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April 19, 2006



What's your definition of liberal?


I don't know what his definition is. Mine is complicated, but let's just say I don't call him a liberal because he signs off on the Apostle's Creed elements that liberals find troubling: deity of Christ, resurrection, and Trinity.


To elaborate (and ramble a little):

We live with the curse of the English language. The French have a governing body that decides official definitions (they usually outlaw English intrusion which may be an additional reason for the John Travolta/Samuel Jackson discussion of French McDonald's Quarter Pounders). Here in America, language seems to be too fluid. We have semi-standards for our language ("according to such-n-such's dictionary, the definition is...").

Consider discussions between a Calvinist and a Wesleyan, they agree on the words being used, but their definitions are not shared.


There's also the idea of politically liberal, which might be a different animal than the conservative-liberal theological spectrum--I know people who are theologically conservative but politically liberal, for instance. They're largely motivated by their straightforward reading of the Bible (not to be confused with the usual "literal" reading which is anything but) to be active in promoting social welfare through supporting things like shelters and financial assistance for families in transition, economic reform at home and abroad, etc., to the exclusion of traditional (politically) conservative causes like preservation of existing economic or political paradigms, immigration regulation, deep involvement with influential corporate structures and de jure maintenance of "traditional" [middle-class WASP] values.


It's true that English is fluid, but I'm not convinced this is a very big problem unless you're determined to think of communication as a collection of one-way transmissions. When two people who are basically fluent and not predetermined to hate each other have a conversation, it's almost always possible to ask things like "When you say _____, do you mean _____?" and the connotations and implications and such can be teased out pretty easily with a little investment of time.

The only time it's really a problem is when people are using words that are loaded with some emotional content so that they get extremely defensive when you ask them to pin down precisely what they mean, but in those cases there's nothing wrong with bowing out of a conversation that isn't going to accomplish anything.


If you (guest author) have a vivarent daily walk and talk thing going on with Christ, how are you "missing him?" I only see you saying how bad this or that church is. How bad those people are, and what they don't do. What are you not doing, or doing, to be "missing him?"


What does vivarent mean?



I was trying to think of a smart-ass response about vivarent and fundamentalists, but Jeff just makes me sigh.


In my experiences, there are lots of other problems beyond those. Primarily when you don't realize you don't share the same definition. Consider John 3:16. You might understand it to mean that God wants all people to make it to heaven. Or you might understand it to mean that God wants all people to be elect (I have yet to understand the Calvinist system of theology, so please forgive my poor translation of that point of view).
The most common form I see is when someone thinks they understand their opponents. The best (worst) example I've probably ever come across was at OU. A staff writer was a big time race hater, and in one article, he elaborated why he hated. He hated because his race was hated; as one of his proofs, he explained that whites are jealous of blacks, and because of their jealousy whites hate blacks. One of his proofs of jealousy was that whites tan.


Eh, people with axes to grind are rarely worth talking to anyway, at least in the context of their pet subjects. There's a certain amount of discretion that has to go into picking your conversations, particularly with only so much time in each day.

I tend to like the Buddhist idea of not having any sacred writings, so that you're never forced to quibble about what any one particular statement means--you have the luxury of simply rephrasing to get at what you're talking about, assuming that you actually have something clear and precise in mind (which people really should, in talking about important things).


Sounds to me like this guy is just drained from the mundane, day-to-day living of life with Christianity as just his particular choice of a life philosophy.

The Other Jeff

Sounds more like he's drained from trying to push the church to be more than a mediocre institution.

A lot of times, that can be like trying to push a penny uphill with your nose (I think that's the right expression...if not, oh well).

Maybe that's too defeatist. Or maybe it's just realistic. Or maybe one leads to the other. Or something.

Other Jeff Again

By the way, speaking as a UCC pastor, our churches have the same problems yours does. It's just that lately our national entity has been getting a lot of press.


YES on your middle class American church reflections. (Were you also dressed like Grizzly?)

I received a phone call from Big Deal Church search committee chairperson yesterday and nothing he said stirred me:
"Big package" -- whatever
"Smart and prosperous congregation" -- the "smart ones" with money are the worst; they already know everything
Large numbers -- does this mean they are doing awesome things or is it simply the place to be seen in town?

Blessings to you.


