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Design and Waste

I have gone through long stretches of being an avid FastCompany blog reader. I have read more than enough to see that many in the design industry see design see design with a messiah-like quality. Design will solve all problems. The other day I was contemplating our consumer-oriented culture and happened on a problem for the design community.

Design causes waste. How is this? If we weren't seeing better designed gadgets so often we might care if things lasted. Since we want to replace our stuff so that we can get better designs, we want our stuff to be cheap and even disposable. Can you imagine a mother saving her kitchen utensils to pass down to her daughter or grand-daughter? They wouldn't want them because the ubiquitous peeler had been through 7 design cycles by then. It is even questionable whether or not one would pass down china or silver since there is so often a new design. The same goes for furniture and just about everything those smart little designers get their sharpened pencils on.

I am not saying I like poorly designed objects, I just thing this reveals a principle in the current situation our world is in. It has been cursed. Because of man, God introduced a frustration into the relationship between man and creation. No matter how hard we try to escape sin and its curse, we seem to entangle ourselves in its web. Redemption is our only hope.

Love and Choice

"If God did not give us free will, how can it really be love that God requires. Love can only take place in an environment of free choice. Since God does demand love, he must have given each person free will so that he can exercise his will and choose to love God."

Any Calvinist has heard this argument. Hopefully, he has been somewhat frustrated as to how to respond because essentially it is an emotional argument that largely ignores scripture. Predictably a Calvinist would happily lose the argument. He would rather stand his ground on scripture rather than descend to engage in such emotional blather.

However, as we as brothers and sisters are to care for the faithful in error, we should consider how to respond to such a claim on its own terms. These brothers and sisters are eager to maintain the integrity and authenticity of our relationship to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. While they may be appealing to emotion, which is fallen like every faculty of man (including reason) our experience of emotions is part of our being in the image of God.

Recently as I was pondering the nature of love, I hit on what I believe to be a large flaw in the above stated argument. Frankly, that it does not reflect the true nature of love. From my own experience, romantic love, which God patterned after his relationship to his people, is not a relationship that is most ideally characterized by choice. I would venture to say that if one interviewed most young couples in love or old couples about their best experiences of love with a spouse is more about being internally compelled toward another rather than a pure exercise of will.

Christian Anxiety

In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, "Sell your posessions and give to the needy." This seems like strange counsel in the wake of an exhortation not to worry. However, looking backward from the typical reading of verses 12:22-31 gives a clue why it is that Christ takes this approach.

The passage starts out in response to a question in the audience. It is actually a request that Jesus arbitrate in a dispute over an inheritance. In yet another strange turn, Christ tells a parable of a man who is successful, and is beginning to "kick back" because of his success. Ironically, this is just when God takes his life. All his planning and saving is for naught.

It does not matter whether or not people have plenty or little, putting one's confidence in money instead of the Father's care is at best foolish and at worst idolatrous. Both to worry and to rest because of one's own provision is equally disturbing to God. In the parallel passage in Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus even says that one cannot serve both God and money. When money determines anxiety or rest, money is being served. When man is living confidently in the Father's provision, God is being served.

Now the primary reference here is to money and to worry over material well-being. This in itself should be enough to chew on for a few days. However, their is a deeper principle at work. We might generalize the example of money and material well-being to any form of self-reliance and spiritual well-being. The elevation of any standard of performance to the level that it produces anxiety and rest is idolatry. And, this idolatry is ultimately pride and self-reliance. We abandon Christ and his finished work for some rule that we or our culture has chosen as the standard by which all men are judged.

The fact is that all men are judged by a much more stringent set of moral principles or pragmatic powers. This is the rule of the Holy Triune God. We all fail and are all doomed to hopelessness if we must rely on our own ability to keep this rule. Just like Jesus ask the readers to give up on money as a way to rest. He asks us to give up on living up to God's holy standard. Instead, we repent and believe that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to pay for our punishment and that his life was sufficient to pass the test of judgement for us. Our anxiety is proof positive that we fear God and we do not trust in Christ. It is proof that we believe that no one will take care of us, so we must control our environment. It is always the result of idolatry. The opposite, in a sense, is to flaunt our sin as a sign that we are no longer relying on ourselves just as selling all our goods would prove our dependence on God's prevision.

So, go and repent openly of your sins. Feel no shame. Associate with those that violate your "rules" for living and believe that they are the same as you. By these kinds of disciplines we can come to truly believe in Christ.

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Kindness in Leviticus

"You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD." (Lev 19:14.) God took precious space on papyrus to write to be kind to disabled people. This is not the kind of thing that you would expect from the king of the universe.

Ironically, it might seem, he later in chapter 21 prohibits any man born into the priestly line with any birth defect from becoming a priest. Moses lists explicitly some defects, but specifically says that the person must have no physical defects. He is to be as spotless as the sacrifice.

The first passage is part of the broader concept of loving one's neighbor only a few verses later. But, why the injunction against birth defects?

The priests and the sacrifice pointed forward to Christ in his sacrificial priesthood. Consequently, they needed to be as perfect of a representative as possible.

This shows that man is a worthy thing because even the disabled are cared for. However, man is not ultimate, so his own glory can be sacrificed for the glory of Christ.

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Law vs. Grace

Is it grace to overlook someone's sin? I say, "No." It is better to acknowledge the sin, forgive, and restore. We shouldn't just act like people sin is not there, we should acknolwege it and in Christ forgive it. In this we demonstrate the love that Christ had. It doesn't take nearly as much love to continue in a harmonious relationship when there is no offense. The person needs to know how deeply we love them. They can only know this through forgiveness.

To keep their offense from being known is to do them a disservice on two accounts. First, they will think that you love them because they are lovable. If we are emulating Christ's love it is from sheer benevolence. There is nothing external that moves it, so nothing can move it away. Secondly, it follows, that in believing their own righteousness upholds them in your eyes, they now have the burden on both maintaining righteousness, even when it is not genuine, and hiding unrighteousness.

In this you can see that both law and grace are two sides of the same coin. The law is required to reveal sin to the guilty. And, only with knowledge can faith be exercised. God's salvation is grace from beginning to end.

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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.

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.

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.