Month: February 2015

On Literalism in Biblical Interpretation

Here, Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, is a college lecture by a scholar concentrating on the Early Church, Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

He notes that Jews and early Christians did not take numbers as literal, such as Enoch living to be 365 or Lamech living to be 777, or the Hebrews wandering for 40 years in the desert.  And Creation was not done in 6 literal days, but in 6 “successive enormous periods of time.”  The Scriptures were not seen as “literally true historical documents as in the modern sense,” but historical testimonies of God and faith.

And get a load of this–from the most conservative church on the planet–according to The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective:

Orthodox theology holds to a personal and dynamic, rather than mechanistic and verbal, concept of inspiration. God did not merely dictate words or propositions to passive authors, but rather he impacted personally their whole beings, allowing them actively to comprehend, interpret, and convey his will to others according to the limitations of their understanding and language.

It is important to note that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit embraces a far deeper and broader process than the composition of single books. Inspiration involves the entire community of faith, the life of a particular author, the composition of particular books, as well as their gradual gathering into a sacred collection.

While all Scripture is “God-breathed”, 2 Tim 3:16), it is not equally so, because of the variability of human receptivity. The inspirational character of the Book of Isaiah cannot be compared to that of the Book of Ecclesiastes, nor the inspirational character of the Gospel of John to that of the Epistle of Jude.

Those who emphasize the literal authority of Scripture, often conservative and fundamentalist Protestants, debate the concept of inerrancy. They advocate essentially a Bible without error and are thus compelled to provide artificial defensive justifications.

Many seem to bypass the historical complexities and to attribute to Scripture an absolute character that properly belongs only to God, thus seemingly lapsing into a kind of bibliolatry.

The Roman Catholic view of inspiration may be expressed by the term infallibility, following the etymological sense that Scripture ‘does not fail’ for the essential saving purposes for which it was given by God.

In the Orthodox tradition, perhaps the most appropriate expression is the sufficiency of Scripture, an expression used by St. Athanasios to affirm the fullness of saving truth provided by Scripture.

Read the whole passage, titled “Divine and Human Aspects,” for a complete picture of the Orthodox view of Scripture.  Basically, their rejection of inerrancy does not mean that we cannot trust anything the Bible says, such as about Christ’s death on the cross or God’s existence etc., as many proponents of the inerrancy doctrine have charged.  Rather,

The divine aspects are to be found in Scripture’s saving message about God, humanity, the gospel, the Church, grace and works, as well as the hope of the coming kingdom.

This saving message is not merely an announcement of abstract concepts but a present reality as God’s word which, when proclaimed and received by faith, becomes a living and transforming word through the power of the Spirit.

The human aspects are to be found in the specific human languages of the Bible, the different kinds of literary forms and skills of the biblical authors and editors, as well as in their cultural and conceptual limitations which are intrinsic to all human endeavors. –Theodore G. Stylianopoulos, The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective

This Orthodox view was passed down by the Early Church Fathers, which you’ll discover if you also read this section: “4. The Church Fathers & Holy Scripture/The Authority of Scripture.”  For examples:

However, the exaltation of the authority and centrality or Scripture in the patristic tradition did not lead to its absolutization as a kind of holy book delivered directly from heaven.

It is true that, on the one hand, without the benefit of current critical awareness pertaining to the composition of the biblical writings, the Church fathers held a distinctly higher view of the divine authority and historical veracity of the Bible than is usual among modern scholars and theologians.

But, on the other hand, the Church fathers did not reach a kind of fundamentalist view of the Bible as found in Protestant orthodoxy. We may say that the fathers in their total witness were indeed fundamental but never fundamentalist about the Bible, acknowledging in significant ways its human as well as divine character.

 

….Numerous examples can be given of the patristic refusal to stay with the plain teaching of Scripture when such teaching compromised the overall understanding of God.

