Category Archives: Christian

Topics dealing with theology or the Christian life.

What Is Orthodoxy And Why Does It Matter?

The word “orthodoxy” refers to the generally held doctrines of the Christian church. When someone talks about the orthodox teachings of the Church, they are talking about beliefs that are held more or less strongly by all branches of the Christian Church. This includes the evangelical church, the Catholic church, the Orthodox church, the Lutheran church, and their many branches and offshoots.

Succintly: it is the points on which we agree.

Why does this matter?

Because the reasons we agree on these are meaningful and substantial.

These teachings have usually been held more or less consistently for 1500 years or more. They were arrived at by painstaking research, careful study, and deep debate by men and women of the very early church. These people were scholars, teachers, pastors, scientists, and lay-people of their time, and their minds and thoughts would lay many of us to shame.

To think that because they were thinking and studying 1500 to 2000 years ago their thoughts were less advanced or less able to catch nuance or to dig through enigma and paradox is foolish.

They also weren’t operating in a vacuum. When Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, he wasn’t speaking in hyperbole.

Most of what we hold today as orthodox and can describe clearly and concisely in a catechism or systematic theology was held before it was codified, but it was assumed, or there had simply not been careful thought given to the specific implications and or outworkings of the generally-assumed belief.

Heresy plays an important part in the development of a clear theology because through history it showed where more careful thought had to be given to what a certain belief was or wasn’t.

For example, while the doctrine of the Trinity is clear throughout scripture, both in the old and the new Testaments, and many early church fathers wrote more explicitly about it, it was assumed that all Christians accepted it for truth, and therefore little specific thought was given to what it meant that we worship one Godhead in three Persons.

There are many heresies regarding the Trinity, and each had their teachers popularizing their particular deviations, and with each one there were discussions and research and careful thought, and a response was given clarifying what specifically scripture taught and how the heresy departed from that teaching.

The result of this is that we can clearly state the nature of the Trinity such as it has been revealed to us, that God is one in essence, but three in Person, that all three are coequal and coeternal.

The Athanasian Creed, which came to be after the church had dealt with the heresy of Arianism, which taught that God the Father had created God the Son, is the most comprehensive definition of the Trinity, and is a worthwhile meditation as we seek to understand who God is as He has revealed Himself to us.

So summarize, orthodoxy is that set of teachings which have been arrived at after much deliberation and study by wise and godly people who have been led by God to carefully note what scripture does and does not teach so that we can know God more truly and so that we can trust that what we understand of God is true and accurate.

Scripture is sufficient, and all orthodox teachings come entirely from scripture and will not disagree with it in any way.

None of this is to say that we cannot study scripture carefully and understand God’s word on our own, but it is a blessing that we are standing upon the shoulders of myriad great men and women who have done the same before us and left us a great legacy of knowledge and wisdom on the matter.

If you believe you have found something which seems to disagree with orthodoxy, tread carefully. Learn why this idea was studied in the past, and the reasons it was rejected.

Thoughts On “Christian” Child Abuse

The Resurgence: Father's Don't Provoke Your ChildrenAnother couple has been found guilty of murder for the death of their child after they used the “parenting” advice found in the book “To Train Up A Child” by Mike and Debi Pearl.

The New York Times headline lumps all corporal punishment under the same roof as the abusive advice of the Pearls.

A friend of the parents most recently found guilty points out “the Pearls are not professionally trained or educated in child development.”

First off let me be clear: These parents are evil and deserve the full and just punishment for  the abuse and murder of their children. How heartless, callous, cruel, and stupid must you be to consider sending your young child naked into the cold to be reasonable punishment, a good idea?

Yes, children are sinners just like you and I, and discipline is necessary to guide them into being healthy adults, but the goal is never to break the child. These are children, not horses. Discipline is about structure, structure is about direction, direction is about purpose. The goal of discipline is to grow within the child the self-discipline necessary for them to be able to accomplish their own purposes in life. Breaking a child’s will robs them of purpose and so is not a legitimate goal or form of discipline.

Parents who consider advice such as the Pearls dispense sound are doing grave disservice to their children at best, and are harming their children immeasurably at worst.

But we have to also be clear about a few others things as well:

  • Professional training in child development does not in any way make a person a legitimate expert able to dispense advice that would be any more right or effective than the destructive trash put out by the Pearls. Experience and success, or even an honest understanding of the source of ones failures, are more likely to present advice worth reading, and even if that is read, it ought to be run past your own common sense, for what is successful with one child may not necessarily be successful with another, even one in the same family.
  • Corporal punishment, spanking, is often illustrated with extreme cases where the intent is clearly harm to the child, when there is no proof that is how it primarily exists. The very fact that these isolated cases are such big news is that they are isolated. Most parents are not beating their children with plastic tubing until they “draw into a quiet shell and obey”.
  • The Bible in no way supports the ideas of breaking children down. Instead, twice in the New Testament Paul tells fathers to not provoke their children to wrath, anger, exasperation, embitterment, or discouragement (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).

