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Oxymoron: Christian Conservativsm

Conservativsm is this: do nothing different that is not guaranteed to produce the same or better results immediately. While conservatives are theoretically open to change, when comes to pulling the trigger, they are not. I have been frustrated recently at my job with this kind of conservatism. Today I was thinking about something I hold very dear. I contemplated the prospect of losing it. I soon realized my hypocrisy. I have been living much of my life according to the conservatism that so irritates me at work.

As is often the case, I am in a quandary about my vocation. This has been a struggle for me many years. I began to think also about my fear with regard to alienating people by giving a witness to the majesty and greatness of Christ. Both of these areas reveal my own conservatism with respect to my biggest idol: my reputation. A good reputation is a very valuable thing. Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold." Scripture commends us to take care for our reputation; however, when this one virtue begins to wield a magnetic force that arranges all of life, it is an idol. When one begins to compromise to secure one's reputation or begins to suffer anxiety over the loss of one's good name, it is an idol. When one begins to live conservatively with respect to losing one's reputation, it is an idol.

Justification by reputation is not worth those martyred in the decades following the Reformation. Justification by good name is not worth the blood of Christ. Christ purchased my adoption with his blood. My good name adds nothing. If one can live according to Christ's law of love and maintain a good name, glory be to God. Ultimately, there is a name which no-one knows but God. This name is recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life. I have neither need nor ability to protect this name, but if I live according to man's opinion of me, my name is of no real use to me.

Ultimately most conservatisms are incompatible with Christianity. More often, I suspect, it is our demanding idolatries that force us into conservatism. We know that they are unforgiving and will exact payment for every mistake.

I would scold my children for worrying for their safety when I am with them. Within Christ's law of love we have nothing to lose. Why do we act like foolish children? We should be living with nothing to lose, like men and women given a second chance, born again.

Room for God

Is there room for apparent inconsistencies in your theology? God does not claim to tell the whole story in scripture. In fact, he says that it is not the whole story. John says that the story of Christ could fill the world with books. Paul says that we still see an unclear picture. When a resolution to an apparent contradiction is beyond our reach, what is the difference between an apparent contradiction and a contradiction except our trust that God does exist, tells the truth, and does love us.

Richard Pratt, a professor mine at RTS, would contrast two analogies of incomplete knowledge to highlight a subtle distinction. One approach sees our incomplete knowledge like a glass of water and the other like an incomplete puzzle. The glass of water says that there is more that we don't know, but we we do know fits perfectly together. The puzzle says that we have truth here and there, but much of the time there are huge gaps right in the middle of something scripture holds up as very important. I believe the puzzle approach is most analogous to our knowledge of God and his world. He has given us true statements to guide our relationship with him. This is his goal, so this is enough.

Often we seem to be most preoccupied with finding ways to fill the gaps, when instead, God would have us exert our energy toward walking according to what is clear in scripture. As we mature, He will illuminate more of what he has put in scripture and the world to grow in our knowledge of Him, ourselves, and the world he has made.

You can't always say everything...

Jollyblogger recently commented on a speech made by John Ashcroft in a way that offended one of our common teacher's proverbial wisdom: You can't always say everything when you say something because you'll always be saying something else. I may be slightly misquoting Richard Pratt's proverb, but it is close.

I take this as an exhortation to resist criticism without listening to the whole of what someone says or to at least look for a pattern. In some ways I am suprised that the Jollyblogger would so lightly post this kind of criticism, but I suppose he is giving way to a chief Reformed sin. In some ways, the failings of a Reformed person identify them as reformed as much as the theology they hold. I know that I am in by them.

With respect to the specific criticism, I will defend Ashcroft by saying that Paul exhorted the Corinthians to follow him as he followed Christ. Jesus himself used himself as an example of service. Certainly Christ thought himself more than a mere example, but he does not shrink from offering himself as an example.

