Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Gelatt's are going Green

We've decided to go GREEN.

Well, at least my family is trying to learn more about living an organic lifestyle. It's not that we've installed solar panels on our house or purchased a windmill or anything, but at least we are trying to grow our own fertilizer-free food.

For the past few weeks I've spent my evening hours building and filling 6 raised garden beds, planting vegetables, brooding 9 chicks (laying hens), constructing a cool small-scale barrel composter, and building a couple of chicken coops. As soon as I was (almost) finished we got sacked with three days of rain. Once things dry up and the sun returns I'll get some pictures online.

For now, here is a short list of what we have planted:

Tomatoes (4 varieties)
Green Peppers
Yellow Peppers
Red Peppers
Jalapeno Peppers
Potatoes (3 varieties)
Sweet Corn
Green Beans
Green Bunching Onions

Things I still need to accomplish:

- Plant asparagus
- Plant raspberries & strawberries
- build large composter (for Fall leaves)
- build a worm compost bin
- An article offering a Biblical Theology of Going Green (you had to have seen this one coming)


Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hunt for Gollum

For all you Lord of the Ring fans, an independent film crew (Independent Online Cinema) made a 35 minute short-film that will be sure to please Tolkien lovers. Based on parts of The Lord of the Rings, it tells of when Aragorn tracked down Gollum between The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Ring.

The most amazing thing is that this was produced for less than $5,000. The actors went unpaid, they funded the 5K from their own pockets, and they used personal digital cameras. There are, of course, some graphic scenes of violence--so viewer discretion is advised.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Government Approved Bible Studies

Government approved Bible studies? A San Diego newspaper has reported that "A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines they continued to hold bible studies in their home" [see story here].

While many blogs have cited this as an example of religious persecution, others believe it is simple a case of bureaucracy taken to the extreme. What is troubling is the line of questioning the couple was asked by the city official. The news article reports that "the county asked, 'Do you have a regular meeting in your home?' She said, 'Yes.' 'Do you say amen?' 'Yes.' 'Do you pray?' 'Yes.' 'Do you say praise the Lord?' 'Yes.' "The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations. A few days later the couple received a written warning that listed "unlawful use of land" and told them to "stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit" -- a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars."

The political and religious implications of this action are far-reaching. While the county may feel it is not intending to single out religious activity, their line of questioning makes it difficult to come to any other conclusion. How is it that other home-based activities escape the city's attention whereas a private home Bible study has been deemed a violation of zoning law.

As a boy I watched as my grandmother religiously observed 'Thursday Yahtzee Night". Cars lined her street as 10-12 gray (and blue) haired women sat across table in her dinning room smoking cigarettes, using crude-humor, and getting buzzed on Tab diet cola. No county zoning agent ever questioned her activity. Likewise we all witnessed neighbors this past weekend whose yards were filled with friends and relatives invited over for a Memorial Day BBQ. Others host weekly events in their homes such as watching football or playing poker. Perhaps San Diego should crack down on the Star Wars [er...Star Trek] geeks who regularly assemble to learn the fine art of speaking Klingon.

The fact that San Diego even had the audacity to ask those questions is stunning. The issue here isn't the rights of Christians. At a fundamental level this is a violation of free speech. It shouldn't matter if it was group of scholars, atheists, Wiccans, 'pray-he-never-dies-Catro supporters, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or a group discussing the latest Oprah book (ok, perhaps that last one should be made illegal).

But then again, I didn't get a permit from my county to offer this opinion so perhaps the official will come knocking on my door next.


Bonhoeffer on Christianity & Psychiatry

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.

The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.

Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.

The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (vol. 5 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 115).

HT: Between Two Worlds

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Should Christians use the word 'Evil'?

The following comes from my friend Shawn. He writes, "I've been linking your latest blog entry to several of my online friends -- many of which are atheistic, some of which are Christian, and one of which is Jewish. The latter had some comments that I'd like to hear your response to, if you don't mind."

With his friend's permission (his name is Nathan), I was asked post Nathan's comments on my blog and provide a response.

