.] It was just human nature being what it is.

The political/social realm is no different. Remember the apartments of the Johnson "Great Society" era? Built and given free of charge to many in the inner cities which became a nightmare to the people living there because there was no sense of responsibility in those receiving them for nothing. Those very apartments are now desolate, deserted and dangerous to all who have to remain.

Some were able to move to homes that they began to own courtesy of a low bar for borrowing.  But, knowing human nature as I do, I wasn't shocked when the bubble burst on those mortgages and the banks eventually had to repossess those homes. [With a resulting economic recession that lasts to the present] I see no sense in making sure a free ride is available to anyone. But that's just me. If you'll remember as mentioned above, I had a problem with pastors having free rides as well.

No one is saying the requirement should be large or poverty creating. It is wise however to recognize that human nature, being what it is, there doesn't seem to be an automatic appreciation or respect for what costs nothing. In fact, the reverse seems to be more the truth.

Finally, human nature being what it is, have you noticed that when people disagree with you on a point politically, philosophically, or theologically, and they can't persuade you otherwise, they begin to assign to you motives that, to them at least, justifies their argument on the issue being discussed.

Let me illustrate. I have come to a position of seeing the scriptures differently than I once did concerning women in ministry. My change is because of a new understanding of the text, historical context, and intention of the authors that I hadn't seen before.

But upon writing or talking of it with some people, I'm told that the reason I've changed my view is because of my being fearful of not being accepted by my culture. And, with that overshadowing desire in my heart, I will certainly one day wind up not calling homosexual actions sinful as well.

I think they have revealed human nature being what it is, again. Assigning a motive when the argument can't be won on the basis of thought or when theological in nature, the text of scripture alone. The fact that my heart is known only to God and is often unknown to even me and must be challenged by me regularly, doesn't matter. They just know what's in my heart.

Politically I see the same thing. The mid-term elections illustrate that quite well, human nature being what it is.

People seem angry and are going to the other extreme of what they perceive to be bad actions.

People are accepting what costs them nothing and will under-appreciate it ultimately.

People who are sure they know why someone holds a different view than do they and trumpet the motive of the one with whom they disagree as evidence for the reason to trust their own opinion on said issue.

I can let it go in politics. I really expect little else. But I'm thinking that judgment may need to really begin in the House of God.

I realize I'm drawing attention to the problem of human nature. The curing of the problem of housing and feeding the poor along with the pastoral needs of a church and a political race running from the last six years are all issues that need thoughtful and deliberate actions. But it's human nature that is the real problem.

So, while we work on all the issues I've mentioned above, whether that issue is religious, politically or philosophical, I'm not going to forget that human nature needs redeeming and that's the business of the gospel and whatever I do with respect to those other issues, while NOT insignificant, is secondary at best.

Those are my thoughts my human nature being what it is.


Paul B.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SOME PERSONAL PECULIARITIES

I’ve got a couple of peculiarities about me. Some people may think that’s too small an estimate of things peculiar about me and some people may be correct about that. Regardless, I will speak to the two I see to be prominent at least.

One is I’m willing to hold to a position on an issue that goes against what our culture thinks about that issue. An example of this is seen in what our culture says about any sincere religious belief system being as good for people in the long run as any other religious belief system. So, Muslim, Christian, Shinto, it doesn't matter our culture says. Being sincere is what matters. I'm sorry, but for me the scriptures speak clearly here. Jesus said, " I am the way, the Truth, the light, no man comes to the Father but by me." [John 14]

I believe that and my culture cannot/will not be able to set my standard there. So, if I hold to a view of women in ministry or marriage or anything else in a different way than some Baptists do, it won’t be because I fear being different than my culture and am trying to be like them.

The other peculiarity is that I’m also willing [hinted at already] to rest in a position I think correct that even goes against what Southern Baptist tradition generally holds to. For example historically, Southern Baptists have been what would be termed "cessationists," by and large, in regards to some  of the lesser spiritual gifts believing them to have have ceased. I do not now see the scriptures forbidding those gifts or declaring that they have ceased. [I once held that view]  I do see a regulation and warning about their use/misuse in the First Corinthian letter but the validity for them is there IMHO.