In a sense, I do agree with Jollyblogger that Christ too often becomes the poster boy for this or that movement. However, again, is not one of the ends of Christ himself to unite us to him and the Father in a way for which we were made. Christ does inspire and indeed accomplish the highest and best in and out of man. I think we would do well to approach this sort of subject by finding common ground with our brother and leading the way to a richer theological and biblical understanding by extending what has been said in a more biblical direction rather than stopping sort with criticism.

I can't say that the policies of Ashcroft are my favorite or that our theology would line up point for point, but he is a brother in Christ honestly trying to living out his faith. The church would be in much better health if those so passionate about living out the gospel and those so passionate about thinking out the gospel would love each other and resist the temptation to judge because of different functions in the body.

24, Lesbians, and Brokeback Mountain

My dad has recently gotten us hooked on 24. Tonight we are taking a break, but we have watched probably 8 episodes in the last three days. That is a lot for a family that basically doesn't watch TV. In fact, we started watching with the first episode, and I have never even seen an advertisement before that. We are a little behind sometimes. However, there is a benefit. You only end up watching, reading, listening to the best.

One thing that amazes me about today's TV (Ok, we do watch a little) is how complex it is and how expensive it must be to make. I bet some TV episodes cost more to make than most movies 20 years ago. 24 even goes beyond CSI in the variety of camera angles and video editing and processing. In addition, the writing is much better than old series that I watch as a kid like, Hunter or The Fall Guy.

Another way many TV shows are like movies is the way they push the envelope morally. In the first couple of episodes of 24 you see two teenagers having sex (no skin, but you see movement), and you see two lesbians kissing. The latter is especially shocking to me in light of the recent controversy over Brokeback Mountain and the scenes therein. Now, I haven't seen the movie. This is mostly because we watch 95% of our movies on DVD and it only recent was released on DVD. It has been highly recommended by friends and I am curious to evaluate it for myself. I suppose the fact that the love scenes in BBM are between to men make them more shocking, but a TV show with women making out and unmarried teenagers having sex really is no better.

In some sense, I wish the church would shut up for a while with its criticism of worldliness in the world. Part of me feels like we've said enough for a while. I think we'd do better to listen for a while. Reflect on what we hear. Look to the Gospel to see how it answers the questions asked by the world and then present an all-encompassing answer that doesn't sound like a lecture. Why is it that "preaching" has such a negative connotation? If someone says they are "preaching" it is almost universally in the context of them needing to shut up. I don't think Jesus preached.

We should stop being so offensive so that the cross can be an offense. So often we offend because we don't listen or don't really care. When we do, people don't even hear the gospel--there is nothing you can do to commend yourself to God, but God has commended you to himself in Christ. Instead people here, "I am better than you." We offend with statements and attitudes that contrary to the gospel. We would do well to preach the Gospel to ourselves and let the offense soak in and disrupt the sin buried in our own hearts.

Federal Vision and New Perspective Theology

I have recently read a theology paper that was really good. Basically it describes a current controversy in conservative Presbyterian circles. It is pretty technical, but I thought it was very helpful in understanding the controversy. It definitely encouraged me to keep reading about this issue.

I won't try to summarize it, but the controversy is about the meaning of justification and the practical issue of assurance of salvation. It is pretty heavy in terminology. If anyone out there wants to read it, and has questions. Feel free to post them. I'll answer them as I can.

What do you think about me?

Have you every wondered what people think of you? If you are as egocentric as I am you have probably thought about it many times. Well, I found out just a little this past Friday.

Sitting at the table were me, my wife, the bubbly female hostess, the ironically uptight yet laid-back male host, and Russell. Russell's a "single-again" father of three that inhales oxygen and exhales NFL trivia and stats. Guys like him work for TV networks and supply Troy Aikemen with facts like "The Colts haven't lost a game when they have had first possession and led by over 14 points midway through the third quarter when the opposing team's mascot is a bird." I'd have to say that Russell is one of my favorite people. He is one of the least pretentious people I know. He always has a good time, and he is a rapidly maturing Christian man. If anyone knows a great single gal, he'd love a referral.