[Nathan writes:] I wouldn't know the KJV from...uh, any other version of/or including the New Testament. I've never read it. With that ignorance acknowledged, I'll pat your pastor on the back for his response. Likewise, in some of this other "Ask the Pastor" installments, I find his diffusing Catholic bashing to be thoughtful and his rather strong statements against racism admirable (uh, as long as he's talking about fellow Christians). I'm a little less thrilled with his answer to the question "Do Jews and Muslims worship the same God as Christians". He seems to be a man who chooses his words carefully. In my humble opinion, he'd do well to consider that the people listening to him may not be as careful and may, in fact, cherry pick for the words they want to hear. Here's how he ends that particular entry: "Judaism commits only one evil in that it rejects God's revelation. Islam is guilty of two evils. It (1) rejects God's revelation, and (2) it listens to the voice of false prophets.God does not recognize any worship of His name apart from that which comes through belief on Jesus Christ. Neither should we." It's the use of the word evil that I object to. I think he could have chosen a different way to phrase this without diluting his own belief that his understanding is the right one and that Jews and Muslims are on the wrong path (I don't have any objection to someone defending their own faith and explaining why they reject another). Granted, he doesn't say that Jews and Muslims are inherently evil, he says they commit an evil. In most minds, that's a distinction without a difference. He also doesn't call for a Baptist Crusade, but those who are looking for reinforcement of their own warped agendas can certainly find it in those words.

Josh's Response: Nathan, I think you bring up a very valid point. Language is obviously a good thing, but it often is cumbersome. For example, when I am with my Professional Counselor pals we have a language all our own. When I'm hanging out with some former Seminary buddies (or otherwise theologically astute individuals), no one else in the room can understand us (or even want to, for that matter). In those rare times when I can speak with people conversant in literary criticism, ancient-near eastern dialects, 17th century English Puritanism, comparative religion, cognitive-behavioral therapies, or psychosomatic illness (to name a few sub-specialities) an entire language fields opens up. Such language-fields come complete with their own vocabulary, often taking "normal" words but invoking into them its own shade of meaning. For example, hanging out with Shawn (the quintessential 'computer guy') can quickly become bizarre and other-worldly when another tech-guy enters the room (sadly, that is a language field I have no competency in).

I stand by my use of the word "evil", but also willingly repudiate it, as I recognize the benefits of that word as well as its dangers. When looking at a religion one must understand its theological system (its codified worship practices) and its philosophical system (including, but not limited to, the realm of ethics). Ethics, as you are aware, is one of the three evaluative branches of philosophy. Every philosophical (and therefore every religious) system involves ethics, which provides a code of values to guide human choices and actions.

Theistic religions, like all philosophical systems, also contain an ethics code. In Judaism, willful violation of the Torah is the definition of evil. God's revelation (given in the written sacred writings) was the supreme standard of moral good. Christianity is very similar, as it shares the same theological base as Judaism (though it sees everything through a Christocentric lens).

Theologically, Judaism would see Christianity as an evil since it believes Christianity, with its doctrine of the Trinity, has compromised the Old Testament refrain 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One". Christianity would see Judaism as evil since it believes Judaism guilty of refusing to acknowledge the fulfillment of revelation/prophecies given in the Hebrew scriptures.

The problem comes when groups of individuals take the word "evil" and divorce it from its entire theological and philosophical system. In Christian theology, it would be impossible to say "Jews are evil and Christians are good". This is because Christian theology believes in the doctrine of Original Sin (all humans are evil), the doctrine of the atonement (Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of those who trust in him), and the doctrine of penal substitution (Christians in and of themselves are not good, but Jesus to whom we now belong is good). Christian scripture allows no room whatsoever for self-righteousness on the part of Christians.

But things become problematic when some self-righteous smuck goes around berating (or worse) groups whom he deems morally beneath him (whether they be Jews, people of color, homosexuals, etc). Christian theology lays upon the foundation of the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus himself claimed that he "came to save sinners". Thus, at the very heart of God is a tenderness and compassion for those who are morally evil (which includes Christians). The mission of Jesus, and the mission of true Christianity, is fully and firmly rooted in a love for those who are non-Christians.

