Monday, October 30, 2006


Continuing on the line of heresies, I have recently read a short booklet by a man named Ralph Woodrow addressing three interesting topics from the Bible. One of the three is the question of whether Satan is in fact a fallen angel.

I've got to be honest with you, I didn't even know you could be an evangelical and believe otherwise. I figured the only people who disagreed with the premise would be those who didn't believe in Satan at all.

But Woodrow addresses the subject very carefully and methodically. Actually, this isn't surprising, as he shows the same care with every topic on which I have read his writings. He begins with the classic passages in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, and shows that they are much more naturally read as speaking of the humans to whom they are addressed, and that there is no need to read any reference to Satan into them. He then proceeds to argue that other passages typically used to speak of Satan as a fallen angel have preferred interpretations as well.

Now, I haven't done my own work on this yet. I will very soon, since I'm going to speak on angels and demons Sunday night in my Great Themes of the Bible series, but for now, it sure is an interesting thought. What if Satan was created by God to serve as the tempter? Would that change anything?

107 Reconsidered

I posted my thoughts on prop 107 recently, and now I find myself reconsidering. Mostly because a couple of friends have taken considerable time to explain why the prop isn't as bad as I had thought. While I still retain my concerns with the evangelical church's approach to homosexuals in other ways, and will probably come back to them later, I can see that this proposition is probably close to the bare minimum needed to make the point, so I will, in fact vote for prop 107.

Thanks Dave & Don.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Another Heresy

I'm not sure which heresy Jeff was talking about, so I'm just gonna pick one. I recently suggested voting against all the Arizona ballot propositions except maybe 107. Now I'm reconsidering 107. Here's why. As I understand it, not only would the prop put language in the state constitution defining that the term marriage would refer only to one man and one woman, but would also forbid the giving of benefits to state workers who are not married. It's the last part that gets me.

You see, I would be fine if we could just agree that the term marriage already has a meaning, and let it alone. Devise new civil contracts that allow for more flexibility in defining how our money is managed. It seems to me that government's best role in this whole issue is to stay out. Just let each person decide who gets their money, whether in the form of inheritance or benefits. Let each company decide whether they will limit who can share in the benefits pool. As for inheritance, why not just let people give their money (most of which was already taxed as income) away to whomever they want without any taxes?

As a Christian, my problem with this whole thing is that we end up saying something I hope we don't mean when we adopt all of 107. We are saying that one sin (yes, I am calling homosexuality a sin) must be separated out and made unique. Now I understand that in some way we have been forced into this position by those who demand that we accept what is essentially a private matter in a very public way. And I react powerfully against such pressure. But the thing is, I know far more people who have been severely damaged by gossip, but we pretty much ignore that one. Or lying. Or petty thievery (taxes anyone?). We say with our actions that homosexuals are worse than other sinners. I have, as of late, become much more aware of where there is a tendency to sin in my life, and while I would like to find someone else whose sins are worse than mine, that's not how it works.

I'm still debating, but I think I may make it a clean sweep and vote against them all. If they will resubmit 107 with just the definition, that would be different.

For me, at least, it would be.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Heresies I'm Considering

Recently, Jeff posted an article on heresy. It was kind of strange to see, because I have been thinking a lot myself about heresies that I am mulling over. So he inspired me to go ahead and admit to some of them. I'm going to take one at-a-time, in part to give all of you the chance to recover from each before I go on to the next.

What I mean by a heresy is simply a perspective that many in the evangelical community would reject without even considering its merits. On the big issues: the nature of redemption, the person of Jesus, the authority of Scripture, I'm not going anywhere. But I think about lots of different issues, and read extensively, and for some reason lately I have been seeing more and more people writing "outside the box." Evangelicals. It warms my heart, because we as a group tend to transfer authority, just as Jeff said. So it's nice to know that there are thinking evangelicals as well.

Recently, I read a book entitled The Age of the Universe: What are the Biblical limits? by Gorman Gray. Now, the book itself was very difficult to read (he really needed a good editor), but his premise is interesting: he proposes a reading of Genesis 1:1-2 wherein the entire cosmos, along with an incomplete Earth, are created first, followed by an unspecified time period before the 6 day creation of the biosphere between 6,000-8,000 years ago.