Biblical texts that are predestinarian in grammatical meaning (Rom 8:29; 9:11,16-17) cannot, according to the Church fathers, be taken at face value without leading to unacceptable deductions about God who is loving and just, and not arbitrary.

The Book of Revelation may teach a literal millennium (Rev. 20:4), and the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to prohibit the possibility of a second repentance after serious sin (Heb 10:26-27; 12:16-17).

Although some early interpreters advocated such ideas, for example, the author of the Shepherd of Hermas, St. Justin, and St. Irenaios, these doctrines never became part of the normative teaching of the Church.

In a remarkable instance of freedom from biblical literalism, St. Isaac the Syrian, arguably the greatest mystic in the tradition of Eastern Christianity, intentionally demythologizes the image of hellfire.

Although he by no means rejects the reality of hell, he reinterprets it as a separation from and inability to participate in God’s eternal love, a separation more painful according to him than any physical hell. For St. Isaac, hell did not exist prior to sin and its ultimate end is unknown.

 

….Certainly the patristic tradition, known for its spiritual exegesis, cannot be charged with slavish literalism to an absolute holy word. In the end, as H. Chadwick has observed, the Church fathers knew that Christianity is not a religion of a book but of a Person.

Written around 2005/2006/2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

Seeing my other ex–in healed friendship–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–March 1995, Part 3

One of the people online, Gypsy, probably named after the Gypsy robot on Mystery Science Theater: 3000, invited people to a TCB user party for Saturday, March 4.

Krafter and Stimpy wanted Sharon and me to come to it with them.  This was a popular, invitation-only party, probably held every once in a while.

Gypsy and his wife Nympho didn’t know us, so they didn’t invite us.  Krafter and Stimpy petitioned them.  Gypsy and Nympho sent us amused e-mails saying we could come.

Late one night, I went to Country Kitchen with Krafter and Stimpy.  I sat next to Stimpy and laughed as he said, “For once, we’re bringing chicks to Gypsy’s party.”  He moved his hands like he was setting baby chicks on the table, and said, “Peep!  Peep!”

Sharon and I walked into the party not knowing what to expect.  We recognized almost no one, of course, except for the ones I saw on Krafter’s video of the BBS party.  Stubby was there at one point.  Nympho gave us plastic drinking cups for our pop, and wrote ZIGGY and NYSSA on them.  I saved that cup for years.

I found out which person was Flezter.  He sat watching someone else play on the computer.  He was cute–a redhead–but only seventeen, so jailbait.

After I gave him love advice online (he had a crush on a girl at work and wondered if he should send her flowers from a secret admirer), we had become fast friends.  When we found each other in tele, he wrote “Freak!” and I wrote “Psycho!”  Now, to introduce myself to him, I went up to him and said, “Psycho!”  He turned to me and said, “Freak!”

“Flezter” was hard for me to say–I have a dyslexic tongue at times–so I often said it “Fletzer,” and originally thought it was spelled that way.  I don’t know where he got the name.

We were led to a bedroom to put our coats away, and when I came out, lo and behold, who should be standing before me but Peter!

He said, “Sh–, I wasn’t expecting to see you here!  How are you doing?”

After chatting a bit, he said, “You’ve changed so much.  You look so different, much more confident.”

Ish was at the party.  Sharon and I were charged to get a good look at him and report to Pearl.  (According to Turtle, he was the sexiest and nicest guy on the board.  We told Pearl he was both nice and cute, not ugly or anything, so don’t worry.)

Gypsy and Nympho had their computer all set up for logging in.  All night there was a steady stream of people to and from it.  Sharon said, “That’s so sad.  They come here to meet people in person, and what do they do?  They turn around and go online at the party!”

Stimpy and I sat on the floor across from Peter and his date, a pretty girl with long, brown hair like mine.  I don’t remember if it was curly or not.  We talked and laughed and had a good time.

Peter and his girlfriend left early.  Somebody quipped, “They’re off to go have sex.”  I didn’t need that image.