So far as we know the Pearls have not committed any crimes themselves. Freedom of speech and of the press means that in this country at least they ought to still be free to publish their drivel and silly people are still free to follow them. Not every child raised by adherents of the Pearls folly die, and some even turn out all right I’d presume. But like the leftist Democrats in the Westboro Baptist “Church” the Pearls ought to be confronted with wisdom and truth by some, and studiously ignored by all others, and parents ought to be surrounded by their family, friends, and community with good and sound advice and help and support.

Today’s Interesting Stuff

Speecy Spiicy, Hotsy Totsy

American parents tend to feed their children bland foods to avoid potential allergies or just because that’s what Dr Spock or the latest parenting magazine told them. Easy on the stomach, and the poop ain’t so bad.

Parents in other countries tend to feed their infants whatever they are having, and their children experience the full gamut of cultural flavors from very early ages.

And yes, I’m advocating for American parents to be more like foreign parents. Look out the windows, there be pigs in the air!

First, bland doesn’t necessary mean easier for the stomach. Take ginger, for instance. A very sharp and strong flavor, nobody would call it bland. But is the natural and effective remedy for upset stomachs? Ginger. No citations here, just try this: Purchase a bottle of Reed’s Ginger Brew. If you can handle the Extra Strength, get that. Then fast, and when your stomach is most uncomfortable, usually just after the normal time for the next meal, drink the Reed’s. Instant stomach relief.

Second, you’re limiting your child’s future ability to eat and enjoy wide varieties of food, including many foods you and I take for granted.

This article chronicles the embarrassment, the worries, the challenges of being an adult picky eater. One telling comment?

Amber Scott, of Enon, Ohio, has eaten only about 10 different foods since she was 3 years old.

Not that exposing your children, when young, to significant varieties of food will totally preclude such problems, but they would take a significant bite out of them.

The Office

Empty office space keeps rising. This is not a good sign for the economy that is on the mend, according to certain people whose grand plans are fully in swing here. Corporations are using less and less office space, which means they aren’t hiring.

The really scary part?

Job growth and office-space use are closely intertwined. While some major users of offices, such as federal regulatory agencies, have been expanding, big banks and corporations have lagged behind in increasing their real-estate footprint, according to some analysts. That is a sign that these larger companies have been slow to return to their pre-recession staffing levels, a contributing factor to the persistently high U.S. unemployment rate.

Yea, that’s a sure sign of a growing and recovering economy. Regulators are gearing up for more business. Only one problem, regulators business is to keep real businesses out of business.

My Buddy Hugo

The ones really benefiting from the drilling moratorium? National oil companies. That means President Obama’s marxist buddy Hugo Chavez is loving us right now. Was this a quid pro quo? Or was it yet another unintended consequence of a short sighted and dishonestly supported policy? I’d say the latter, but wouldn’t be too surprised at the former.

Oh, and this would be the same Venezuela that just stole oil rigs from US corporations and we heard nary a peep in protest for this thuggish thievery from the government that is supposed to be supporting US interests abroad.

Muhammed In Space

Perhaps a new round of “Let’s Draw Muhammed” is in order. It would probably improve our chances of NASA actually being less irrelevant than it already is going forward.

NASA has apparently been ordered to reach out to Muslim nations in an effort to improve goodwill. And NASA is the right agency for this why?

Former NASA director Michael Griffin says sympathetic nations will be drawn to us when NASA succeeds at great things, not when they’re given an inflatable space shuttle and commemorative plaque.

Griffin said Tuesday that collaboration with other countries, including Muslim nations, is welcome and should be encouraged — but that it would be a mistake to prioritize that over NASA’s “fundamental mission” of space exploration.

“If by doing great things, people are inspired, well then that’s wonderful,” Griffin said. “If you get it in the wrong order … it becomes an empty shell.”

Griffin added: “That is exactly what is in danger of happening.”

And the coup de’ etat?

He also said that while welcome, Muslim-nation cooperation is not vital for U.S. advancements in space exploration.

“There is no technology they have that we need,” Griffin said.

Once again, why is it NASA’s job to reach out to any nation?

I’d draw Muhammed in space alongside the Muppets.

Just A Reminder

Some people still claim that Liberals are the bigger and better givers, both of time and money. They’re wrong. Badly wrong.

People who said they were “very conservative” gave 4.5% of their income to charity, on average; “conservatives” gave 3.6%; “moderates” gave 3%; “liberals” gave 1.5%; and “very liberal” folks gave 1.2%.

And this cannot be explained by religious versus secular giving:

The 2008 data tell us that secular conservatives are now outperforming their secular liberal counterparts. Compare two people who attend religious services less than once per year (or never) and who are also identical in terms of income, education, sex, age and family status — but one is on the political right while the other is on the left. The secular liberal will give, on average, $1,100 less to charity per year than the secular conservative. The conservative charity edge cannot be explained away by gifts to churches.

Or by giving of time versus giving of money:

Q. Monetary giving doesn’t tell us much about total charity, does it? People who don’t give money probably tend to give in other ways instead, right?
A. Wrong. First of all, there is a bright line between people who give and people who don’t give. People who do give time and money tend to give a lot of it. According to the Center on Philanthropy, the percentage of givers donating less than $50 to charity in 2000 was the same as the percentage giving more than $5,000. Similarly, the same percentage of people who only volunteered once volunteered on 36 or more occasions in 2000.

