Saturday, August 29, 2009

POTF Blog Of The Week: Territorial Bloggings’ A Lesson re: Polity

I’ve often quoted other people’s blogs here at Putting Out The Fire as there are an infinite number of people who write worthwhile material better than I would ever hope to. What I don’t think I’ve ever done is pick a blog of the week and I think that needs to change. I may not always have a blog of the week but every now and then I think I’d like to point out a particular post that just strikes me as a cut above the rest. Hey, why should big time talk show hosts and producers have all the fun? Also, it’s my blog and I can do with it what I please.

With all that being said, drum roll please…GHP over at Territorial Bloggings has a great post titled A Lesson re: Polity that looks at both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s organizational structure and their representation in convention and how the proposed reorganization of our beloved church body, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG) and what that might mean for us if such a proposal is adopted.

GHP is one smart cookie in that he has the foresight to see the possible problems of “top-down process (wherein the concept of every member having a truly & practically equal voice is lost), or a skewed and less-than-representational national voting body (wherein important changes could be driven by an agenda of the few, rather than by a representative consensus of the many…)” with what just happened at the ELCA convention as backdrop. A great post GHP and congratulations on being selected as the inaugural pick for POTF’s Blog of the Week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ELCA Convention Fallout

Well, that didn’t take long, nope, not long at all. I was at least expecting until I came in to work on Monday to explain that my church wasn’t part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), the country’s largest Lutheran organization, which voted to enter into fellowship with a church body whose confession is as different from its own as night is from day, grant non-celibate homosexual ministers the privilege of serving as rostered leaders and pastors as well as their blessing of homosexual marriages as unions that are God pleasing in spite of Scripture’s clear prohibition against the same. There are other issues to be sure but there can be no doubt that the homosexual issue will be the one a lot of folks focus on. Nope, I only had until Saturday morning before I had to explain the situation as it.

I was loading up the kayaks for the weekend kayak excursion that the missus requested (read demanded) when my neighbor who was out walking his dog stopped by for a chat. After discussing how much both our workloads have slowed down he mentioned that he had seen what he thought was my church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, on the news the night before. It took a few minutes but I eventually was able to lay out a thumbnail sketch of the growing chasm of differences between the two organizations.

The ELCA should be considered an apostate body that has rejected God’s Holy Word for its own subjective interpretation and needs to be called to repentance. This whole situation will no doubt make having productive conversations with members of both leadership and laity even more difficult in the future.

I myself have family members in churches whom hold membership in the ELCA a bit further south from my little corner of the Haut South. I have never communed in these churches because when visiting family as I’ve heard in more than one homily that “God’s Word says ___ but what it really means is ___”. With the situation the way it is now, I don’t suspect either my missus or I will so much as even visit the very church she grew up and was confirmed in ever again, certainly not with a faithful congregation (where we have attended Sunday worship when visiting) just down the road. I believe the ELCA convention will bring considerable grief to a great many families in addition to my own.

The ELCA didn’t get to where it’s at overnight and it may take even a generation if ever for this organization to see its errors and return to the historic church catholic. After being brought out of Egypt, Israel had to wander forty years in the desert for her lack of faith in the very God that had just delivered them from Pharaoh and Egypt. But as the faithless generation passed away, a new generation did eventually enter into the land that the Lord had promised. Our Lord has always welcomed back repentant sinners and on the cross He died for each and every sin whether committed in a convention, at work, or at home. In love we must call our brothers to repentance before their hearts become so callused they resemble Pharaoh’s heart of stone.

Our hope should always be that the faithful remnant fighting the good fight within ELCA’s ranks be able to reach those who look at Scripture as something to be accepted or rejected by majority vote and varying cultural sensitivities at conventions be strong in the faith and always be point to the unchanging and inerrant Word of God. As we pray for the erring members of the ELCA, we need to keep those those good and faithful servants in our prayers each and every day that our Lord tarries, whether its forty years or four hundred, it makes no difference.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Worship Songs Turning Jesus Into Our Girlfriend/Boyfriend

While the songs that purport to be hymns of hope are still fresh in my mind; I thought I’d vent a bit concerning worship songs that turn Jesus into our girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s down right scary listening to some of ION’s Worship channel’s songs of praise.

If it wasn’t bad enough that most of what I’ve been listening to seem to forget to even mention Jesus or His work at the cross destroying sin, death, and the devil, some of these “praise songs” could actually be sung to a girlfriend or boyfriend and not in a I love you as a fellow Christian kind of way. It’s not too much of stretch to imagine these same songs being played with a racy music video that couldn’t be aired during the evening family hour instead of the candle lit auditorium with young people waving their hands in unity with hip soul patched music director up on stage.

Think I’m just an angry blogger setting up a straw man to attack because a particular style of praise song might not be to my liking? Au contraire. Allow me to make my case:
I could certainly choose any number of artists or worship leaders but for today’s discussion we’ll look at Kari Jobe’s “The More I Seek You”. Here’s the lyrics:

Chorus; The more I seek you, the more I find you

The more I find you, the more I love you

I wanna sit at your feet, drink from the cup in your hand.