Later, Sharon said to me, “You two have the perfect ex-relationship: You can both be in the same place with dates, and not even care.”

Which was ironic, given all the troubles we had with each other after the breakup.  But those troubles and enmities had been left behind, and we could finally be friends again.  Each could move on to other people without it hurting the other the least bit.

Though I was shy, I did smile and laugh a lot.

Nobody and his brother were there; they were two short, skinny teenagers, who looked no older than fifteen.  They didn’t act mean at all, but tossed around a balloon with Sharon.

Sharon later said how much she enjoyed herself, that she felt more at ease than she expected.  She did seem to be more talkative than I was.

Avenger and Lima were there, however.  I finally got to see what they looked like.  When I heard the young girl with the short, blonde, maybe reddish-blonde hair was her, I felt uneasy, remembering how mean she was to people online, and the way I muttered “Avenger” with distaste whenever she came online.

She said and did nothing to me.  Though I sat near her for part of the night, I don’t remember speaking to her.  I generally avoided her.

Later on, people began to leave, leaving our group, Ish, Stubby and maybe a few others.  I felt more relaxed now, and it was easier to talk.  I cuddled with Stimpy on the couch.  Gypsy and Nympho sat on chairs nearby.

Gypsy was a dark-haired man with a mustache; Nympho was a blonde, both of them probably in their 30s.  They lived in a small rented house, a duplex I believe, and another couple lived above them.  They joked that they could hear whenever that enthusiastic couple had sex.

****

While I was at the party, Catherine played Dungeons and Dragons.  The next day or on Monday, she told me about her first D&D game with Cugan as the Dungeon Master.

She said, “He looked up hopefully when I walked in the door, then looked so depressed when he saw you weren’t with me.”

She told me about the other players, and said, “Do not look at J.J.  He’s cute, but do not look at him.”  She wanted me to have eyes only for Cugan.  She didn’t want me to end up with Stimpy, either.

She rolled up her character that day, Iliana, a fighter/mage elf.  (All the characters in the campaign at that time were elves.)

On Sunday, March 5, Catherine and I planned to go to the SCA meeting, and I was to be brought back to the campus by Cugan.  That day, however, there was a bad snowstorm, so Catherine called me and said we weren’t going.

Apparently she didn’t call Cugan, however, because he, panicked, called her from the meeting to see if we were okay.  He feared we’d driven into a ditch somewhere.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

 

On the Idea that God has Someone in Mind for You

Finding a mate is not always a matter of patience, waiting for God’s match for you to come along.  It could also be a matter of where you are in your life, how willing you are to take the initiative, how you act, how picky you are, etc.

Sometimes it’s not you, but the lack of good or available catches in your social circles.  (You begin to think arranged marriages are a great idea.)

Even getting married is not the cure-all it’s made to seem in popular culture.   Sometimes people find the “perfect” man/woman and get totally disillusioned.   Sometimes people will be married for many years and then get divorced.   Sometimes a spouse will have affairs or be abusive in some way.

There’s no such thing as the “perfect” mate.  I also don’t believe in soul mates: We use God’s Word for direction in choosing someone, but ultimately that someone is our choice (and theirs).

The idea that God chooses everything for us–mate, career, college, etc.–as part of an overall “plan” comes from Protestant fundamentalism.  I don’t believe it comes from ancient Christianity.

Looking for the perfect someone could leave you lonely.  Looking for someone you can get along with, and then working to keep the relationship in good shape, is more successful than expecting to find a lifelong passionate love affair.

Being single is not always fun, especially since you can’t do certain things if you don’t believe in premarital sex.  But if you focus on doing things you enjoy, find some good friends, and have a job or ministry or hobby that you like, that can help keep the loneliness at bay.

Several months after my ex-fiancé broke up with me in 1994, I found myself having a great time because I didn’t have to deal with his emotional abuse anymore–and a few guys were interested in me at the same time.

