Previous 21 - 30 Next
My goodness! A Master of Business Administration in Christian Education. Never heard of that one. Is that from the University of Phoenix Divinity School?
There has never been a time in the history of the church when “going into the world” and “spreading the Word of God” didn’t include providing care and necessities. Where did the notion come from that caring for the poor and sick and evangelizing the world are two different things? Showing compassion and caring for people have always been implicit in the gospel. These things are not betrayals of conservative values. Christian and conservative values (not the same thing but they happen to align closely here) have always called upon people to do for others what they CANNOT do for themselves and not to do for others what they CAN and SHOULD do for themselves. This does not breed dependency; it breeds responsibility. Both of these things are taught both by precept and example in the New Testament. The identification of specific texts is left as an exercise for the student. Hint: the whole Bible, from beginning to end, is the story of God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Who said that any mainline Christian theology supported self-glorification? Certainly not I! Nor was her ridiculous comment about such glory seeking her main point. She told us her two main points: 1) why go somewhere else when there is so much to do here? and 2) the cost of evacuating and treating Dr. Brantly exceeds the value of the work he did. My reference to church history was in regard to the first point. As regards Ann's comments about missionaries seeking self-glorification, I'm scratching my head to try to figure out what possessed her to say something so preposterous. She said she wants her detractors to argue logically. In saying that she incurred the obligation to do the same, but she failed. She made no attempt whatever to support her accusation with evidence. So where did that little piece of stupidity come from? I have no idea. Maybe she was dumped by some guy who went overseas as a missionary and she can’t get over it. Whatever! It seems more like something said out of bitterness than out of rational thought. You tell me.
I did not intend or envision my reference to church history as appeal to authority. I merely wished to point out that Ann is out of sync with how churches have taught and acted throughout church history. I said right up front that there is not sufficient space here for a full defense of my assertion. If you wish a fuller understanding, there are books on church history and on the history of Christian missions that you can read. In some cases we know what churches thought of Ann’s argument because they overtly discussed it. In other cases we know they rejected it because they acted in opposition to it. As far as the current ebola situation is concerned…let’s see. Option 1 – trained physicians can go right now to treat current sufferers and to try to contain the spread of the disease. Option 2 – we can bring a couple of Liberians here, put them through medical school, internship and residency, and send them back years after thousands of people have died untreated. Option 2 doesn’t look much like a winning strategy. Besides, as in 1b, there is no reason why we must consider this an “either/or” proposition. We can do both. In fact, both are already happening. Liberia is not without its own medical school; but Liberia cannot turn out doctors overnight any more than the U.S. can. To meet the current situation, Liberia and other countries are going to need a combination of their own and foreign doctors.
That is not, in fact, Ann's main critique, either in this article or in last week's article. She made reference to it in both articles but in neither did she offer any evidence to support her claim, not so much as a single example. It is one thing to observe that Dr. Brantly has achieved some level of notoriety because of what has happened. It's quite another to assert that he went to Liberia in order to achieve notoriety. It is inconceivable to me that Ann could know very many missionaries, specifically missionary doctors, and still make such an absurd claim. Most missionaries, and most missionary doctors, spend their lives in those “hell-holes” because they know that God values the people who live in hell-holes as much as those who live in Disneyland USA.
As of this writing there are 915 posts attached to Ann’s last column. It seems unlikely that she read them all because some of them did make arguments. Rather than plow through the pile to identify them I will respond to her two specific points. 1) America is in the fight of its life and if this country dies, the world dies. a) Many people felt the same way when Rome was sacked in 410 A.D. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now. If Ann is truly serious about her claim to be a Christian she should be basing her confidence in the future not on the persistence of the United States but on the sovereignty of God. b) Ann has constructed a false dichotomy. Why should we consider this to be exclusively an “either/or” situation? Why can it not be “both/and?” c) Ann’s position has been considered and rejected throughout the whole of church history. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Mar Thoma, Protestant, even Nestorian, all have rejected her position. There are substantive Biblical arguments behind that rejection which are too extensive to repeat here, but before making her argument Ann should have done her homework. She should have researched how the church has responded to this argument for the past nearly 2,000 years. As a lawyer, Ann knows that when preparing her argument she should familiarize herself with the relevant case law. She didn’t do that. 2) The cost of Dr. Brantly's medical care has now exceeded any good he did there. a) Contrary to Ann’s assertion, many people addressed this point directly. They pointed out that Ann has no way of knowing the value of the good he did there. Her argument calls to mind Oscar Wilde’s famous line, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Her response is to recite several ridiculous “how do you knows.” Does she really think that is a valid argument? It isn’t. Consider this dialogue. Me: “Ann doesn’t know how much good Dr. Brantly accomplished or how God values it.” Ann: “Bob doesn’t know whether God called the Dixie Chicks to insult George W. Bush.” Both are true. So how does one invalidate the other? I admit that there are many things that I don’t know. How does my lack of knowledge support Ann’s implicit claim that she knows? b) The validity of Ann’s cost/benefit analysis presupposes perfect knowledge of the future. Does Ann really believe that as Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol left for Liberia they knew it would cost two million dollars to bring them back? I will repeat what I said last week. If Ann is truly a Christian (not mine to judge) this column does not call for a retraction, it calls for repentance.
