Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Spiritual Discipline of Chilling the Hell Out

from xkcd.com

I have recently taken something of a  fast from the media frenzy. Now, that’s not nearly as drastic as it sounds. I’ve just noticed that, in my consumption of media (both 1.o and 2.o), I tend to feel like the little stick guy to the right. Honestly, I was just stressed and overwhelmed, so I decided on one simple policy: I would avoid blogs that ticked me off, would turn off the radio when I felt a story was getting me down, and would generally stay away from my usually frantic pace of media consumption.

So I spent some time away, and now that my life has calmed down, I’ve allowed myself to ease back into some of the things I’ve been avoiding. As I’ve done so, I’ve been struck by something that I’ve always known but never really confronted head on.

People are freaking out. About everything.

Politically, people are freaking out about the economy, about other governments (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Venezuela, Russia), about their own government (the Supreme Court, the other political party, their own political party, the President being too or not enough liberal), about diseases, potential conflicts, natural disasters, the environment, science, the constitution, education, and health care.

Culturally, people are freaking out about sexuality (either for or against a dozen different varieties), the young, the elderly, cultural changes, violence, business, and the media itself.

And the Christian world is no better. Everyone there seems to be freaking out too; about books being published, people of different theological backgrounds, people of the same background who aren’t similar enough, trends in church culture, trends in church polity, trends in how Christians relate to the church, trends in how non-Christians view the church, our declining cultural influence, our attempts to increase cultural influence, pastors, families, and the list goes on.

Those lists, I’m beginning to realize, have deeply warped my own heart. It’s easy for us to see demagoguery and fear-mongering in the other guy, but none of us have really escaped it. As I’ve dove back into the blogs and news sites, regardless of which ones they are, I feel my blood pressure rising and anxiety setting back in. Continue reading

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Filed under Casting Stones Straight Upward, Unsolicited Advice

Parsing Calvinism: Give me a T

While I realize my writing here has tended toward a more existential bent of late, I’ve decided to dive back into discussing some doctrinal issues here as well. A good friend of mine has recently decided to work through the five points of Calvinism on his blog and give some reflections on how he understands them. While I have neither the time nor ability to mimic the insightfully literate approach he’s taking here, I figured I’d throw in my two cents.

I often run into shocked expressions and the occasional brandishing of a holy symbol to ward off the demons when people find out that I would describe myself theologically as a Calvinist (or at least Calvin-ish). This is often the result of either misunderstanding or a past encounter with a Krazy Kalvinist ™. I’m hoping to work through the first issue a bit. As to the second, well, the sad truth is I’d be a rich man if I really owned the intellectual property to Christian nutjobs. I pray I’m not one of them, despite the voices in my head and occasional psychotic episode. I should also state up front that while I do willingly wear labels like Reformed, Calvinistic and Presbyterian, they’re not the banners I want to die under. I love Jesus and the gospel. I think the above labels summarize true assessments of some things His Word teaches us. I do my best not to confuse the two categories. I’d appreciate it if you returned the favor.

One of the strange accidents of history is that we’ve been left with an acrostic by which Calvinism is typically explained. This is unfortunate not just because the letters spell TULIP (which makes me feel like a pansy – although that’s actually a type of violet), but also because acrostics tend to have an inverse pithiness-to-clarity ratio. Still, that history is the one I find myself in, so I’m going to try working out the way I understand each of the five points, both in their original intention and their modern application. I don’t have time or space to give an in-depth biblical defense of the five points at the moment, although I’m not unwilling to. I simply think the way a lot of people I know understand them is a bit skewed, and would like to offer my corrective thoughts. As always, if you don’t think I’m a very good theologian, its because I’m not one. I’m a guy with a blog and 2/3 of a seminary degree. I’m not putting on a pointy white hat and speaking infallible truth from on high; I’m just offering my thoughts.

But without further ado: on to the first point. Continue reading

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Filed under Theologia