I’m married now, but went through many years of loneliness before finding this person.  I wish I knew these things back when I was single, so I wouldn’t have been so desperate to find somebody.

Written around 2005/2006/2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

On Creationism

People spend huge amounts of time trying to refute evolution and trying to force the teaching of “alternatives” on schoolkids.

But is this really a good use of our time?  If scientists found something that absolutely proved evolution, what would happen to our faith?  (Actually, it can be argued that they have long since proven evolution.)

I feel it’s better to just say, God was behind whatever happened.  Whether He used evolution, six 24-hour days of creation, or whatever, God was the great Designer.

Now let’s get on with more important things, such as spreading the Word and helping our communities.

This writer says that the Early Church did not understand the 6 Creation days to be literal.  They were, rather, “six successive enormous periods of time.”  I’ve heard this may not be totally accurate: “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church” by Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Jr.

Also see this view from a Russian Orthodox missionary leaflet: “Orthodoxy and Creationism” by Fr. Deacon Andrey Kuraev

The Orthodox church does not reject God-driven evolution, just atheistic evolution, and does not say one way or another how things worked.

Many Orthodox believe evolution is incompatible with Genesis; many believe it is compatible.  One bishop will say evolution is how God created; another will emphatically deny evolution.

But also note that Adam and Eve are treated in Church writings as actual people, not metaphors, so we must take care before dismissing them as simply allegories:

OCA: Evolution and Orthodoxy

We shall not compare the biblical story of creation with modern scientific theories of the origin of the universe. The protracted dialogue between science and theology has not yet come to any definitive conclusions about the connections between biblical revelation and scientific developments.

It is, however, very clear that the Bible does not aim to present a scientific account of the origin of the universe, and it is rather naive to polemicize on the biblical narrative understood in its literal sense. Sacred Scripture regards all of history from the perspective of an interrelationship between the human and the divine.

The authors of biblical stories often use metaphorical and symbolic language and they often rely on the scientific knowledge of their own time. This, however, does not diminish the significance of the Bible as a book through which God speaks to humanity and reveals God in all His creative power. —The Six Days of Creation

Also see:

The classic patristic writing is Basil’s nine homilies on the Six Days of Creation, the Hexaemeron. Most of the key doctrines whose origin is wrongly attributed to Augustine in the Western tradition can be found in Basil and Gregory of Nyssa two generations earlier.

The world does not begin in time, but in God’s will and word (Hexaemeron, 1:5ff). The six days of creation are not 24-hour days (caused by the sun, created on the fourth day) but long epochs.

There is no “three-storey universe” as in Rudolf Bultmann’s caricature of patristic teaching. The created order is unfinished, dynamic, moving towards its fulfillment.

Heaven is not a place but an order of many-­dimensioned reality closed to our senses. –Paulos Mar Gregorios, A Theology of Nature: an Introduction

Among the visible things that God created is the crown of His creation, man. In Genesis we read the story of God’s creation. We cannot interpret this story to the letter; however, its message is loud and clear:

God is the creator of everything that exists; there is order in God’s creation, and a development (even “evolution”) from lower forms to higher forms of life; God created everything good; man, created in God’s image and likeness, has a very special place in God’s creation, called to be God’s proxy toward His creation. –His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh, The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church

From the Orthodox Study Bible, the “Creation” essay, page 2:

Regarding questions about the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account of creation, and about various viewpoints concerning evolution, the Orthodox Church has not dogmatized any particular view.

What is dogmatically proclaimed is that the One Triune God created everything that exists, and that man was created in a unique way and is alone made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26, 27).

Here is the Catholic view: Adam, Eve, and Evolution

Theodore G. Stylianopoulos writes in The New Testament, An Orthodox Perspective:

A reaction to this liberal academic tradition is the fundamentalist interpretation, ranging from simplistic to sophisticated expressions.

Although fundamentalist interpretation developed in deliberate opposition to liberal biblical studies, especially historical criticism, it was compelled to imitate some of the perceived enemy’s tools.

