Saturday, January 15, 2011

HT Practical Theology for Women: The Terrible Sin of Eisigesis

http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2011/01/terrible-sin-of-eisigesis.html

Wendy at Practical Theology for Women has a nice new entry on eisigesis and why it is one of the most terrible things Christian teachers and preachers can do. In the words of someone who ostentatiously exemplified the problem himself, eisigesis is where you put yourself above scripture rather than putting yourself under the scriptures. The irony of such a man actually being guilty of that himself having told others not to do it would be funny if the abuse of the scriptures themselves were not so terrible.

I myself came to a point where I fielded a question on behalf of someone about a biblical text and how a Christian used the text. I concluded the Christian had grossly abused the biblical text and then realized that the pastor at my church had actually been guilty of an equally gross misuse of the scriptures. One misused scripture in one sermon I could dismiss as an honest mistake. A six month series of transforming biblical books into springboards for soap-boxing about contemporary social and cultural or annual report presentations issues was not something I could overlook so readily.

Here's the thing, I believe that eisigesis is to some extent inevitable and will reveal to you HOW you have a low view of certain scriptures. Notice I'm not saying that it proves you have a low view of scripture as a whole. Some of the worst eisigesis I've ever seen in my life has been committed by people who profess the highest view of the scriptures as a whole. A person who professes the inerrancy of the Bible and the necessity of believing the truth of the scriptures can still say "the gift of God is without recall" and sincerely believe that means that a person will have the spiritual gift of prophecy for life even though there's absolutely nothing about the context in which the apostle wrote that suggests such a thing.

In fact you are most likely to delude yourself into abusing God's word by telling yourself you have a high view of scripture and thereby excuse yourself from the abuses you commit and the negligence you pay to certain genres of the Bible. There is no greater way to fool yourself into thinking you are handling the scriptures well than to convince yourself of your high view of scripture as a whole. What about the parts of the Bible you don't immerse yourself in because they seem too boring, because they seem too emotionally odd, because they seem offensive, because they seem irrelevant? Do you REALLY read the geneaologies in Chronicles and sense that the Spirit is telling you that it is really important for everyone in the church who calls that church home to step up and become members? If so that's a good bit of eisigesis there. If you think that you're even in the story of the Bible as an individual you may just be missing the point of the scriptures.

As a pastor once explained it to me, eisigesis most often happens when you simply skip the process of exegesis and try to get into hermeneutics. In other words your desire to compel the biblical text to mean something practical and significant or life-changing for you or someone else right now trumps all considerations of what that biblical text actually says. Many a preacher and Christian who may be described as "just preaching what's in the Bible" has really been giving you what he/she THINKS the Bible says without getting into the actual reasons for it. I've been a Christian my whole life and I'll admit that there are many moments when I'm poring through Numbers where I realize a huge chunk of that biblical text doesn't seem to connect to my current life. If I attempt to read a biblical passage and take from that passage that God has made a promise to me as an individual then I'm missing the corporate nature of scriptural communication. The scriptures were given to, for, by, and through God's people over times and places. The temptation to make a biblical text about you is, in some sense, understandable because in Christ the scriptures are given for your encouragement and your faith.

But this does not mean that just because the fifth chapter of Proverbs tells you to enjoy the wife of your youth that that actually applies to you at all. The first reasons is that you may not be married in a near-Eastern village. The second reason is that you may be a woman who isn't married or has a husband and so the appelation of Proverbs 5 is less direct. The third reason may be that you're a child who hasn't even hit puberty yet and so that passage is useless to you. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching provided you understand that it is given for God's people and not necessarily to YOU.

A secular author I read years ago said that one thing the Bible does like no other book is invite you to be part of the story simply by virtue of reading it. This man was not a believer of any stripe but he immediately grasped the power of this appeal. The power of this appeal, however, is also the most frequent temptation to eisigesis in the life of a Christian. Eisigesis is not just a sin committed by Christian cults and heretics, it is also a sin committed by actual Christians. The first and most important step toward avoiding this sin in your life is to recognize how powerfully capable you are of committing it even after you think you know what it is. I don't care how greatly you affirm sola scriptura and the inerrancy of scripture. As I've said before, the worst offenders in eisigesis I've ever met have been the ones who most loudly protest that they affirm these things.

