Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Confines of Governement and Christian Civic Responsibility

Ivan came across a great post today that inspired him to overcome his apathy and write on subject that has been a splinter under his flesh for the past year or so. Up front, Ivan must enter the confessional and state that he is far from being an expert on politics (and just about everything else), so please do not quote him like King James.

Before going further, it would be helpful (but not necessary) to read the aforementioned post, HERE.

The topic, which will be spread out over at least two posts, of which may not be sequential, has to do with the issue of poverty/social welfare, the role of government, and the Christian civil response. Ivan will barely scratch the surface.

The Dilemma Part One: The American people (some of them) are broke. 35.9 million Americans live below the national poverty level. This includes about 12.9 million children. The stats hit close to home for Ivan. The county in which he resides is ranked the 26th most poverty stricken county in the US for those 18 and under. 3.5 percent of American households experience hunger. 46.6 million Americans are uninsured, with 15.9 percent lacking health coverage (sounds weird, but keep in mind the Fed has Medicaid in place). Since 1998 the uninsured rate was dropping, but since 2005 it has been rapidly rising. Even the insured feel the sting. Ivan currently owes over $1000.00 for an ER asthma breathing treatment for his wife that his "excellent" insurance company refuses to pay.

The Dilemma Part Two: The American Government is broke. America's affinity for limited government is waning, especially in recent times, due in part large to the Bush administration (please do not read into that as a rebuke, just a statement of fact). The bigger the Fed, that is, the more money is spends on things like war, social welfare, national financial security, etc., and thus the more money it needs. The demise of many large financial institutions has recently led to government bailouts with more on the horizon. Promises made to future retirees are soon to meet fruition, with an empty accounts on hand. To meet the promises of social security the Fed needs and implicit 15.8 trillion. To meet the promises of medicare the Fed needs an implicit 88.9 trillion. The national total US output is a mere 14 trillion. The bi-partisan solution is to raise taxes. Economist William Niskanen states that to meet current needs increased taxation will increase the national government from 20% GDP (gross domestic product) to 35% GDP, nearly doubling the Federal intake and size.

Thus said, the question Ivan ponders is this: How should gospel-conscientious Christian, who carries a burden for the poor and widowed, involve themselves politically. How should they interact socially? Politically? In a later post, Ivan hopes to offer some opinion.


Thank you to all who took time out of your routine to offer up a prayer for our little Gabs. Today her fever was gone and she was back to her old, lovable, sassy self (although she still has to shake the pneumonia). What good friends I have!

On a another note, I am ready for Winter to realize that technically it is Spring here in Toledo. My three year old, Aylah, called me on the phone today with similar irritation and told me that she wanted to go to the beach and get water in her eyes and nose. Sounds great to me! I stepped outside tonight and got snow in my eyes and nose.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Missionaries, Living with the Mek Tribe

While TV is overrated, over viewed, and an overgrown jungle of commercialism, there are shows that I enjoy. In particular is a program called, Living with the Mek Tribe: The Adventures of Mark and Olly, on every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on the Travel Channel. Every week I look forward to the scenery, the simplicity, and the sage wisdom spewed from the mouths of the naked inhabitants of Papua New Guinea.

Dig out any cultural anthropologists dictionary of dirty words, and you will discover the vile language uttered and discussed on this weeks episode: MISSIONARY. It is true, isolated cultures world wide have been eternally altered by crusaders of various religious messages. More often than not, they are credited with atrocities by anthropological academia; disease, cultural decimation, exploitation, etc. It does seem that human nature is quick to judge, quick to dismiss the good accomplished by do-gooders of all types.

Anyway, when the indigenous began talking of the missionaries who had visited there tribe long ago, my ears perked up. Based on the commitment to their heritage and the ways of their ancestors, I was surprised to discover the Mek tribe had interacted with missionaries at all--the tribe feigns anything western. They sport only traditional clothing, eat only traditional foods, use no metal tools or blades, and entertain fascinating religious beliefs. I did notice that many of the tribe's men and woman had biblical-esque names, but had dismissed this as an anomaly.

But then the villagers brought up the missionaries. In fact, they held them in high regard. Many of the teachings of the missionaries had stuck. The chief, in discussion with the western explorer, Mark, stated that the missionaries had showed them the ways of peace. He explained that they had been taught to love the neighboring tribes, and had thrown away their traditional shields. He said something to the effect of, "before the gospel we fought and bickered with each other." When asked what role the gospel plays in their society now, the cheif spoke favorably. He stated that having the gospel in the village garuantees good crops.