Second, people who give away their time and money to established charities are far more likely than non-givers to act generously in informal ways as well. For example, one nationwide survey from 2002 tells us that monetary donors are nearly three times as likely as non-donors to give money informally to friends and strangers. People who give to charity at least once per year are twice as likely to donate blood as people who don’t give money. They are also significantly more likely to give food or money to a homeless person, or to give up their seat to someone on a bus.

And it is not offset by political giving either:

Perhaps you suspect that the vast political contributions given to the Obama campaign — $742 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, versus $367 million for the McCain campaign — were crowding out charitable giving by the left. But political donations, impressive as they were this year by historical standards, were still miniscule compared to the approximately $300 billion Americans gave charitably in 2008. Adding political and charitable gifts together would not change the overall giving patterns.

Conservatives continue giving more in economically difficult times, decreasing their giving by less than their liberal counterparts:

Economists measure the “income elasticity of giving” to predict how much people change their giving in response to a particular percentage change in their income. It turns out the response in 2008 was dramatically different for left and right. For instance, a 10% decrease in family income for a conservative was associated with a 10% decrease in giving. The same income decrease for a liberal family led to a 16% giving drop. In other words, if this relationship continues to hold, the recession will almost certainly exacerbate the giving differences between left and right.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding: Modern liberal ideas are selfish ideas.

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If Jesus Were…

Jesus Manifesto…accorded even a part of the authority and primacy given to jobs, hobbies, family, social involvement, friends, political causes by those who take His name as their own, this world would be a different place.

How much more so if He were given his rightful place, the throne of each of us.

In Jesus Manifesto, authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola cast about for a way to impress upon Christians the necessity of being more than Christ-people. We ought to be Christ.

Not that we have any part in His redemptive work or in His place in the God-head, but that rather than seeking to follow Him, or model Him, or be like Him, we ought to BE Him.

For me, I found this a useful understanding of my role as a Christian. It’s difficult always playing catch-up with Christ. When we’re following, we’re always behind. But when out identity is in Christ and He is in us, there is a much closer association than if we are simply being like Him.

Among other problems, this further pushes our own self down, humbling our position in our own body, and this is a difficult and unnatural thing for people who, like me, are quite content in our nearly-Christ-like Christianity.

At times it seemed the authors resort to platitudes and Christian-isms, bumper-sticker theology. However, it became clear as the book goes on that the memorability of the phrases was clearly chosen to make this potentially unpalatable ideal more memorable and less easily dismissed out of hand.

I highly recommend this  book for anyone seeking to have a clearer picture of what is expected of us as Christians.

The Music Of The Ainur

This is my favorite literary passage, both for it’s own merits and for the truths it tells regarding our great God.

As I’ve been neglecting I, Pandora of late, I hope you enjoy this passage as much as I do.

The setup: Iluvatar, God, has created the Ainur (angels) and taught them music. Iluvatar has gathered them all to reveal a new and mighty song for them to accompany and build upon. Tension builds as Melko the devious weaves his own counter melodies, not in harmony with Iluvatar’s greater themes but for his own glory. The following is from the Book of Lost Tales, volume 1. It is the earliest of the forms of this great tale which may also be found in more well-read form in the Silmarillion.

Then said Iluvatar: “Mighty are the Ainur, and glorious, and among them is Melko the most powerful in knowledge; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Iluvatar, those things that ye have sung and played, lo! I have caused to be – not in the musics that ye make in the heavenly regions, as a joy to me and a play unto yourselves, alone, but rather to have shape and reality even as have ye Ainur, whom I have made to share in the reality of Iluvatar myself. Maybe I shall love these things that come of my song even as I love the Ainur who are of my thought, and maybe more. Thou Melko shalt see that no theme can be played save it come in the end of Iluvatar’s self, nor can any alter the music in Iluvatar’s despite. He that attempts this finds himself in the end but aiding me in devising a thing of still greater grandeur and more complex wonder: – for lo! through Melko have terror as fire, and sorrow like dark waters, wrath like thunder, and evil as far from my light as the depths of the uttermost dark places, come into the design that I laid before you. Through him has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darkness, loathly mire and all putrescence of thought or thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been born, and death without hope. Yet is this through him and not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell among his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it redoundeth only to my greater glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much more the wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Iluvatar it shall be called his mightiest and his loveliest.”

Mighty is the terror to the terrible that his strutting and strong words may come to naught and vanity. Mightier still is the terror to the terrible that all their vanity may be turned against them, working from the greater glory of one greater than them. The despots and tyrants of this world fear their life being meaningless, and the fear even more that their work will have been for another.

And yet that is the way it is. And of all the tyrants, Satan, the most vicious and terrible and vain and haughty and the one who will most assuredly come to naught and that without remedy. And all his vicious and terrible and vain and haughty works will come only to the greater glory of the one true God to whom is all glory and all honor, and all worship forever.

Don’t you just love Tolkien?