Brian Auten at BHT raises a question about admiring the Reformers' productivity

http://boarsheadtavern.com/2011/01/15/if-you-want-to-be-calvin-how-tired-are-you-going-to-be/#more-24366

Brian Auten at the BHT quotes an excerpt from Kevin DeYoung that goes as follow:

Whatever good is accomplished in and through the church will be by the grace of God. And normally that grace will flow most (thought not necessarily most noticeably) through those whom God enables to work the hardest.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/01/14/a-secret-to-calvins-success/?comments#comments

Auten himself goes on to say the following as part of his rumination on this:

What I’ve not seen addressed — and considering the language in the original Ordinary Pastors post about “[not] intend[ing] to merely turn the tables and slight the God-anointed ministry of revered pastors with extraordinary gifts,” I wonder if it can and will be addressed – is what kind of trade-offs are involved in becoming and being, for lack of a better term, a “non-ordinary” pastor? How many “ordinary pastors” are “ordinary” because they’ve either (a) seen the trade-offs required and have decided against it; or (b) can’t manage — for whatever reason — the necessary trade-offs? At our end of the theological pool (YRR), we’re telling people to be content with who/where they are, to be “plodders,” yet the lion’s share of attention and adulation is given to those who can seemingly get by with 4 hours of sleep/night, read a stack of books in a week and/or publish upteen-thousand books or articles in a given 2-year period. Without knowing (as DeYoung later explained about Calvin [ED: that Calvin effectively worked as though he were an unmarried man]) the context, the details and the trade-offs involved, we tend to attribute production and end-result to, as is seen in the Gospel Coalition’s language and elsewhere, special gifting. [emphasis added]

I could write a massive blog entry on any number of points raised by Brian. If you never get told that Calvin's wife died after they were married for nine years and that he effectively lived the life of a single man because he wasn't actually that involved in the raising of his children then you might get the idea that the young, restless Reformed types who hold Calvin up as an example to follow aren't getting into how comparatively uninvolved fathers were in the upbringing of their children in different time periods.

As Kevin DeYoung puts it himself:

It’s also worth remembering that in general the expectations of parental involvement with their children, for better or worse, are much higher now than centuries ago (especially for men).

In other words, a guy like Mark Driscoll might look at the actual day-to-day life John Calvin had and consider Calvin to be too absentee a father, just to frame all of this in polemical terms.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Link YouTube: The Widow, the Orphan and the Immigrant

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lDjWmgBQOo

This is a charming piece for English horn and guitar performed by the Mountain Music Duo. The piece was written by Andrew Halladay and was inspired by a passage in Deuteronomy. This pleases me at multiple nerdy levels. It sounds cool (the composer worked a lot with octatonic ideas in this piece). That it is written for an extremely unusual combination of instruments that includes guitar makes it cool (I have, in case you are curious, written a sonata for English horn and guitar of my own). It is also awesome that Halladay's work was inspired by a passage in Deuteronomy.

I have suggested to Tenly that she pass along an idea to Andrew, that he compose a sequel work for English horn and guitar (or oboe) that musically depicts the story of Ruth. Ruth was both a widow and an immigrant in Israel, and was in some sense a kind of orphan from her former homeland in Moab. Think of it, a work about the story of Ruth for English horn and guitar could be wonderfully beautiful. Kudos to Andrew Halladay for writing such a lovely piece and here's at least one guitarist/composer pulling for him to write a lovely sequel inspired by Ruth. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Community" or "Alliance"?

My brother once said that the people who talk most about "community" are usually the people who least understand it and don't actually have it. I heard that buzzword, "community" thrown around freely in my college days. Bigwigs in the university I attended stressed how important community was. Usually this meant suppressing any negative talk about any aspects of the community. I grew quite jaded toward the term.