I was a little put off. Is that it? It is clear the current religious beliefs of the Mek tribe don't mirror the message of the gospel. Yes it is good that the tribes have a higher regard for peace, but the past missionary efforts have been relegated to a mere good luck charm for bountiful crops (tribal prosperity message?). The message of atonement through the death and resurrection of the Christ is clearly misunderstood, if even known by the Mek. Was it worth it? Were the tribes' ancestors truly "evangelized?"

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I haven't been able to blog recently.

Our youngest girl, Gabrielle, or "Gabs," as we call her has been sick and running high temperatures. In fact, last thursday as we were letting the kids play outside while the weather was pleasant, I heard Sandra cry, "Nathan!"

I came around to the front of the house and saw her holding up her little one year old body. She was unconscious, and her lips were blue. I gently shook her and called her name, but she was unresponsive. Sandra picked her up and cradled her. We saw her eyes roll back into her head and her body started convulsing in seizures. I have never bee so terrified--for the first time as a parent, not knowing what was going on, I was afraid of loosing her.

Sandra told me to call 911, and the paramedics took her and Sandra to the hospital where they where her temperature was brought down. She is doing better, but she has not been able to shake the fever.

Tonight our five year old son, Malachi prayed: "Jesus, I know you're the goodest man ever. I remember when Gabs was born and I saw her and she was so cute...she still is so cute. Please make her to not be sick any more."

I ask any readers of this blog to mention her in your prayers!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Barack Obama

The worship of political figures is nothing new. The pharaoh of Egypt was basically considered the son of Ra. Roman imerial cult elevated the Emporer to a state of divinity. Haille Sellasse is elevated (but not quite worshipped) as the Messsiah--Jesus reincarnate--in Rastafarianism.

I can't help but notice striking similarities in factions and essence of the Obama campaign. The key difference being Obama worship isn't truly believed to be divine (as far as I know, and believe me, I looked around), it is more of a secular messiahship. I don't need to recreate what it is already out there, if only for mere bemusement, or to see shining examples of Obama Worship, check out Obamamessiah. After spending about ten minutes on the site, I myself was nearly converted.

Now, Obamaites, please do not be offended. I am not saying that Obama believes he is the second coming. But, Obama certainly does use and encourage the use of spiritual phraseology and terminolgy in his campaign. I would not be surprised if someday a small peace loving community of ganja smokers sit around shrines of Obama; if he makes it to office, that is.

More links:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Capricious American Spirituality--the Pew Poll

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an interesting report on the American religious landscape. The blogosphere was immediately filled with responses. Ivan himself almost posted on the subject post haste, but either apathy or reluctance got the best of him.

The results of the report are far from surprising: A dilluted, confused, spiritual amalgum hosted by a confused and fickle populous. Here are a few highlights:

• Roughly 44 percent of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.
• The number of adults who said they are not affiliated with any particular faith today (16.1 percent) is more than double the number who said they were not affiliated with a particular religion as children.
• Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with a particular religion.
• Protestantism is on the verge of becoming a minority. It is at 51 percent today as compared to the 1980s when almost two-thirds of the population was Protestant.
• Nearly four-in-ten people are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation.
• Nearly one-third of those raised Catholic have left the religion, but due to immigration the overall percentage of Catholics remains stable.
• In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the United States is primarily made up of native-born adherents. Three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to the religion.

Interestingly, religions that demanded the least of there adherents suffered the greatest spiritual migration.

So what, on God's earth, might cause half of the population of to change their religious affiliation in their lifetime? Ivan has a few theories, and is going to rank them in order of most to least frequent occurrence (in his humble, ready to admit he's wrong opinion).

1. Americans are taught to look out for El Numero Uno from an early age. Raised in a nation that is still decidedly religious, the impetus to affiliate with some sort of an organization that boasts spiritual connectedness is far from uncouth; however, due to El Numero Uno syndrome, our desire to be a part of group has more to do with meeting our needs and what makes us look/feel good than it does with actually adoring, worshipping, getting to know, following the will of, and so forth, God.

2. Following in the footsteps of mother Europe, we have wholeheartedly embraced post enlightenment ideals. Certainly the rise of subjectivity and skeptical approach had to have left an indelible fingerprint on spirituality. Religion has always been coherent with morality. However, recent thinking accepts the subjective notion that absolute morality is a pipe dream. The religious in our society then see little to no difference amongst religions (Ivan included interdenominationalism in "religion").

3. Some realize that the system to which they adhere is fundametally flawed in it's appraoch to God. Perhaps they see this in terms of doctrine; that is, they suddenly become aware that the group of which they apart has extremely missed the mark in understanding metaphysical princiles. Perhaps see this in terms of theology. They see that their group has misunderstood the nature of God and how he interacts, and expects his creation to interact with humanity.