Well, Russell offered an impression of our host as he got up to answer the door. It was a very accurate portrayal of our hosts mild disgust with having to exert the effort to go to the door because Russell had knocked instead of just announcing his presence. After our laughter cleared, my wonderful wife asked Russell to "do Heath" to which the female host agreed.

Reluctantly, Russell looked to me for approval, and then gave a slight gesture with his arms and rose uncomfortably in his seat while making a pained smile. The ensuing laughter told me that this must have been a face and gesture I make often.

Now seeing yourself in a short impression is one thing, but to have that impression interpreted is quite another. The comedic act was alluded to later with a larger crowd and an encore was demanded. With my permission, Russell did the move again, but this time offered an interpretation. "Its like he's saying, 'How do I say this without making you feel stupid?"

Ouch, comedy can be a great vehicle for conviction. As hard as a try to suppress my intellectual pride, still, it leaks out through my body language. While I rarely think that people are stupid when I feel the need to correct or argue my point, I do perceive that I am going to come off as making them feel stupid, and I am often very careful to word my comment so as not to impute ignorance or stupidity. Nevertheless, I must fail. How do I avoid this? My guess is that it is somehow rooted in some pride that I have.

No doubt it is the pride that comes from performing, ironically, for a self-constructed god. I suppose the answer to my problem is to stop worshiping intelligence, insight, and wisdom and start worshiping the giver of intelligence, insight, and wisdom.

Developing Worship

It is no secret that the music and worship form of my church does not match my own. I would tend toward either a higher liturgical form that is almost anglican. My thoughts were formed in, St. Paul's Church, PCA, a conservative presbyterian church that sought to reach out to people that had grown up in mainline churches. However, they also believed that the form was good aside from the cultural appeal.

I am currently attending a fairly normal broadly evangelical bible church. In some sense, they are the antithesis of what I came to love at St. Paul's. Informal, contemporary, unstructured. I could go on, but I would begin to sin. In fact, I have many times. I sat in church pointing out in my head every trite phrase and the lack of good poetry. I would list every difference with my own model and revel in every irony. I feel very confident that I was right on most points, but I know that my heart was not right on most.

Finally, after beginning to read With One Voice by Reggie Kidd, on of my professors at RTS, I have changed my approach. In fact, God has changed my heart. I came to the realization that I was missing my one chance every week to worship with Christ and his body. While I still believe the form of the worship is sub-par, the object of the worship is beyond compare.

I am so thankful because I am not just doing it because I know it is right, but because I actually want to. As opposed to my many attempts to be less critical, this approach actually works.

Jesus is alive. Let's worship him.

Water Fight

Turning aginst their father

Originally uploaded by bheathr.

I've been busy this week and last with a couple of birthday parties. This was taken at the first. I am waiting on pictures of Soren's birthday party.

Being a dad is great! It is one of my favorite things I do.

Blog-a-thon Wrap-up

I learned that you should write as much about the idea as you can when you have it. Sometimes, it is hard to recreate the passion from a one line todo. Work is really busy right now, so I make take a week or so off before starting a 2x per week schedule.

Thanks to all who read and comment. It is great fun, and you help me motivate me to improve my writing and thinking.

Good Friday Reflection

I vacilate between wanting to be happing and sorrowful on Good Friday. In some sense, I guess the church has guided us in calling it Good Friday, but traditions such as fasting on Friday lead me to believe I am not the first to struggle with these incongruous emotions.

On one hand, I feel like the author of the Dream of the Rood who envisions a victorious Christ mounting a jewel encrusted cross On the other hand, I imagine the site so shockingly portrayed by The Passion of the Christ. i see Christ suffering for the sin of man, of which I am all to well aware in my own life.

In the end, I think it is best to think of Chist's suffering and how I and my flesh was crucified with Christ. My recent study of baptism has caused me remember more how important the theme of union with Christ accomplished by the Holy Spirit is. It encourages me to fight against the flesh since I know that its reign has come to an end. In a sense, this unites both the good and bad of Good Friday. Sadly, repentance is necessary, but happily repentance is now possible.

I am ready for easter. It is much simpler. Resurrection. Rejoice.