Then I ended up in a church that talked about being a missional community. I liked this idea better. For a while I even thought it managed to sort of be that but over time I began to realize that the longer I was there the more it looked like a conventional church and even a conventional denominational structure. Since I do not feel particularly called by the Lord either from the scriptures or at any personal level of hearing some "voice" from God to go reinvent the wheel I have settled upon attending a church in an established denomination. Some people have the spiritual gift of reinventing the wheel and feeling like they've actually done something new. I am grateful the Lord has given them that gift but since I don't have it I have found it useful to be in a different branch of the tree, so to speak.

But at that church I began to regain my skepticism about what is often called "community". A friend of mine said a month or so ago that in many case what is often presented as "community" isn't real community at all but a set of alliances. THIS is something I want to write at least one blog post about. The history of God's people is rife with uneasy alliances that appear to be community. The seeds of the divided kingdom in Israel were present even before the development of the monarchy. Certainly within the united monarchy the seeds of dissolution were present. Those seeds? Competing filial allegiances and the harsh demands of God-appointed leaders on those who served them.

The leadership at this church kept discussing how "all the elders are in agreement" on whatever any publicly addressed issue was. I was a journalism student so you may correctly guess at this point that when on-record statements are so unanimous I become cautious and suspicious. ALL the elders agreed on X? They all agreed on purchasing a piece of property that couldn't be zoned for anything but industrial use at the time and that unanimity was considered a sign of God's blessing.

Eventually crap hit the fan about some real disagreements and thanks to a culture in which total agreement was, er, agreed upon beyond any necessity for it, what appeared to be a community fractured into what it really had become, a series of alliances that all happened up until that point to have been on the same page. Some of the leadership conceded that the facade of unity was just a facade. This was basically admitting to a massive wholesale self-deception on the part of the "community" to itself. I was part of that giant self-deception. In fact it was a lame coincidence that just after I had let my guard down about the possibility that something could go terribly wrong and everything would fracture just about everything did go wrong and things did fracture.

I have now come to what some consider the rather grim idea that if you're going to be part of a church you have to take a clear-eyed look at what weaknesses and sins are rampant in that church that they may never become aware of or repent of and decide if those are things you can live with. This should not seem like too shocking a view. People come to this conclusion every day, any day that two people decide to get married. We in the land of Christians can often assume, and that wrongly, that "sin" refers to defiance against God or God-given authority. It's that but only partly that. To sin is to fall short, to miss the mark, and this can be done without intending to. I can say that we "all" as Christians "aspire" to community but that what we all end up forming out of habit and mistrust and human limitations are what ultimately reveal themselves to be alliances.

Let me put it this way, a community is full of people who share proximity and necessity. An alliance is shared by those who see that they are pursuing a common goal. A community will continue in the face of splintered goals and splintered methods because a real community is, if you will, stuck together in some way. An alliance will hold together for as long as everyone agrees on the shared goal. In other words if a prerequisite to being "in community" is being "on mission" then there's no such thing as community animating the alliance, however much an alliance may perceive itself as having community.

Now communities DO form around alliances. I'm a member of the Seattle Classic Guitar Society. Obviously people can and do get into organizations all the time and make friends and build families and all that in those sorts of ways. I also do take church membership seriously. I've just been chastened by being in church settings where membership had to be renewed every other year and was intrinsically tied to a tithe pledge. I'm not going to revisit all of my reservations about the misapplication of covenantal language and terminology pertinent to that setting. I merely bring it up again to elucidate my discovery that what I had thought of as acceptable for pragmatic reasons I now look back on as revealing the real nature of the society I was in as a group of allies rather than members of a community.

By now I trust it is obvious that terms like "community" and "alliance" invariably overlap. I don't mind the word "alliance" and not just because I grew up with the old, actually-fun Star Wars movies. "Community" is a word that may need to be, uh, redeemed, because of how many Christians I have seen abuse the term.

HT Pastoralia: interesting stuff about faith, doubt, failure, and unbeliefs

http://pastoralia.org/church/missional-postmortem-some-personal-struggles

... The need to fulfill (to fully fill) the daily renewing void of hunger and desire in oneself and those nearest your heart is intrinsic to being a human animal; but the need to do so creatively and productively – and (let’s face it) to be recognized for it – is intrinsic to being made an image (or ikon) of God.