Who knows. What do you think? Have you ever switched faiths/denominations? Why?

Ron Paul

He's not out of it yet, but it would take a tragedy (like McCain succumbing to some horrific disease or catastrophic event) for Paul to see his name on a final ballot.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Goodbye Ron Paul?

Sniff, Sniff...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Abortion and the Christian Vote

Greg Boyd writes an interesting piece on Christianity, politics, and abortion, with the purpose of providing insight on how the Christian can engage politically, with social tact, to achieve the most productive kingdom outcome. Boyd is extremely pragmatic, which is not always a bad thing, in my opinion, but I also know that the ends do not always justify the means, and pragmatism is a slippery slope into this fallacy.

I first read the article, Christians, Abortion, Politics, and the Kingdom of God, after reading a few reviews of Boyds work by another blogger. I wholeheartedly agree with boyd that Christians often go about politics in a happhazard manner, letting one key issue (in this case abortion) trump all others.

Boyd's solution in this article is to compromise, which isn't easy for he states, he "abhors abortion." Here is Boyd's compromise:

With this compromise, Americans might be able to agree that all second and third trimester abortions should be outlawed. Moreover, with this compromise, Americans might be able to move beyond their polarized positions and rather work together to accomplish what the vast majority of Americans want: namely, a country in which abortions are as rare as possible and late term abortions non- existent. In my personal view, the best political approach to complex issues, such as abortion, is one that capitalizes on present agreements to resolve present conflicts. This of course requires people compromising on both sides to expand their area of agreements, but shrewd compromise is what politics has always been about. In my personal, humble, non-kingdom, political opinion, my proposal does this.
Boyd, while wishing that abortion did not merely exists, desires to minimize abortion, and at the same. What do you think? Is this too narrow? Does it limit the ability and goodness of God (God isn't powerful enough to completely end abortion). Certainly Jesus did say his followers would be despised because of him, and quite often, outspoken Christians are ostracized, ridiculed, and regarded as narrow minded hat mongers. But, keep in mind, Boyd is cautioning against forgetting the issues.

In a different piece, Boyd suggests that the underlying cause of abortion is poverty, and that perhaps a Christian voter should steer their vote toward a candidate that is focused on eliminating poverty. This toppling domino would thus eradicate abortion (ideally, pragmatically). I disagree. Statistically, abortion percentages and income climb together on a statistics chart (women with more money have more abortions).

So was boyd right? Would Jesus want us to compromise, keeping in mind that theory of such a compromise might lower the abortion rate in America? Or is Boyd altogether pushing for the criminalization of abortion not only feesible, but the most critical plank in any candidates platform, more worthy than other issues like poverty, aids relief, etc. I personally give the American Christian Voter more credit than Boyd. I believe that the majority of Christian voters are not so singularly minded as they approach the poll booth.

Contact me via email for more stats on abortion and to dig deeper into my own personal opinions on the questions posed in this post.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Rapture

One man’s eureka moment brands him a fool in the mind of another. My Eureka moment cannot actually be fixed to a precise moment; rather, a span of time of about eight years. When my parents decided to follow Christ they settled into a wild non-denominational, dispensation-ally minded church. There my indoctrination on the rapture began and continued for the next 20 plus years.

The first inkling that I may have been mislead was in Bible college. While sitting in a class on Assemblies of God History and doctrine, the defense of the premillennial rapture of the church was laid out…in about fifteen minutes. I remember thinking, “That’s it? That’s all the scripture they can come up with to ground one of their 16 fundamental truths?”

In what should be a major work, I will briefly explain why I have trouble with the rapture theory. I don't intend on explaining the basis for belief in the rapture, but if your interested, CLICK.

The origins of the Rapture disturb me. The belief itself is new to the Christianity, relatively speaking--only 200 years old. The idea was floating around circles of Christianity in the early 1800's. It took a guy named John Nelson Darby to set the dispensationalist boat afloat--the movement that purports the rapture among other things. Darby was an Anglican priest who got fed up with lax spiritual climate of the Church of England, so he left and started his own "nondenominational" group. He taught this group that there would be two second comings (that doesn't even make sense) of Christ (why didn't Christ tell anyone that?) the first of which was a secret "rapture." Rapture comes from the Latin translation by Jerome of 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 (yep, "rapture" doesn't even appear in the cannon). The second, second coming of Christ (third coming?) will occur when Jesus comes back to earth with his saints to set up a millennial reign on earth. This was radical teaching at the time, breaking from the orthodoxy of Catholic and Protestant streams.