Based on its own ideological interests, its definitive feature is the use of rationalism, even if artificially, to defend positions such as creationism and the absolute inerrancy of Scripture.

A particularly American phenomenon since the late nineteenth century, it has spread as well to other areas of the globe in the wake of conservative Protestant missions.

The fundamentalist approach is ideological in that it is inclined to defend an absolute position of the plenary inspiration, propositional revelation, and total inerrancy of Scripture regarding all truth–scientific, historical, and theological–beyond the claims and evidence of Scripture itself.

While the intent to uphold the authority of Scripture is commendable, the extremes to which it has led, including a kind of intellectual sophistry and fanaticism, are indefensible.

Christian fundamentalism, whether among Protestants, Roman-Catholics, or Orthodox is on the whole an obscurantist reaction, albeit understandably so, to the bewildering excesses of modernism.

It is often based on unconscious fear of losing the objective grounds of one’s security of faith in the face of new findings by scientific and historical research.

However, as has been noted by many, refusal to face reasonable facts of science and history is not evidence of sound faith but lack of it.

As Father Thomas Hopko puts it in The Orthodox Faith: Bible and Church History:

…At this time, there was a clash between the liberals and fundamentalists.

The fundamentalists, particularly in America, insisted on using the Bible as a manual of science to be interpreted literally in a manner inconsistent with the purposes and intentions of the holy scriptures as understood and interpreted in Church Tradition.

Thus in the Western Protestant world of the nineteenth century, the dominant choice offered was that of either liberalism of a rationalist or pietist variety, or sectarian fundamentalism….(p. 204)

From OrthodoxWiki: Evolution

I think the furor over evolution vs. literalist creationism may have been stirred by the Devil–not by speaking through Darwin, mind you, but by making people elevate its importance far too high.

The arguments have not only pitted atheist against Christian, but Christian against Christian.  We know God created, whatever means He used.

And the Gospel of salvation is far more important than trying to prove the so-called “atheist evolutionists” wrong.

Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

Written around 2005/2006/2007

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

Abusive ex finds my online haven; Meeting a hit man–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–March 1995, Part 2

My cat Hazel died in late January or early February.  I thought I was getting over her death, but of course, I hadn’t gone home yet, so it hadn’t hit me that she was gone for good.

The cause of Hazel’s death wasn’t certain; Mom wondered if her love of Twinkies was actually a symptom of diabetes.  A few months before her death, Hazel grew emaciated, had worms, and lost much of her hair, so it was hard to pet her.  For her, death was probably a welcome release.

The most frustrating thing was that for years I told my parents she had worms, that she left dead ones behind on my bed.  But they treated me like I imagined it–and was too fussy about that debris on my bed.  According to this, because of the dead worms I found, it was probably tapeworms.

Just like I told them my room was far too hot in the summer and I couldn’t sleep.  But not until I moved out and my brother moved back in, did they discover the air conditioning in that room was broken.  What is this with not taking me seriously, anyway?

****

One day, Sharon told me that Phil was now on TCB!  She couldn’t remember his handle, just part of it.

One day, I saw a new person online, Crash Helmet.  I had a weird feeling about him, checked his registry, and knew it was him.

In his registry, he gave his full name (complete with “III”) and said his favorite music was alternative.  That was a switch!  He used to say he didn’t like alternative.

I don’t know where he got the name Crash Helmet, because he didn’t have a motorcycle.

It was a shock to see him online.  It seemed that, not only did guys break up with me and then join the Zetas, but now they went on TCB!

Even Charles, who said he didn’t want to pledge because it would be like boot camp all over again, had joined the Zetas.  Was he the next to go on TCB?  Would Stimpy come to Roanoke and join the Zetas?  (Neither happened, fortunately.)

One night, I went online and found both Crash Helmet and Stimpy.  In those days, I didn’t feel the need to keep much personal information out of my registry, except for my phone number, so Phil could probably see my full name just by pulling it up.