The void itself is a gift, which anticipates the gift that fills it. This what we are: empty begging bowls; that are periodically filled to overflowing; that fill others from our abundance; that do it again. This is literally our human vocation.

It’s a noble humility.

Imagine, then, the agony of pushing one’s empty bowl toward God, in faith – day after day and year after year – only to bring it back still empty, or merely dribbled with the spittle of one’s own desperation (some of you don’t need to imagine, you know this feeling). Now, faith itself drives you to a fairly limited number of unpleasant explanations for this cosmic stinginess.
My temptation is to suspect divine rejection, the emotional by-product of which can only be God-loathing, self-loathing, or both.
...

So the loss of certainty is the price I’ve paid for a career in ministry, a theological education, and a long and painful walk of obedience to a God I seem habitually unable to disdain despite his apparent indifference. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look people in the eye again and give easy answers. There’s no un-eating the apple. Yet that’s what most people want to hear from a pastor; the simple innocence of Eden before the fall, not the scarred wisdom of Jerusalem after the eschaton.

Still, I did gain something from the loss.

I’ve begun to see this sense of futility as one of the significant challenges to faith in the courtroom of postmodernity. Once you feel the agony of unrequited faith, I think you begin to apprehend the general perspective of atheism.

We tend to see Modernity as the age of anti-faith rationalism, but I think it was actually the age of mans most earnest supplications – risks of faith that largely went unanswered. ‘Postmodernity’ is the resulting malaise. Modernity’s bowl of faith was returned empty time and time again, and that emptiness indicts the cocksure certainty of our Janus-headed enlightenment cults of religion and science, which often conspired to deliver the emptiest promises of the past ‘Christian century.’

***
As someone who has been hunting for work for the last fourteen months with almost no success (except for a two very-much-over short-term free lance projects) I find it interesting to read someone who got into ministry admit that before 2008 there wasn't a job he applied for that he didn't get. It is fascinating to read a man who attempted pastoring describe failure. We tend to hear from pastors who are in some form or another at the top of their game and the peak of their influence whether this pastor is Joel Osteen or Mark Driscoll or Billy Graham or James Kennedy.

Sometimes we hear about pastors after they crash such as Ted Haggard or we learn that some superstar in the American Christian world of some stripe like Benny Hinn has had his wife file for divorce:
http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100811/benny-hinn-says-neglecting-family-led-to-divorce/

or Todd Bentley bailing on his cancer-ridden first wife to marry the woman he'd been having an affair with. We might read that Rick Joyner considered that a premature move on Bentley's part but not keep the guy from doing his fresh fire ministry whatever thing.

But pastors practically and plainly describing how they failed ... that you almost never see. Now I was in a church that at one point looked like it was planning to become a missional community that is now basically a megachurch and a nascent denomination. He hasn't spent a whole lot of time recounting any of his failures. Some of his most conspicuous failures, for those who were there to see them, are the things he's least likely to take credit for.


There "may" be something in the enterprise of a "missional community" that risks reinventing the wheel which "could" account for the difficulty of the enterprise. Notice I'm not saying don't do it or that nobody should try it. I have no pastoral gifts of any kind so far be it from me to be an armchair quarterback about that stuff. I find it refreshing that someone who attempted to plant a missional community could share something in the midst of that failure since I've been failing to land steady work for more than a year.

I also find it intriguing that we see here in this excerpt an interesting observation about unbelief. We as Christians can frequently suppose that if someone leaves the Christian faith for X or Y reason that X or Y was that person's idol. Yeah, there's all sorts of truth to that but what interests me lately is that what we as Christians don't like to acknowledge is that the idols a person may embrace and for which a person might reject Christianity can sometimes be the idols we put forth as the measure of successful humanity.