What is so bad about thinking it is fundamental to have a personnal relationship with Christ? He took time to minister to the masses and the individuals. Maybe I am just miss understanding what I am reading.



for all their alleged commitment to Scripture, no fundangelical has yet to find "personal relationship with Jesus" anywhere in Scripture. It's nonsense talk. I have personal relationships with people I know, peopel who talk back, people I can see and touch and hear. I can't have a personal relationship with a concept. God, and Jesus for that matter, are concepts that we imbue with meaning and definition. Are they persons as well? Very likely. Do we "know" them in any sense wherein I can say, "Jesus doesn't give two whits about the NBA; he prefers football"? No. All this personal relationship with Jesus talk is language developed by 20th century revivalists to make the Gospel, at least their truncated version of it, more palatable.


I have no idea what you're trying to say. If you're questioning his commitment to the Gospel, you're way off base, and out of line for that matter. If that's not what you're doing, please clarify.


I don't know what "liberal" means (or "vivarent" for that matter.) But I think I know what Rev. Curmudgeon feels like. I took the day after Easter off, ran errands for my wife, walked through a Barnes and Noble and grumbled to God about the fragmented consumer-oriented American church. If I have anything resembling a "personal relationship" to Jesus, it involves a great deal of grumbling.

Kalel (Jeff's knew name, not the other one)

I meant vibrant. I can't write without spell check, or add 2+2 without a calculater (which I'm sure I just spelled, spelt, or spilted wrong).

What about the concept of personnal relationship with God in the Scripture? Maybe my 20th century terms are wrong. I see all kinds of personnal relationships between God and man in the Bible. The first interaction between God and man is in the Garden. Personnal relationship. I'm sure that was figurative though right. Christ even said He was sending another, Holy Spirit (or whatever term you use), to be with us. H.S. is a counselar (sp?), guide, blah blah blah. Personnal relationship. So Christ could go prepare a place for us to dwell with him. Sounds personnal to me. I don't have time to pop open my Bible Soft, but what about Daniel, Isiah, Enoch, Noah, Paul, John, Jacob, and 2K yrs of personnal testimonies. For the love of God Leighton PLEASE forgive all my bad spelling, or get some counseling.


Sorry, I should've sounded it out. When I'm reading I tend to perceive things visually rather than audibly.



This is the same personal relationship that led Joshua to conclude YHWH had ordered him to murder the Canaanites, right? You'd be better off not to construct a theology of personal piety using the OT. I will not dispute that God does occasionally speak, but this idea that we have a "personal relationship" is just silly. Too many genuine saints have spoken at length about God's absence, unanswered prayers, God's silence, and forsakenness. Jesus is not my buddy. I've yet to speak to a person that can tell me what a personal relationship with someone you can't see or dialogue with looks like. Usually they mean something like prayers in the form of a monologue, Bible study, church attendance, some sense of inner peace, and then a real nebulous sense that God is "guiding" them or "speaking" to them. What exactly would God need to say that hasn't already been said?


I have to take serious issues with Jeff's original comments concerning the pastors rant and his walk with Jesus. Having grown up in the Assemblies of God I am fully aware of the fundamentalist "Sunday School" answers that go over as well as truck stop toliet paper.

I know nothing about you so I wonder, have you ever served in a church in a pastoral position? Have you had to deal with congregations that just don't like you? Or the congregation is too lazy to do anything and you know the only way the bathroom is going to get cleaned is if you do it yourself?

I can speak from personal experience. I know your response comes across rather crass and uninformed. Please note I said, "comes across", not that you were crass and uninformed If you have served in a pastoral position and haven't experienced it yet, just wait because it will happen. You'll find comments of that nature have very little comfort in the midnight hours when you cry yourself to sleep at night, wondering what sick game you won to get stuck with the church from hell.

Please know Jeff I am not attacking you, just your comments. Regardless if you believe you can have a personal relationship with Jesus or not being a pastor can still suck. It doesn't matter how long you have been on your knees if the horse doesn't want to drink he won't drink. Speaking of drink I am going home to a nice Guiness.



How do you flesh out the New Testament relational language and metaphors? While it is not the revivialist "personal relationship" jargon of evangelicals, it does seem to point or assume some level of intimate relationship between God and his people.

I am thinking of things like Jesus addressing God as "abba" ("Our father..." which was revolutionary for Jews), the metaphor of Christ being the groom and the church being the bride, even to embody the greatest commandments as Jesus expressed them to "love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves" does assume some sort of intimate relationship.

The Old Testament even seems to point to this if we understand Song of Solomon as a likely metaphor of God as our lover and the marriage of Hosea to a whore as a metaphor for our spiritual adultery.

I don't think you are saying God isn't personal, but how do you balance (or speak)about a God that can be known and embraced (at some level) and a God who is also quiet, mysterious, abstract, and whom can't be absolutely known? In other words what does it look like to truly obey Jesus' imperative "to love God?"