His proposal requires a global flood to explain the fossil record, but there are good arguments in the book. Maybe he's right, maybe the universe is very old, but the biosphere very young. The reasons to believe in a very old universe and earth are very compelling, and for the all research on a young earth done at ICR, their results are still very limited in scope. It's not necessarily because they are wrong, they just have phenominally limited budgets. But I cannot get excited about much of their work, as it is mostly model building at this time.

And right now, things like supernovae, and red shifts, and billion year old radioisotopes are more easily explained by a really old universe.

So I'm thinking about the age of the universe, and considering the possibility, considered heretical by many, that the universe may be really, really old. No evolution here, no pre-adamic races, nothing like that. Just maybe a God who isn't afraid to let processes run for a while. One who created and waited, just like in my life He so often moves and then allows the process to play itself out before He intervenes.

Somthing like that, anyways.

I probably shouldn't talk about this publicly, but we're all friends here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I'm sitting in staff meeting yesterday in our church's library. I look over at the bookshelf, and I notice 2 books sitting next to each other, and I couldn't help but laugh.

Book 1: In the Name of Satan, by Bob Larsen.
Book 2: In the Grip of Grace, by Max Lucado.

I pointed this out to the staff, all of whom thought it very funny. In fact, funnier than I had thought it was. Which was nice, because sometimes we all need someone to laugh harder than we do, just to make sure we enjoy life more than we would otherwise.

But really, when you think about it, which presentation of the Kingdom of God is more likely to draw people to Christ? I know Satan is active, but when we spend too much time thinking about him, we forget that God is active as well, even moreso, and He wins.

But even so, the contrast really is funny, don't you think?

Kutcher, revisited

So, Scott took exception with my harassment of Ashton Kutcher, so I thought I would explain.

You see, the (unspoken) point of my blog was that sometimes we all feel the need to take ourselves more seriously than necessary in an effort to make sure other people take us seriously. This tendency becomes more pronounced the less serious we perceive the activity we are involved in to be.

The really ironic thing here is that I thought about making this point in my blog, when I realized I would be falling into the very trap I was railing against. So I decided to leave the point unmade. Now it is not.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Antler?!?!?!

The comics have a special section for kids, and it has, among other things, a short interview with someone they think kids will be interested in. This week it was Ashton Kutcher, asking him about his role voicing Elliot, the deer in Open Season. And they ask him "What drew you to Elliot?" Instead of being honest, and answering, "The paycheck," he answers "Well, I think it was the fact that he had only one antler. I think we all feel sometimes like we have only one antler." Please.

Monday, October 16, 2006


You know, I really wanted to be a Cardinals fan this year. They brought in good players, drafted Matt Leinart, and built one of the nicest stadiums in the country right in my backyard (almost literally). But they have broken the hearts of their fans for years, and it appears this will be no exception. How did they lose tonight? They did everything right except for 4 plays. Just 4! And those 4 plays decided the game.

Not to be too preachy, but there is probably a lesson in life. To be honest, no one expects this team to win. After all, they never have. So why should big games like this be any different. I wonder if most of us don't live our lives with the same expectation. I hope I don't.

I will keep hoping, at least in part because I have no one else to root for. But it is tough watching this team almost win week after week.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


My eldest son is participating in our church's Royal Rangers program. He is working hard to gain the highest achievement level in the shortest time period. Today, he participated in the district-wide Ranger of the Year competition. It involved a test over 4 broad areas of knowledge, a 3-5 minute talk on three elements of discipleship, uniform inspection, and other demonstrations of Ranger-ness.

Anyways, he received the second-highest score in his age group, just barely falling short of moving on to the next level (state competition). I am exceedingly proud of him, not just for his score, but for giving it his best. I was there, and I watched him move from station to station, interact with the adults and other boys, and generally behave exceedingly well. I'd like to think it was great parenting, but he's a good kid, and there are lots of other adults who have had a hand in this as well (not the least of whom are the men who lead our Rangers program). Thanks guys, and great job son!

Friday, October 13, 2006


I believe in them, by the way.

Anyways, I have begun playing around a little with composing photographs for use on our church's bulletin cover. There were a number of requests for my first cover, so I placed it on the church's web site in multiple sizes so that people could use it for a desktop background image. This is the image that appears to the left. All the the pictures on it are free stock photos from stock.xchng, composed using Photoshop. Easy enough.