Suppose a man wants to be married (or just wants a sexual relationship) and following all the rules of the Christian life fail to obtain for this man his much-sought nookie. He rejects the Christian faith perhaps not for some intellectual reason but out of a sense of betrayal. He gets tired of being measured as a failure in the realm of being an adult because he has passed his thirties and isn't married with children. Now if he rejects Christ for that then, yes, he has given up the riches of Christ for an idol. And there are pastors who will simultaneously say that guy is guilty of idolatry while also excoriating him for being a failure as a man because he hasn't gotten married. The guy is basically damned if he wants to be married because he's made marriage an idol and damned if he doesn't want to be married because he's rejecting the God-given design for men. He's even damned if happens to be married but has opted to be a stay-at-home dad for reasons that are considered unacceptable to the men around him. As Jesus' disciples once put it, "If that is the case then it is better to not be married." ;)

Now notice I'm not saying the person who rejected Christ for nookie isn't an idolator. He or she obviously is. I'm suggesting that we remembers Romans 2. Those of us who condemn the idolator do not realize that many, many cases of idolatry in the scriptures are not those who worship other gods INSTEAD of Yahweh, they are those who worship other gods IN ADDITION to or ALONG SIDE Yahweh. We should consider whether or not our part in this cycle of shame is that we sold that idolator at some point on an idea: if he or she just jumped through all the right hopes for the sake of Jesus' fame, that Jesus would clean things up and give them that thing they wanted that we told them is the measure of a successful human.


My friend Wendy blogged about this kind of evangelical prosperity gospel over at Practical Theology for Women. I have considered this a lot because this has touched me where I live. I have friends who once were Christians who are no longer Christians and resent that they felt like they were sold a bill of goods, particularly about things like marriage and family. They thought that if they did everything right and sought after the right things a spouse would come their way. Now I'm kind of a buzzkill about marriage in the abstract while being a fan of the concrete marriages of the married people in my life. With marriage specifically and romantic coupling generally I have wondered if evangelical Christians create a collosal double bind.


People who grow up nominal Christians have no incentive to cling to the hope that is in Christ because if they bought the idea that has often been sold within evangelicalism that IF you do the right things THEN happiness and success will follow they swear off Christianity because to them it is a sham and religious people are hypocrites like guys who were fornicating left and right with their girlfriend and then pontificate about how evil fornication is to single guys after Mr. Fornicator manages to marry his high school sweetheart and produce a litter. It's not that the preacher hasn't changed his path, he has, it's that he ends up building a whole message out of "Do as I say the Bible says, not as I did at any single point in the past." Even though he is rightly denouncing paths scripture warns against he lacks the example of a lived life to help reinforce the teaching.

A nominal Christian or an unbeliever can look at what this teacher did with his life and say that if, somehow, God is actually real, then God clearly has no problem rewarding a sinner with fame and influence such as has been received by someone now telling him/her that he/she should refrain from things without any practical guidance as to how or why. To the nominal Christian or unbeliever the pontificating of the former fornicator not only lacks the force of a moral authority to advise on resisting temptation it seems to suggest that one might as well sin that grace may abound. I don't feel like taking the time to list all the reasons this is obviously false but to show that we as Christians can attempt to seize the moral authority that rightly belongs to God and not realize that in so doing we have deigned to work in what is ultimately our assessment of our own moral authority and not as ambassadors of Christ.

This is the kind of failure that could be compared to my attempting, as an unmarried man, to give advice to parents. It's tempting to suggest how other people should approach things with kids. Everyone eventually succumbs to the temptation to given an opinion that lacks either moral authority or practical knowledge. :) The problem is less that I can search the scriptures and come up with things that are confirmed by the truthfulness of scripture, it's that no one will grant me the moral authority to do so. By the same measure, a man or woman who got into marriage through fornication lacks the moral authority to advice those on the other side of the marriage divide how best to avoid temptations he or she clearly caved in to.

All of that is to say this, a person who rejects Christ in favor of whatever it is they are pursuing may have rejected Him because He was sold as the means to obtaining, in some form, whatever it was they REALLY wanted. When Christ was found wanting for not having delivered on whatever He was expected to give, He was rejected. As Orthoduck put it in a recent blog entry, Americans tend to sell Christ as some path to self-fulfillment. As Wendy put it, even those who think they are evangelicals preaching Christ as Lord, there can be a sales pitch that has it that if you get all your ducks in a row then things will go better for you and God is faithful (which means I'm not actually obliged to do anything until you prove yourself worthy of my help).