He’d go and play in tele and joke around and such; I rarely talked to him.  I paged Stimpy and said that was the borderline abusive ex I told him about.

I joined “Crash” and the others in tele, filled with a certain curiosity, wondering what was going to happen.  I wondered if he would check my registry and realize who I was.

I wondered what I would say to him, what he would say to me and the others in tele.  I wondered how Stimpy would treat him (as far as I know, he didn’t talk much to him).

Now both Peter and Phil were on the BBS with me, when I thought this was my own thing.  Phil never showed much interest in going on BBS’s like I did; I think he specifically said once that he didn’t want to.

I went to BBS’s to get away from exes, and there they both were!  Peter had always been into such things, so that wasn’t a big surprise.  But how in the world did Phil end up on TCB?  I may have asked him once, but I don’t remember what he answered.

I didn’t like seeing him there, seeing him playing in tele, there in my territory.  I didn’t like seeing him at all, though my hatred for him abated months before.  I wondered how long he’d be around on TCB.  (Not very long at all, it turned out.)

****

One night, Stimpy flirted with a girl online in front of me in tele.  I pretended to be mad.

Privately, however, I whispered to Stimpy,

“You can go out with her if you want to.”

He whispered back, “I really don’t want to date anybody else.”

“Do you want us to tell each other when we go out with other people?”

“No.”

Hm.  Did he like me more than I liked him?  I hoped not, but if he didn’t want to date anyone else, that was a distinct possibility.

****

I liked to make nicknames out of people’s handles.  For example, Speakery for Speaker, The for The Elite Lamer, Lord for Jesus Christ (yes, there really was somebody with that handle, along with Satan), Flez for Flezter.

One of my favorite songs of the time: “Against the 70s” by Mike Watt with Eddie Vedder, about the return of 70s fashions, music, etc.  It says,

The kids of today should defend themselves against the 70s.  It’s not reality, just someone else’s sentimentality.  It won’t work for you. … Look what it did to us.

I loved it because all these high schoolers and college freshmen around me now dressed like the 70s, the same decade that my generation made fun of because the fashion/pop music was so ridiculous.  And here was a rock singer echoing my sentiments on bringing back the 70s.

****

Pearl invited over a national, Christian theater group that did skits and things for InterVarsity groups.  They came on Wednesday, March 1.

Pearl told us one of the guys (who was our age) used to be a hit man, and we should have him tell us the story during lunch.

Say what?

So we did.  Here’s a summary of what he said:

He sat on a bus next to a woman, maybe middle-aged or older, during his travels for this group, and told her he was a hit man.

He told her all the things he did, all the hits he made.  She didn’t know what to think, sitting next to a murderer.

Then, finally, he admitted that he was just fibbing: He never was a hit man.

He had us all going for a while, with Pearl’s help.

I think some of us figured it out sooner than I did (not surprising because of the NVLD), but I didn’t know until he said it that he’d never actually been a hit man.  Here I was, sitting at the dinner table behind the partition, thinking how weird it was that a Christian guy our age had killed people in the past.  And then I found out it wasn’t true.  That was a relief, of course, but I felt a little foolish.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

 

On Abortion Protests

People have been protesting abortion for at least two decades [update: four now].  Abortion is still legal.

Picket signs, fights, litigation, and slanderous words are not ending abortion.  On the contrary, they’re only making the pro-choice side fight harder.

Let’s do something that actually can make a difference:

Don’t treat unwed mothers like sluts; that’s one reason why abortion is even considered.

Vote for candidates/policies which help unwed and poor mothers take care of their children.

If one president or Congress changes the laws, the next will try to change them back; what we truly need is a heart change.  Also see How I can vote pro-choice without changing my mind about abortions.

The Christian community must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely. —Abortion Issues, PCUSA Statement

An earlier version of the PCUSA statement, which also addresses partial-birth abortion

Written around 2005/2006

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church