So, you’ve done a little digging and found me out. Congratulations. Did you observe anything there that was not true, other than a very old and maybe not very good joke? I might have said some of the same things to you. You have not demonstrated any particular familiarity with church history. Do you not know how interconnected are church history and church doctrine? It is not overstating the case to say that it is impossible to be truly well-grounded in doctrine without some knowledge of church history. This is because the precise formulation of doctrine is not found in the Bible. That may strike you as shocking, but it is true. Doctrine was defined and refined in the conflicts of church history. Some people claim that the church didn’t believe in the deity of Jesus until the Council of Nicea. This is false. What is true is that the church didn’t begin to define and codify what Christians believe about the deity of Jesus until it was challenged from within the church. Then they began a process that led to words like “homoousias” and “homoiousias” and culminated in phrases like “hypostatic union” to define what the church has always taught was orthodox doctrine. Pick up any systematic theology. Compare how many pages are devoted to the nature of Christ to the number of pages on His resurrection. The discrepancy is because the nature of Christ has been hotly debated within the church but there has never been a serious challenge to his resurrection from within the church. Even many liberal churches accept at least that much. The same is true of the doctrine of the knowledge of God. Until the advent of open theology the exhaustive nature of God’s knowledge was never questioned. Expect to see the number of pages increase that theology textbooks spend on that. By the way, did you note that Covenant Seminary is Presbyterian? Does your new-found enlightenment about me change anything about the merit of my argument? I don't think so.. If you are at all familiar with the wider world of evangelicalism you probably have some significant level of respect for my particular local church. Big deal! Is my perspective more valid because of that? I don't think so. I was trained by one of the most highly respected para-church organizations in evangelicalism. Should my opinions count for more because of that? I don't think so. It has been my privilege to meet, converse and sometimes pray with some of the world's most influential evangelical leaders. Does that make me wiser? I don’t think so. I know people for whom all of these things have been true and they have walked away from the gospel. I know people for whom none of these things are true but whose godly character I admire and whose judgment I respect. What I’m trying to get across to you is that the messenger is not the message. The message stands or falls on its own merits. Now stay with me because there is more parallelism coming. The Church dealt with this matter early on. By early on I mean long before the Great Schism and before anything that we would later distinguish as Roman Catholicism. The question was the administration of sacraments. Specifically, are the sacraments valid if the priest who performs them turns out to be reprobate? The Church said yes, they are. That teaching carried right through the Great Schism and continues to be Roman Catholic doctrine to this day. The reformers had to deal with the same question; and they came to the same conclusion. They differed from the Roman Church in their understanding of the sacraments (or ordinances, if you prefer), but they insisted that baptism was still valid even if the person administering it was unworthy. I am making a parallel argument, that an argument may have merit even if I disagree with the person about everything else. I have no difficulty in telling someone that I disagree with practically everything they say, but on this or that one point their argument is compelling and I agree with it. I have done that. To do otherwise would be both irrational and ungodly. You do not need to know somebody’s church affiliation in order to evaluate their argument. The argument stands or falls on its own. Everybody is a theologian. Christian or not, everybody is a theologian. The question is not whether you will be a theologian or something else, the question is whether you will be a good theologian or a bad one. It doesn’t take me long to recognize false doctrine when I meet it. If it takes you a while, that’s something you can work on.
I'm still curious as to how you may have discerned my church affiliation. Was it divine revelation or consorting with familiar spirits? Did it cause you to say, "Holy smokes! I had no idea how many times this guy had been around the block," or "from where this guy stands, if you look really hard, you can almost see the gospel?" Whatever report/speculation/gossip you may have heard, it seems unlikely that it is reliable.
I release you from your vow of silence. You have aroused my curiosity. Depending on how accurate or absurd the report is I may even tell you if you are right or wrong, but no promises. It is not a question of “hiding” my affiliation. I have no reason to be ashamed of my church or denominational affiliation and, in fact, derive some measure of satisfaction from both, as well as some other things I have done. But I do not believe that I should lose a hearing (or gain one) because of them. I have no hidden agenda here. It is, and has always been my position that arguments can and should be evaluated on their merits without regard to who made them. I do not wish my comments to be measured by my pedigree but by the clarity of my thought and expression. I choose to evaluate others’ comments the same way. This position seems so self-evident to me that I see no need to quote anything in support of it. It is not my way to engage in Bible bashing.
Scott4672, Kowabunga! Don't you have a life? I'm going to give you your long-awaited quote, but, alas, it's not from the Bible, it's from Shakespeare. What you have written is a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." For all that you have written you have still not made the case that I should divulge my church affiliation. You seem to be implying that I lack boldness. Have I not boldly told you that your question is irrelevant? Have I not boldly said that arguments can and should be evaluated on their merits and not on the basis of who makes them? You could have saved yourself a lot of time if you'd asked yourself one simple question, "Do any of these passages I'm pontificating upon really provide any foundation for insisting that some bozo tell me what church he is a member of?" The answer being no, you could have quit before you started.
I have not denigrated "others" use of the Bible. I have criticized yours. You may think it speaks volumes, but the fact that nobody else is chiming in on this discussion tells me that you do not have your finger on the pulse of public opinion. The people have reached their own conclusion and they have spoken, and by their silence they have said that they don't care.
Previous 21 - 30 Next