Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Will Technology Affect the Church?

In 2011 the Christian world celebrated the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. The publication of this volume made the Bible available to the common people who could read and gave everyone access to its instructions and judgments. They no longer needed a preacher or teacher to interpret it for them. The Roman Catholic Church looked at this as dangerous. If the people could read the Bible they may not need the preacher or the Church. That was not the way history records the following events. People still needed formal, congregational worship and the insistent reminder from the preacher that their sins were both formidable and forgivable.

On CNN’s Belief Blog roll, Lisa Miller, the former Christian writer for Newsweek, asked this question, “Will technology bring down the church as we know it today?” Andy Braner answered the question with, “No.” He stated that the access to the Bible on an iPod or Smart Phone did not replace the people who worship together and share in the blessings of the church congregation.
While it is true that you can get a sermon from almost any source, phone, TV, radio, video, etc., until you share that experience with other people in personal contact, you have not experienced the full measure of being part of the Body of Christ.

I doubt the football teams worried about the loss of an audience in the bleachers when their games were broadcast on TV. Well, maybe they did. For a while games were not broadcast within 100 or 150 miles of the stadium because they did not want to give people the option of staying home to watch. I don’t think they do that anymore. I think the true fan enjoys the hoopla and excitement of attending the game in person too much to let convenience steal the show.

This is true of the church too. Participation in the activity is so much more than watching TV or reading a text on the iPod or listening to a recording. It’s like the difference between seeing a picture of the Matterhorn and climbing its heights. Is it more fun to watch a snowball fight or get snow down your shirt?
I think Lisa Miller has missed the point, but most of the observers of church behavior miss it too. You don’t really understand until you join in the fun or challenge or struggle. Look for another post on this subject. I'm not through yet.
Read Lisa Miller's article here http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/15/my-take-how-technology-could-bring-down-the-church/
Read Andy Braner's response here

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Problem with Reality

People, and I include Christians in this category, want to rationalize events and behaviors to make some kind of logical sense.  I think most of us use logic to mean something that makes sense to us.  It means we can justify the way we want to view the world. 

We often find people wanting to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but they want to base their belief on historical facts and physical realities.  I love to read history, and finding artifacts from biblical events thrills me.  Reading about excavations of ancient cities or battles is exciting.  Understanding the engineering of the water systems and the building of walls reveals technology I had never expected.  It makes those stories in the Bible real and present, but it is not the basis of my faith. 

The truths the Bible teaches do not depend on our understanding of history.  We make a severe error when we depend on the provable, physical reality to explain or prove a spiritual truth.  Some things cannot be proven in physical reality, but the spiritual significance cannot be jeopardized because we haven't found the DNA.

We claim to experience the presence of Jesus when we pray based on his promise in Matthew 18:20 that "where two or three are gathered" in his name he will be with them, but then we want to see a fluttering of the curtains to indicate his presence.  If this is a faith based event, then we must take it by faith that he is with us.  We don't need the curtains. 

I cannot explain miracles.  I believe they happen.  I don't know why.  Some people dedicate themselves to investigating events that defy explanation.  I don't even argue with that, but explaining the event does not make it miraculous or prevent it from being miraculous.

It seems counter-intuitive to expect a spiritual event to express itself in a physical form.  Those things that are spiritual have spiritual consequences in people.  Understanding the Holy Spirit means that he moves me to act in the physical plane, but I do not need to see physical actions to believe he is present.  It is true that the Bible records dramatic events like mighty winds and tongues of flame accompanied his descent.  I believe that, but I don't put that requirement on him.  He is free to act as he chooses, and I am obliged to believe in him however he comes.

How would your understanding of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit change if it depended totally on physical realities?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

         May 2, 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the delivery of the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible to the Puritan fathers who pled with James the first of England to give them a Bible in their language.  The work had taken the translators about six or seven years to complete, and it came at a critical time in the history of England.
         The Puritans were a group of reformers who sought to purify the practices of the Church of England.  The Bible translated from  Latin was one concession James was willing to make to pacify them.  Nine years later they took it with them to the New World
         The King James Version of the Bible made a profound and lasting mark on English-speaking nations.  Its words have echoed from pulpits around the world and from space: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.”
         In the middle of the 20th Century some clamor arose about the antique language and difficult passages.  I actually guess in my childish mind I agreed with the pastor who proudly proclaimed: “If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me.”  I thought the Bible was the KJV and any changes would be sacrilege
          As I matured and grasped the enormous importance of having the Bible available in the common language, I simultaneously came to appreciate the grandeur of the King James English.  Now we have a huge variety of modern English translations with some adaptations to slang and vernacular speech.  I often use other versions when I study a difficult passage.  Sometimes I even like to go back to the Vulgate.  
           I return to the magnificant tones of the KJV for reading and for poetic emphasis.  KJV is largely metered in the easy iambic rhythm that lends itself to reading aloud.  Phrases like, “And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered…,” have become a staple in our language.Perhaps because the KJV was the Bible of my childhood, and that is the version I memorized, I enjoy reading about the impact it has had on the our society and the world at large. 
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Homo Unius Libri

I have just come to a new understanding of a phrase I've been hearing and misapplying:  spiritual formation.  I have heard it for several years, but I never dug into the meaning or the practice until today.  I thought it was a good thing--people were seeking to become spiritual and to recognize God in daily life.  Well, maybe not.

Maybe they were seeking candles or aromas or things of nature to provide a peaceful and meditative mood.  To feel the sun on the skin and the cooling breeze does not make one spiritual.  It may make you sunburned or cool you off, but this is not a spiritual experience. I have read Thomas Merton who was a contemplative monk.  I valued his insights, but I don't intend to retire to a monastery or a convent and stare at the wall waiting for God to speak to me.  

God speaks to me through the words in the Bible.  Sometimes I get inspired by other people who read the Bible and express opinions and revelations.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one who inspires me a lot, and Andrew Murray, Mother Teresa; these and others I read speak of the Bible, not rituals or manufactured evidence of peace and harmony.  Their writing and their lives reveal God, not some vague concept of peace floating on a cloud.

Homo unius libre means "man of one book."  This is a phrase John Wesley used meaning that he sought inspiration and guidance from the Bible.  We may read other books, but they must align with the Bible and be judged by it.  

I think I have even done some of the "spiritual formation" in classes or speeches.  I have given the instruction to clear you mind of everything and wait for God to speak to you.  This is really dumb.  Better if we read a scripture and focus on it and memorize it so we can carry it with us.  Then God's word may become a "lamp for the feet and a light for the path."  

The next time someone tells you about "spiritual formation," be very cautious and question what kind of spirit they intend to form.  Seek the Bible's truths and God's path for you, and don't be lured to the nothingness of a vague filmy expanse of highway that leads nowhere.  Become a man or woman of one book.