Since I see that textually, [in scripture] Baptist history/tradition cannot/ will not set my standard on that theological issue. There you have a couple of my personal peculiarities.

So, how do we get along with people with whom we differ in our culture or even in our religious organization?  Let me make a few suggestions for us all.

#1—LET’S BE OPEN--to people who think differently than do we about issues. This is especially true when studying the scriptures. I'm not suggesting that we are to assume unbelievers would understand scripture. But being "wise as serpents" indicates that wisdom CAN come from peculiar places.

I love this quote..."Since no one of us, [ as Christians] affected as we are by original sin, is perfectly pure in our desire for truth, no one of us is exempt from some degree of closed-mindedness." [Searching Together Winter 1985]  "I think this means we must be open to at least 'listen' to multiple sources, in the Body of Christ at least, if we are really going to have the thoughts of Christ on lesser issues." [Same Publication]


No better statement can be found in my judgment.

I’m thinking it might even be wise to be open to the fact that people outside the Church in our culture will likely have SOME truth about SOME issues worth hearing as well. Not every unbeliever is automatically a dummy intellectually. [Neither is a believer automatically an Einstein.]



#2—LET’S BE READY--to change your view of theological matters if the evidence from the text begins to be seen in a new/different light. Things can/do escape our attention and, for us to grow, we must be ready to admit that fact. This means it is not a crime to continue to examine the text with new light and understanding. And if a person sees that new light and is helped by it, that is not weakness on his/her part, but just genuine humility. it isn’t “caving to the culture” either.

This change because of new light does not rob one of being Southern Baptist either. But it does verify and demonstrate the uniqueness that is Baptist, namely, we're free to grow in our knowledge of the Word.


#3—LET’S BE WILLING--to grow in truth when presented with new light regardless of the source. If it comes from one who is insignificant in the Body, so be it. [Or if it comes from someone outside the Body of Christ for that matter.] There is no such thing as an “insignificant person” where the Body is concerned anyway is there!

In fact, to a PROUD individual others may be seen as insignificant and the proud don't take what anyone else says seriously. To an humble person, because he/she loves people AND the truth, an ear will be given to insignificant voices in the Body or otherwise.

What I've said here, were I willing to practice what I write, will not, in my opinion, ruin my confidence in the integrity/nature of the scriptures or make me a "liberal". AND it will not diminish my appreciation for Baptists either.

It will simply enable me to be truly Christian and relate to others in the Body with deep respect. I don't have to get angry at someone who sees a lesser point of theology differently than do I and I don't have to be closed to what they are saying about it. I don't have to agree, but I certainly don't have to believe they/I are/am no longer truly Southern Baptist BECAUSE WE DISAGREE

Paul B.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LOVING ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE THE KINGDOM WAY

I've NEVER attempted to counsel people who are guilty of sexual sins in the pastoral counseling I've done, and I've done a ton of it, without my being willing to say, at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner, that I view their action as a sinful action. That's truth, at least for me, about ALL sexual activity outside of marriage which I believe to be between a man and a woman in a covenant type of relationship. Anything other than this is missing the mark which is the biblical definition of sin as I understand scripture. That's what I believe. 

But what I've ALSO found to be true is that people whom I counsel that are guilty of what I may call sexual sins don't need me to convince them of my view of their behavior BEFORE I love them as persons with MORE THAN WORDS. What  they need is for me to be open to THEM emotionally, graciously, and embracing THEM as a person worth respecting.

Now reread the opening sentence of the first paragraph if you will and notice the operative word, "appropriate." 

I'm convinced that they, maybe homosexuals more than others, need someone to give respectful acceptance of their personhood which, if my personal observation is correct, they DON'T find in many Christians. So most of them wind up questioning the genuineness of Christians and Christianity totally. That's because their personhood has been violated for such a long time by some so-called Christians who have obviously been more concerned with condemning a certain kind of behavior than they have been in expressing love to them as a person

Unfortunately, those same so-called Christians exhibit a double standard by NOT demonstrating that condemning attitude of toward fornicators, adulterers, gluttons, drug addicts, alcoholics or even the worse kind of people which is those filled with PRIDE over the fact they HAVEN'T committed ANY of those kinds of things.