Come on, Greg. I already have you pegged as "close-minded." Don't make me add "drama queen" to that.

I'm not questioning his commitment to the Gospel. Far from it. I am questioning, however, what's behind the commitment...and that's not really how I want to put it. I think too many people in "ministry" positions get drained because they "commmit themselves to the Gospel" because they just got up one day and decided, "Hey...I'm going to be a Christian. It makes sense." I don't think it works that way. This lack of hope, and "missing Jesus" talk, and "figuring this church thing out" talk is typical of some who may just think that Christianity is just the best of the available options of human life philosophies. What good is one's ministry to "high risk" teenagers when you have this angry, violent need to grab another teenager by the throat just because he may have more friends or be more popular (never mind the fact that the perceived more popular kid probably has crazy insecurities of his own).

Just a little food for thought. Simmer down a little, Greg. You'll live longer.


Maybe I can clarify it a little better this way (and perhaps a little less pointedly).

I think most of us would agree that faith without works is perhaps meaningless. But I think works without faith is meaningless as well.....and more draining. I think a lot of people do works without faith. They see no change, no difference, nothing. There is no faith. There's no belief that something else is at work in what you're doing....something mystic and cosmic (such nasty words, I know). That leads to a lack of hope.

Perhaps I'm taking this story too literally, but what good is your spending time with at-risk kids when you want to strangle another kid for his typical, "teenager stupidity." Should you not love the "more popular kid" the same way?

What good is your sacking of groceries when you call the guy in the car in front of you "Idiot" for his "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter" bumper sticker?

Seriously, what good is it for you to just hang out with teenagers at church on a Wednesday night when you can't even make up with your own blood sister because she may have offended you? What good is it to go to some teenager's play or game in the youth group you are "sponsoring" when you think that people who don't think like you are idiots?

I guess I just have a True Believers' temperament. I don't see a lot of the Gospel in "works" when it's accompanied by anger and hopelessness. I see the Gospel more in connecting with people and relationships with people. And as much of a non-people person as I am, I can only do that in (what would be perceived to be) talking to my imaginary friend in a dark room. :)


I guess I just have a True Believer's temperament.

I nominate this quote for most presumptuous comment of the year.



He's worse than presumptuous. He posts anonymously on his own blog where he skewers everything while remaining safely beyond criticism. I believe the term is coward. And who'd have thought a drama queen could come up with that...


And should I add that a guy who lists Calvin's Institutes as one of his influences has me pegged as "close-minded" (I think he meant closed, but maybe he thinks I'm close to something...) means sooo much? Operating within a closed system and calling someone else closed-minded. That's irony, right?



To answer your Q first, no I have not ever been a pastor. Just a PK, and in some truck stop towns. So I am not totally oblivious to your plight. I have however done a lot of leadership development training. Did a study for a person over 50+ churches. I know that between 70 & 80% of pastors do not have leadership or administration very high up on their spiritual gifts. Not saying you, or the guest author don't, but you would be in the minority. I will give an example of the two sides I am talking about. One pastor I interviewed had two keys on his key chain. He said one was to the front door, and one was to his office. He didn't even know were the copier paper was. It didn't start that way for him. He developed people over time. Another pastor complained to me about not having enough Sunday School teachers. Said how frustrating it was. The only thing he had done to get Sunday School teachers was put it in the bulliten on Sunday morning. HE HAD NOT ASKED A SINGLE PERSON PERSONNALLY! I am not saying people development doesn't take time and effort. I am saying 70-80% of pastors don't do it. Then wonder why they are doing everthing.


Greg wrote:
"(I think he meant closed, but maybe he thinks I'm close to something...)"

Somehow, I knew as soon as I wrote this you'd catch it. I guess I can add "predictable" to the list. And I take it that your identification of grammatical errors is the proverbial ringing of the bell for this discussion.

Grace & Peace to you, Greg..........although, those words have a sad, pathetic new meaning to me now. I may as well end this post with "Hatred & Intolerance" or "Hopelessness & Arrogance"....those words have about the same meaning as "Grace & Peace" on this blog.



Sorry. I've made a genuine mistake here. I had you in my mind as someone else who posts occasionally on the blog. Some of my assumptions about your post were based on that mis-identification, so I'm genuinely sorry.

However, having said that, you don't get to play the martyr when you called me a drama queen and closed minded. Toughen up a bit and quit whining. We do quite a bit of critiquing here; that's altogether different than "hatred and intolerance." And since when are you such a raging liberal that you grab the vocabulary of the pathological left?


There is no longer any left or right. It is one party being sold under two different labels.


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