When the act of calling something evil is divorced from the radical command to fully love we are left with something which is wretched, theologically grotesque, and abusive. In Christian theology, such self-righteous and hard-hearted judgmentalism is in and of itself the greatest evil.

I hope this helps explain some of my comments. Blessings.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The inherent hatred of 'King-James-Onlyism'

It's been quite a while since I blogged, but I received an interesting series of e-mails I thought I would share. A few days back I received an e-mail from someone in another state who mentioned they found our church's website and would be vacationing nearby. They wanted to find a church body to attend while on vacation, but mentioned they only believed in the King James version.

Here was my reply:

It was good to hear from you, and we are glad to hear of your desire to worship God and get into the Word with a local body of believers while on vacation. May the Lord rise up an entire generation with such faithfulness.

You will find our church body to be completely faithful to the Word of God and the faith 'once for all delivered'. As pastor, I am blessed to be able to lead a congregation that willingly stands firmly for the historic fundamentals of our faith. To answer your question, as a church we do not have an "official" Bible version, and we leave that decision to our families.

I do know of a good and faithful congregation about 10 miles away that is similar to use doctrinally, though they also preach strictly from the King James Version. It is a congregation of dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and perhaps you would feel comfortable worshipping there. Let me know if you would like their contact information.

Regardless, if you happen to make you way to us one Sunday morning, we would be glad to worship with you.

To which I received the following reply: [I have supplied some annotations for your enjoyment].

You let the families chose what Bible to read [nuts, I forget to tell my deacons to act like Gestapo agents]. You would only allow this in your church for one of three reasons: You are not aware of the fact that the new so called Bibles are satanic trash [if Satan throws something away, then by definition wouldn't it be "good"?) that blasphemes The Lord over and over,takes his deity, takes out the blood, virgin birth,and salvation

or you are an apostate who is obviously been educated far to much to simply believe that God is able to speak through one book and that man has to constantly improve upon the interpretation so we can better understand What God may or may not have said (depending of how your day is going) with endless lectures on the Greek or Hebrew that don't help nobody but it sure makes you look smart!!!!! [he is right, we never should have left the Vulgate, but what else could you expect from those liberal KJV translators who were trying to "improve" God's word?]

or you are a snake in the grass that don't believe what he preaches and just don't care what they read as long as they keep dropping money in the bucket [buckets!?!? He's in a church that uses buckets for the offering!]

I mean really have you never preached in 1 john 5:7 ,f course not,you cant. And what do you (who will be held accountable before The Lord for your church)tell your church about the catholics that killed 50,000,000 people in order to try and stop the KJV so there own Bibles could be Gods word and not that texus reseptus [the same thing I tell them about the KJV-only crowd]. NIV ASV
NASV,and the NKJV are all trash strait from the group that had its start in paganism and now is the modern cat-holic church [is this referring to some group addicted to felines?].

How could you say you are a man of God and you don't even believe his book. How can you let your members ,who are your sheep,be lead astray by some cheap imitation of Gods word [hey now, not everyone can afford genuine leather]. What about psm 12 NIV and KJV say two different things one says he will preserve his WORDS one said he will preserve us. so which is it? You can not preach that either can you. HUH

Be a man stand up for something, you know in your heart that those Bibles are satanic trash [secretly I've always loved dumpster diving]. If the devil is the Father of All lies then what is to stop him from putting a book out that looks like a Bible and leading people to HELL (which you are currently aiding him in his mission)with fair speech

I don't think you are Man enough to get this far in the email [whoopy! I made it!] and you certainly do not have the guts to visit my Church website and study more on this subject because it may just put a wrinkle in your panties [sshhhh! you'll start a rumor] and you may just realize you need to get right with God about being so slack and letting satanic trash into your flock like some lib faggit lovin speaker [actually, our church has a strict 'no smoking on the premises' policy] .