I'm sure not saying so-called Christians SHOULD have the same attitude toward the latter. I'm saying so-called Christians SHOULD NOT have that attitude toward the former.

I believe it to be essential for a Christian to respectfully accept the personhood of people guilty of ALL MANNER of "missing the mark" behavior in ALL categories by seeing ALL as sinners, including themselves, and as being created in the image of God originally, albeit fallen now, and objects of our love and not our wrath. I can do THAT without violating my personal view of their actions at all. So I think I'll leave wrath against their personhood to God Who, were it ever to be expressed, will always express it lovingly. That's Who He is.

If someone says to me, "But Paul, homosexuals DEFINE themselves by their homosexuality and expect us to do so as well by demanding that we not call it wrong behavior." My answer is I don't generally do what people expect of me, even the expectations of those so-called Christians who expect me to show my disdain toward homosexuals because of their activity. But I DO want to act on the basis of what I believe to be the Kingdom principle of REAL relationships.

That Kingdom principle is basically treating and viewing ANY person as an image reflector of God and object of my love, but more importantly, HIS love. That principle includes mutual respect, love and forgiveness. In other words, treating THEM as I'M being treated by the Father because I'm "IN CHRIST."  Because I'm a Kingdom kid, the expectation someone might have of me is never to rise above the Kingdom expectation of my loving and accepting people where they are, not based on behavior, PERIOD. Otherwise, loving even our enemies, which we're commanded to do, would not be possible. 

Things like gender, race, ethnic group, age, one holding a differing opinion of theology than mine or any defined behavior found in categories like homosexuality or heterosexuality, simply DO NOT define any person to me as a Kingdom kid. That just isn't the way of Kingdom living. Loving people where they are is the Kingdom way.

Paul B.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A ZEAL FOR THE IDEAL

There is a great danger created by those who have a zeal for the ideal in whatever venue that zeal shows itself. Take for example the Church. There are those who would try to bring into reality, in the here and now, what some would call "The Ideal Church." This Ideal Church would, of course, be made up of Ideal Christians, whether that idealism is stated in terms like true masculinity, purity of doctrine, everyone tithing, all being regular attenders, all having marriage vows that have never been broken, or a host of other concepts that are used to describe the ideal. It is expected, of course, that the constituency reach that pinnacle of idealism and only then can they be counted as genuine.  So, "what's the problem?" you ask!

Apart from it being historically proven that such utopianism in thinking tends to create tyrannical leadership gripped by a specific ideologue that they believe to be "THE TRUTH" which they fully understand [and few others do] and their "TRUTH" is used, all too often, to control the members of that particular group... no problem at all.

Except that the scriptures seem to indicate something totally different than that kind of idealism. You can't read passages like 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 and come away with a concept that the ideal spoken of by the above mentioned utopian thinkers will be found in reality in the Church today or was ever intended to be. It may very well be that the ability to lovingly, with grace, RELATE to those who ARE broken and flawed in some fashion and ARE far less than ANY ideal relating to humankind, is more what God is about in growing the Church today than many seem to understand. 

The Church is NOT in the consummation stage at present. It's still in the construction stage and things tend to get dirty, broken, sweaty and painful often times in the construction of anything worthwhile. Besides, the people being redeemed and brought in by the Holy Spirit completely baptized [identified] by Him into the ever growing Body of Christ called the Church are people that ARE broken, dirty and in need of a whole lot.

Someone has said that we all are on a continuum of His construction in grace anyway.  [Consisting of a sequence of variations] Think of a line starting with 0 and continuing to the end seen as 10. Some are just past the starting point 0, some are well past 0, some are very close to 8 or 9, but no one is at 10 and no one is at the same point as some or all others. But your point on the continuum does not measure your spirituality. It only measures your experience and understanding of the relational grace you live in with the God of Grace. The EVIDENCE you are AWARE of what true grace IS may very well be your ability and willingness to bestow grace rather than judgment upon people REGARDLESS of their place on the continuum. 

As you can guess the last paragraph of this essay makes null and void any supposed legitimacy of the first paragraph of this essay.

I rest my case.

Paul B