Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yale Art Student Murders For Her Project

This atrocity absolutely had to be posted. Aliza Shvarts, a graduating Art major at Yale, is presenting a senior project which documents on video the process of the woman artificially inseminating herself repeatedly and then inducing miscarriages with drugs. This is not art, but gruesome murder. In addition to terminating human life for the sake of "art", another lamentable aspect of this abhorrent project is what the National Right to Life committee president stated: "She really has hit on a reality that what she has done is legal. Anything she chooses to do here can’t be stopped in terms of legality. And there are people fighting for her right to do this."

May the gravity of this detestable act deeply haunt Aliza Shvarts and any who support her. Christians: pray and mobilize, for the battle to protect prenatal human life must be vigorously fought.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Two Weeks of No Blogging

Due to a need to graduate, nothing will be posted for approximately two weeks. From now until April 24th, I will be firmly under the robotic thumb of the American Psychological Association style of writing, and therefore will not have time for this blog. There is a risk that I may emerge bearing the APA's thumbprint of immensely boring writing devoid of literary devices and strategically placed passive voice. We shall see.

A Message of Hope: The Obama Machine Is Starting to Rust

While Obama and Hillary continue to make headlines about poor word choices and intense mudslinging, John McCain is quietly acting rather presidential both in America and on foreign soil. Lets hope both sides can keep it up.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Christianity Is Not a Religion; Its a Relationship!

This statement refers to one of the more common catch phrases in Christian pop-culture. The words are not new, but a new meaning has been exchanged for the old. Preferred by a younger generation (mine), "Christianity is not a religion, its a relationship" persists as a favored response to various forms of the inquiry into what exactly Christianity is. It is dogmatically proclaimed, despite the proclaimers' typically accompanying dogmatic denouncement of all things dogmatic.

So, what does it mean? Originally, "Christianity is not a religion, its a relationship" (henceforth, CRR) was meant to highlight a prime example of why Christianity is so different from other world religions. That is, it is the only one providing salvation that is not by works but rather by grace. How has this changed? Due to the phrase's twenty-first century correlative relationship with Christianized postmodernism (I am not necessarily defending causation, here...), it tends to be paired with a worldview that resents authority and structure. The phrase often emerges in conversation whenever the discussion leans toward systematic theology, doctrine, etc. Conversation will frequently proceed as follows:

Person A: In my reading of Romans, I've been thinking that we really should be exposing churchgoers to sound doctrine by encouraging them to increase their Biblical literacy. What do you think?

Person B: You really need to remember that all doctrine does is make people cold to their relationship with God. Doctrine is religious. Christianity is not a religion; its a relationship!

Person A: But solid Biblical doctrine is is the framework for a Christian worldview. It is essential for knowing what we believe! Do you think the same thing about systematic theology?

Person B: All doctrine and systematic theology do is make people think that they can understand God. There's no loving relationship there. No one can understand God because he's so big, but we can love him and have a relationship with him!

In this context, CRR is used in conjunction with the claim that doctrine makes a relationship with God grow cold. These are frequently found together, even if the anti-doctrine claim is not explicitly stated (e.g. when CRR is a reaction against the mention of doctrine, etc.). Furthermore, systematic theology is cast aside as a worthless, futile attempt at knowing the "unknowable". To many who champion this phrase, religion is synonymous with "habituated, meaningless action governed by doctrine". Put differently, knowledge claims are considered arrogant, rigid pursuits of the "organized" Church. It is this perception which gives birth to such heated anti-doctrine, and leads people to say things such as "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church." One must ask, does the problem lie in the use of doctrine and systematic theology? Within the Church itself? Could the problem instead be in the heart of the human being rather than their adherence to Biblical truth?

In this belief that knowledge is unattainable and an arrogant pursuit, truth is affected because knowledge is a tool by which truth can be discerned. CRR has become an assault on truth as well as knowledge, and has created a false dichotomy by setting up an "either knowledge and adherence to truth OR a loving relationship" situation (of course, this is constructed under the assumption that no loving relationship could have possibly existed under "religious" conditions). When knowledge is eschewed, the desired relationship of these (often young) reactionaries is improbable and likely impossible. The postmodern CRR proclaimer has thus made (explicitly or implicitly) these claims for his or her faith:

1) God is completely mysterious, and we cannot ever understand him.
2) Knowledge is the opposite of a relationship, and if you think you know anything, your arrogance will keep you from a loving relationship with God.