In my case I very much need a job. I could decide the Lord isn't faithful because I haven't managed to land a steady job in the last fourteen months. I providentially came upon two short-term projects that have let me handle rent for two more months. The Lord has provided for my needs but not necessarily for many of the needs that some might say are wants. Do people "need" work? Well, I've heard one Christian say to another Christian that maybe he had made an idol of his career. Well, okay, but what about that verse Christians like to quote about "he who will not work, let him also not eat"? See how a double bind can accrue? Seems simple enough to me.

If I don't manage to get work does that automatically prove that I haven't repented of sin? Keep in mind that sins can often be unintentional, something some churches I have been to really don't seem to get. I could be sinning in all kinds of ways in my job hunt without having any conscious awareness of it. Then again, attempting to only explain or comprehend a job hunt in terms of sinning or not sinning forgets that time and chance happen to us all, something that various forms of prosperity teaching that are open or self-hidden fail to remember.

Now I don't really agree with the idea that modernism held out the bowl of faith and rejected God because the bowl came back empty. I subscribe to the more pessimistic assessment that no one goes out looking for God and that even when we do seek God we frequently seek God/god/gods as a means to an end. Even those who convince themselves they seek only the fame of Jesus may be guilty of aggrandizing themselves without knowing it.

HT PsyBlog: the over interpretation of dreams--a short rumination on spiritualizing what may be mundane

http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/01/the-over-interpretation-of-dreams.php

the general commentary is that when people have dreams they ascribe greater significance to it than they would if they had thoughts or perceptions in any other setting. Someone has a daydream about a different job and they don't take it as seriously as they would a dream about having another job. Christians can look to any number of passages about dreams as evidence that dreams are a means of hearing from the Lord.

The most famous example of a person who had dreams in the Bible is Joseph. Joseph had dreams that he would one day rule over his relatives and he shared these dreams with his family. He was already the object of favoritism from Jacob and even his siblings Issachar and Zebullan (from the same mother) loathe him. Joseph is sold into slavery and eventually lands in an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn't commit. There he displays the ability to interpret dreams which Joseph ascribes to God. It is this last part that even many Christians often fail to consider. If you have a dream it does not necessarily mean anything and if it does mean something that meaning may be hidden from you. If it does mean something it does not make it from the Lord (all of Jeremiah 23, Deuteronomy 13).

I know of a few cases in which Christians have stated that God warned them of this or that in a dream. I do have some experience with dreams that seem to have spiritual significance but I am cautious about them because the heart is deceitful above all things. But I am also cautious because Christians can be overzealous to ascribe meaning to a dream that may, really, have a very natural explanation.

For instance I used to have dreams on a semi-regular basis that I was being attacked by demons that were out to kill me. This happened often enough that I became aware of the pattern in the dreams. I was also vividly aware that I was dreaming (more on this soon). So in my dreams where I was being attacked by demons I would rebuke the demons in the name of Jesus and one of two things happened: 1) I would wake up 2) I would find myself having a different kind of dream. About five years ago I finally got a primary care physician who put a few things together about my blood tests and my habit of dreaming in color and being able to tell I was dreaming--they all strongly suggested I had a sleeping disorder. The sleep specialist confirmed that I had not one but two sleeping disorders and I have been getting the usual treatment for those since.

All of this is to say that while I "could" have interpreted my recurring dreams of being attacked by demons trying to kill me as some sign that I was called by God to contend with principalities and powers that's never been what I wanted to do with my life in any way that would be any different from the usual experience of usual Christians who hear from God mostly through personal study of the scriptures. Instead of interpreting these recurring dreams as signs of some spiritual greatness I just treated them as unpleasant dreams that might or might not say anything more than that I was capable of lucid dreaming and it might be nice to not have that stuff. Since I got my two sleeping disorders treated dreams of being attacked by demons have vanished. Now I won't say there couldn't POSSIBLY be any spiritual component to such dreams but I don't presume a spiritual dimension to a dream simply because the dream involves a demon trying to kill me.