About a week later, I discovered a photo I took 2 years ago on vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and wanted to use it, unchanged, as a cover photo for the bulletin. So today, I dutifully opened it, added a scripture reference and a couple of subtle effects, and uploaded it in all of the necessary resolutions to the church's site. This is the one to the right of the post. After I was all done, I noticed something: the two shots are of nearly identical rivers. Oh, the trees are different species, and the one has shallower water, but the general shape of the treeline, and the bend in the river, and the angle from which they were shot, are incredibly similar. I'm sure there is a principle of design and composition in there somewhere, and it is probably related to the golden ratio as I used to teach my students, but I haven't taken the time yet to figure out what it might be.

But I find it kinda funny, and kinda weird that my first two forays into this process start with such similar photos. What deep need in me is met by this image of a river running through a forest? Is there some Freudian or Jungian meaning? Perhaps it is nothing so deep at all; maybe my design skills are so limited that I can only work with this particular theme.

Either way, I found it intriguing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Here in Arizona, we have followed California in the experiment in direct democracy known as ballot initiatives. I do not know what benefit this may have in other places, but in Arizona it at least reduces the number of truly stupid things our legislators can do. You see, it is generally our practice to send to our legislature only those citizens who are incapable of intelligent thought, so we really try to keep them from actually doing anything while there.

But back to my point. This year there are 19 propositions on the ballot. 19!!! If you would like to see the publication from the State about them, you can click here. Some are downright silly (there is one that would place restrictions on calf and hog farms -- this in spite of the fact that there are none in Arizona). There are two pairs of propositions that address the same issue in different ways, and it is possible that both could pass. I dutifully read the various propositions and arguments for and against, and have come to a conclusion: I am going to vote against them all (except for 107).

Now I have been leaning in this direction for some time. The reasoning is very simple: we really don't need more rules. And the law of unintended consequences all but guarantees that something bad is going to happen in at least one, and likely every case where we pass one of these propositions. So I am going to vote against them all. Let's try and figure out how to make the current democracy work before we go messing around with it.

I'm thinking of running for office on the platform of promising to do nothing - to actually vote against every law proposed, to actively campaign for restricting the action of government. Not, mind you, because I am a libertarian, but because I've been around long enough to know that we don't know how to manage our own lives as individuals, there is no way we can succeed in managing the lives of all of us in this great nation.

And let me encourage both of you who read my blog and are citizens of Arizona, to join me in voting against all the propositions this year and every year.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I had the opportunity to preach Sunday morning at my church. My Senior Pastor fell ill Saturday evening, and I received the dreaded call at 8:15 pm asking me if I can cover for him the next morning. Now, this doesn't happen very often, maybe 3 times in the 8-9 years I have been on staff, but I generally have something in mind that I could preach on should the need arise. In this case, I had just seen the movie Facing the Giants, and was already contemplating extracting a message on the subject of facing our fears when my pastor called.

I went for a brief walk, praying the God would give me something to talk about. Now, I have had the opportunity over the years to work with a number of young preachers, and one thing I tell them all is that they should write their conclusion first. After all, if you don't know where you're going, you're not likely to get anywhere useful. By the time I got back home, I had a conclusion: "God wants to change the world through you; if you will face your fears, He will give you the ability to overcome them, and use them to do just that." Not much, but at least a start. Enough for me to go to bed and sleep for a few hours.

The next morning, I put a few items down on paper, things people might be afraid of. I briefly considered what the Bible says about these things, reviewed the story of Joshua from chapter 1 of the book bearing his name, and figured I might mention 1 Corinthians 15:58, and Romans 8. But beyond that, I really didn't have any idea how it would go.

But God is so amazingly faithful. We have 2 services, and extemporizing to that extent in 2 services without trying to reproduce the first service in the second service is very difficult. But I felt His direction, watched as I moved from one point to another, and was ready to wrap up exactly at the end of the service. Second service, I just started with a different point, and a "different but same" message resulted. After I was done, I was just amazed at the things that were only a part of one of the two services.