In response, a few things must be considered. Beyond the obvious self-refutation at work here (the truth claims being stated as known fact), claim 1 is only a partial truth. True, God is mysterious and we will not in this world fully understand him. However, it does not follow that we can never understand anything of him, especially because he revealed what is necessary for humans to know about him through Scripture. Knowledge cannot be legitimately abandoned in this case.

In claim 2, knowledge and relationship are not antithetical. Rather, reciprocal relationship depends on knowledge. A friend of mine, Jeff Miller, has given as an example the following scenario: if he were to ask a man to tell him about his wife, the man would not be justified in saying "I don't really know much about my wife, but I don't need to. I just really, really love her!" Another example is that one cannot love chocolate ice cream without the knowledge of chocolate ice cream itself. So it is with our relationship with God. We cannot even begin to know how he loves us, or how to love him in return without understanding who he is, who we are, and what he has done for us. While knowledge can certainly be devoid of relationship, relationship cannot stand without knowledge.

Through its implicit (sometimes explicit) assumption that Christianity should be independent from systematization attempts through the uses of Biblical doctrine and systematic theology, CRR has become a convenient way to flee from the "burden of orthodoxy" into the warm, fuzzy land of unregulated emotion. Campaigners of CRR tend to desire that Christianity be freed from the "oppressive" constraints of "organized religion" in order to be purely felt and personalized. However, without doctrine, where would the theology of such a faith be limited? What god could one end up serving? The possibilities are truly limitless. Therefore, the phrase itself is not necessarily a problem, but beware of the worldview that favors it and has transformed its meaning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

4 Reasons Why I Should Not Love Claude Debussy

1) Debussy's music is impressionistic in that through it he strived to convey a sense of ambiguity rather than realism, the shadowy impression of rather than a literal representation of reality.

2) Debussy is considered one of the fathers of modernist music, and is loved by (some) postmodern listeners due to his deconstructionist tendencies. (He broke the boundaries of classical timing, i.e. you cannot not play his music with a metronome.)

3) His music is meant to illicit deep emotion in the listener, bringing in colorful variation and vast free-flowing musical landscapes.

4) Debussy was French.

And yet, I somehow love Debussy. These reasons (apart from the inherent Frenchness) have provoked a search for a solid philosophy of music. Onward.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hymn 139

How oft have sin and Satan strove
To rend my soul from thee, my God!
But everlasting is thy love,
And Jesus seals it with his blood.

The oath and promise of the Lord
Join to confirm the wondrous grace;
Eternal power performs the word,
And fills all heav'n with endless praise.

Amidst temptations sharp and long,
My soul to this dear refuge flies;
Hope is my anchor, firm and strong,
While tempests blow and billows rise.

The gospel bears my spirit up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood.

by Isaac Watts

See Hebrews 6:17-19

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Postmodernism T-Shirt

As I was leaving the CSU library today, I saw this printed on a T-shirt:

WHAT POSTMODERNISM MEANS:

What a thing means to you may not be what it means to me, or it may not even mean what we think it means at all. It is mean to exalt one meaning at the exclusion of all other possible meanings when it would be more meaningful to just take the mean of all possible meanings. Know what I mean?

This possesses just the right amount of meaninglessness! I found it amusing.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bock on "Jesusanity"

Darrell Bock has written an interesting description of and warning against an aberrant, false version of Christianity that has become quite prevalent. Bock calls it "Jesusanity".

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What of Songs That Recognize Depravity and Exalt God's Grace?

This verse, beautiful, familiar, yet increasingly rare in churches, is from the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Churches' neglect of such hymns stems from the widespread unpopularity of such truths as depravity and vastly undeserved grace. Theological truth is often sacrificed for a catchy, new tune or for self-focused lyrics devoid of meaning. Even if a hymn or a more modern yet theologically sound song is sung in church, do people generally think on the significance of these words in any way?