Darby, who died in obscurity, produced a Darbionite disciple, Cyrus I. Scofield. Scofield, an amateur theologian, made history when he wrote the first study Bible, the Scofield Reference Bible, that featured the theology of Darby in convenient, easy to read notes. This first study, published in 1909 was a hit, and sold like that Harry Potter series. Scofield's notes on Thessalonians explained the Rapture and thus duped the consuming public--Sola Scritura at its best.

Aside from the goofy origins, the Biblical evidence is flimsy at best. The term itself, "rapture," was, as mentioned above, was the translation by St. Jerome of the term Parousia ("coming") in I Thes. 4:15. This term is often transliterated and used to refer to the Rapture by evangelicals. But this term is used elsewhere (cf. Phil 2:12) to refer to less apocalyptic comings. Besides, as George Ladd points out in The Blessed Hope, the context of these verses hardly suggests a secret coming. Please read 1 Thes. 4 14-18. There is absolutely no hint that the apostle Paul is speaking of two independent 2nd comings of Christ.

Back to Parousia. Tt is claimed by adherents to Rapture theology that this word is the word used to denote rapture, and that other terms (apokalupsis, epithaneia) are used to refer to the second, second coming. They say that the New Testament writers purposefully used different apocalyptic terms of return to differentiate between the rapture and the coing in which Christ returns with the saints. Why then is parousia used in 1 Thes. 3:13 to refer to the second coming, and not the "rapture?"

Frequently cited Romans 8:23 is clear eisegesis: but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. A secret rapture? Sure, every believer runs the race for the the redemption of their bodies, for an eternal existance with their savior...heaven. You cannot get rapture out of this verse. I encourage you, read this verse in context. If I want to get technical, Paul is saying that our "adoption" IS the redemption of our fallen, sinful bodies (cf. Eph. 1:5.6).

One of DC Talks most famous remakes comes from a group of verses cited as unquetionable biblical proof for the rapture (I Wish We'd All Been Ready). But here Jesus is using his characteristic paradoxical rhetoric to illustrate spiritual consistancy and readiness, not a precise moment in which he will pull a sneaky return. Besides, were he talking about a rapture, a blessed hope out of persecution, how does one explain his words just a few verse earlier: "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake." in the section in which this verse lies, Jesus is telling his folowers that they will know that he is coming again when they personally suffer tribulation.

I do not want to take time here, but look up other cited verses that supposedly support rapture theology--Titus 2:13, 1 Corinthians 15:51,52--and see if you get rapture out of it.

While this might be long blog post, I have barely scrathced the surface. Leave me comments if you agree, disagree, or want me to go deeper on any verses. I would like to finish this post with this thought. Anyone (protestant) who accepts the theory of the Rapture without actually consulting scripture for its reliability is rejectng the idea of Sola Scriptura, and subscribing to the authority of the Pope. Not the Catholic Pope in Rome, but pope Hagee, pope Jerry Falwell, pope John Darby, and/or pope Cyrus Scofield.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Random Stuff

  1. I recently read an interesting blog post about Hell, so I thought I would post a picture of my dog, Oscar, who looks somewhat like a demon. Sometimes I get the impression others find my blog boring so I thought this might spice things up a bit.
  2. Last night I saw an old Seinfeld episode in which a character consistently spoke in third person ("Jimmy's new in town...Jimmy likes you too...etc.") and have decided to speak in the third person here and there in this blog. Ivan thinks it is a good idea, do you?
  3. Did you know that 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars? That's 230 million adults. Beurocrats blame poverty. Michael Moore blames a dysfunctional health care system. Last night Ivan watched 3:10 to Yuma. Subsequently he had a strange desire to rob a stagecoach to pay off his mortgage. Ivan wanders if that has anything to do with it?
  4. Ivan apologizes for not being a faithful blogger recently, but will be putting up three posts (at least) next week on interesting topics--at least they are interesting to him. (The Rapture, Sola Scriptura, and poverty and abortion).
  5. Ben Stein has a new documentary coming out on an interesting subject. Unfortunately, the trailer pitches the film with a conspiracy theory flavor. The last conspiracy theory film Ivan watched and all its pseudo-scholarship has Ivan doubting whether he will actually watch Stein's film. If you end up watching it and find it breathtaking, let Ivan know.
  6. Tommorrow Russia will elect a successor to Putin, who served two terms characterized by unbridled popularity. There is little contention that Putin's man, Medvedev will win. Ivan finds it relieving to set aside his ethnocentricity and offer up a prayer for an election not so close to home.
  7. Abstaining from meat in this Lentin Season has been a bit more difficult than Ivan expected--but far more spiritually centering than he expected.