I used to extemporize most of the time that I preached, but I found that I got lazy, and began to depend on my ability to think on the fly, rather than be prepared with something that people could follow and walk away with. In an effort to fix that, I began forcing myself to use PowerPoint. I think the result has been very positive, but I may come off at times more like a lecturer than a preacher. It is interesting to me that the last two times that I have had to preach with little or no prep time have been exceedingly well received.

This brings me to my point. Where is the balance between preparation and inspiration for me? Even with PowerPoint, I leave a lot of space in my messages. And I often feel under-prepared. Then there are the men that I admire as preachers who clearly have significantly more prepared than I do, yet whose messages are always compelling and challenging. Perhaps I have fallen into the worst-possible place: just sufficiently prepared to squelch my natural speaking gifts, but not sufficiently prepared to really produce the best that I am capable of. Perhaps it is unreasonable to compare the messages I give on a regular basis with plenty of prep time to those that I preach without prep but with God's amazing mercy because of schedules.

But if the latter, I still want to find the place where I experience His mercy, even when I have plenty of time. Not sure I'm there yet.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Really, I don't intend to talk only about communication in this blog, but it keeps coming up (probably has to do with the impending elections). Today, I am listening to the radio. Dennis Prager has a guest on from Berkeley, and they are talking about the guest's new book on freedom. I listen as Dennis talks to the guy for about 15 minutes, and I find it the most frustrating experience I have had lately. I turn off the radio and think about the interchange when it hits me - the two men were using the same words, but with subtly different meanings. Dennis is using words like "freedom" and "logic" with their traditional meanings. The professor from Berkeley has adopted slightly different meanings for these words. But he denies that he is doing so. Rather, he contends that it is Dennis, who is insisting that the words mean what they have always meant, who is not understanding.

As I understood it, the professor's point is that concepts must be understood within the framework utilized by the speaker. This allows me to use the same words with different meanings. Only if you enter my framework you can understand what I mean.

But such a notion, rather than aiding communication, is guaranteed to prevent it. It is true that we all see the world from different perspectives, with different filters, but we must make an effort at communication within a common framework. I cannot abandon the effort and attempt to impose my frame of reference on the rest of society. Such cultural shifts must of necessity take place slowly, in an evolutionary manner, so that communication can continue while the shift takes place. To insist that all men can speak from their own personal framework, ignoring the shared cultural experience, is to demand that no communication take place.

That may be the goal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Communication, revisited

Continuing with this thought on the issue of communication. IT is my observation that there is actually very little communicating going on in our culture today, mostly because we are not talking to each other; rather, we are talking at each other. I know this is not an original observation, but that doesn't make it any less true. Let's take the quote from Scientific American that started this whole thing for me.

At one level, the editorial folks at SciAm are absolutely correct. The issue revolves around the the interactions between two elements of a pluralistic society that happen to be in profound disagreement with each other. The problem is, SciAm's formulation says nothing. Why? Because every policy debate in a pluralistic society is, at its foundation, a debate about which side of the issue gets to determine what actions are to be considered appropriate. It doesn't matter whether the subject is a highly volatile one, like stem cell research, or barely debatable, like child exploitation. The resolution of the policy question will result in one segment of society curtailing the actions of another.

But we can never get to the point of the debate if we pretend that the argument is something other than what it is. On this issue, and so many others, we throw words at each other, not in an effort of clarify, but to muddy the waters. Just listen to any political advertisement. Does anyone with a brain really believe that any candidate's formulation of their opponent's position is fair and accurate? Every statement should be viewed with the utmost cynicism, not just suspicion. The same holds true with editorials, advertisements, news articles, and even blogs. It is neither in vogue, nor effective to attempt simple communication today. If you read or watch anything and expect that you allow oneself to be indoctrinated.

We cannot afford to allow that to happen in a pluralistic society.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I'll come back to this one, but I've got to get it off my chest. This morning I pick up Scientific American, and am greeted with a number of recommendations that I as a Christian adopt someone else's worldview. But one phrase, at the end of their opening editorial, jumped out at me: "The policy fight over embryonic stem cells, for example, centers on when and how one segment of a pluralistic society should curtail the behaviors of those who hold a different view." Funny, I thought the debate was over how far a moral society can go in opportunistically using the resources of the least fortunate before it undermines its entire foundation and collapses.

The problem is, we are talking about the same issue, but choosing language guaranteed to keep either of us from communicating.

More on this later.