Now a "secular" thinker might propose that my dreams of demonic attacks didn't indicate that any demons existed that were trying to kill me in my sleep but that my body and brain functions detected that my life was in actual peril due to complications from a then-undiagnosed sleeping disorder. Because scripture does not prescribe any unusual or even inherent significance to dreams on the whole I don't see any conflict that ostensibly naturalistic explanation and the intra-dream pattern I noticed that any time I rebuked demons in the name of Jesus in my dream I either woke up or the demonic attack dream stopped. Fortunately after thirty years of just having horrible sleep I finally got my condition some treatment.

When we attempt to spiritualize physical conditions, and dreaming is a function of the brain, we can do irreparable damage to ourselves or others. One of the things I don't miss about having connections to the charismatic/Pentecostal movement is being in a culture that conflates the physical and the spiritual but errs on the side of the spiritual. Does someone have wild mood swings? Probably demons! Does someone feel depressed? Probably spiritual oppression and generational curses need to be renounced. Does someone have a strong sense of physical discomfort? It could be they are dealing with the palpable presence of principalities and powers.

... or it could be blood sugar issues. It could be the onset of a congestive heart failure episode. It could be a sign of clinical mood disorder. It could be the result of a massive accumulation of stress that causes dreams that reflect that stress back in a way that is informative but not (necessarily) a direct spiritual beacon from the Lord of hosts that something is about to go wrong in your church. These are not abstractions to me. One of my long-time friends was once a charismatic Christian and is now an atheist. He attributes most of his mountain-top spiritual experiences from his charismatic days as an indication of his long-ago diagnosed bipolarity (one of his relatives has it). I was the one who delicately but firmly suggested that given his family history that it was at least possible he had some neurological issues that could require medical attention.

There are many, many ways to use the Lord's name in vain and if we take the warnings in Jeremiah 23 and Deuteronomy seriously one of the most popular ways Christians could be tempted to take the Lord's name in vain is to say "I had a dream" and then presume that there is some deep spiritual content behind it. There may come a time when you have a dream that may really be from the Lord but it won't be a pleasant thing. You won't feel better about having had it and the contents of the dream will not make you feel better. Even if we suppose that the dream described in Daniel was a literary device employed for rhetorical effect it still wouldn't count as the kind of dream you pleasantly consider waking up from. Your wanting a dream to have spiritual significance might even be a reason you probably shouldn't consider it to have spiritual significance.

In some ways the unhelpful way to put things is that you don't really know something is a word from the Lord until it comes to pass. Before that time what you would ascribe to the Lord might be your own ambitions or anxieties or very literal physical symptoms of illness that you ascribe to the Lord because you want to imagine that you are bigger and more important than you really are. You are important enough that Christ died on the cross for your sins ... but not so important as to suppose that God will speak to you in dreams about what decisions you should make. IF you go by the precedent of dreams described in scripture then if the Lord gives you a dream it is likely to be a nightmare that warns you of a disaster that's coming that you cannot avert but that you can in some way prepare for ... if someone else is gifted by the Lord to explain your dream to you. Or you have just been told to take your family and leave the country so your child isn't killed. You get the idea.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

glasses okay now--teaser of things to come: Cartooon characters vs cartoon morality

Theoretically my other projects can commence in the next week or so. The title for this blog entry is a teaser of ideas I'm working out for my friends at Mockingbird. Things are in a very bad way for me right now in terms of lack of work and finances but I am still thinking through a project on the DCAU . "Cartoon characters vs cartoon morality" is one of the things I will be touching on just to let you know that 1) I DO hope by the grace of God to write some more and that 2) I am not necessarily going to be doing that writing here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.

Plus I do still have to look for work and numerous family illnesses have tabled "Christmas" three weeks in a row. I concede that much as I love writing finally having a family Christmas even after nearly a month of cancellations and postponements WOULD be nice!