Lay back against you and breath, hear your heart beat

This love is so deep, it's more than I can stand.

I melt in your peace, it's overwhelming


Now, is this song an appropriate song of praise or is it a love song to one’s girlfriend or boyfriend? I would argue that with the simple switch of the musical setting that Kari Jobe’s praise song makes the transition to a love song rather effortlessly. Am I incorrect or just making too much of too little? Is singing a song that can be either/or appropriate for any kind of worship or praise team?

I would argue that any song that invokes, unintentionally or not, a good cuddle on the living room sofa with the Lord is not only something that need not be sung in a church setting but rather something that we would be wise to steer clear of. For crying out loud Jesus is the author of creation itself and savior of fallen humanity not a prom date! Who the heck thinks this nonsense is worship? Who thinks this is a sacred song? Not me that’s for certain even knowing the context in which the author intended it to be sung. When I look at “The More I Seek You” all I see is a creepy song that I want to avoid.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It’s Bar Form Not Bar Tunes

Today’s Issues, Etc. soundbite of the day is from an interview on July 17 with Dr. Paul Grime. Dr. Grime is an Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and Dean of the Chapel at Concordia Theological Seminary up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In today’s soundbite Dr. Grime debunks the myth that Luther brought in bar tunes into the church.

I’ve heard this urban legend being used on more than one occasion to justify the sneaking in of popular culture’s music through the portals of our sanctuaries. The thinking is this; that if we make church sound more like the culture we’ll attract more people and thereby grow Christ’s Church. I’ve even seen an evangelism “suggestion” saying if we just play a Randy Newman or John Fogerty song as “bumper music” the people will feel more comfortable and not scared away by too much of that scary church music.

The fact of the matter is; is that if we make our sacred places look and sound like the culture they cease to be sacred spaces. Christianity has always been countercultural and has never conformed to what was going on outside the walls of our sanctuaries.

Dr. Grime’s comments tearing down the falsehood that Luther would take songs sung in taverns and make hymns out of them by explaining what a bar form is just, well, it’s just music to my ears and is today’s Issues, Etc. soundbite of the day.

Just in case you missed it, here’s my inaugural pick for soundbite of the day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

“This Stuff Is Depressing!”

First the back-story…

I just got around to retuning my digital converter box last week. I was trying to get the local PBS station which I haven’t been able to pick up since the country went from an analog to a digital signal for over the air TV. (No, I don’t have cable or satellite, only the freebie signal picked up by a pair of good old fashiony rabbit ears.) I knew that all us cheapskates who get our TV for free (I am cheap, just ask anybody who knows me) were supposed to reset our converter boxes right after the switch but I had simply put the task off.

While I’m still not able to pick up my local PBS signal, I was a bit surprised that I picked a new and previously unknown to me and all channel called ION. I’m really enjoying one or two of the ION stations with the sailing lifestyle program Attitudes and Latitudes being my favorite. (I’m big fan of being out on the water and it doesn't seem to matter if it’s sailing, kayaking or even a fishing trip!) But not all the channels are my cup of tea, like for instance the ION Worship channel.

The Worship channel is basically what you’d expect from Americanized Christianity. There’s lots of talk of God with precious little discussion of either Jesus, what exactly it is that Jesus did for us at the cross, or what He does for us right now through the means of grace, that is to say; the preached Word and administered Sacraments. I have wonder if the producers for these programs have Jesus stuffed in a back room somewhere next to the first aid kit and right under the sign saying “If you use something make sure you return it; somebody else may need to use it after you, signed: management ”. Is it so hard to even mention his name? Apparently, yes it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect a discussion of the Heidelberg Disputation or Chemnitz’s Loci Theologici. To be honest there are very few churches Lutheran or otherwise where in-depth studies and discussions are common place. It’s sad but it’s true.

I do find myself watching ION’s Worship channel every now and then though to see what some of my more evangelical friends, whether they are reformed or Calvinist, view as worship. I’ve found that a good many of these same friends use the term worship interchangeably with sanctified living, good works, and even daily devotionals. Worship, for many, is not necessarily synonymous with what goes on in church on a Sunday morning although it is sometimes included, albeit rarely, in that context. Occasionally worship in the Americanized Christian lexicon can mean just listening to songs that are playing on contemporary Christian music radio stations and there are a lot of these songs on ION Worship’s playlist.

Okey-dokey, that’s the back-story.

I was listening to ION Worship’s Hymns of Hope program over the weekend when my missus wandered into the living room with a puzzled look on her face and asked “What the heck are you listening to?” I responded I didn’t know which of the four lines was the title and was watching strictly for curiosities’ sake.

Her next remark was priceless; “Well, this stuff is depressing! I stopped listening to country music when it all got to be this depressing.”

She had a point. The song was not unlike a pop hit where the singer tries his best to be all emotional and sensitive through a singing style reminiscent of something close to the grunge style of music in the nineties. There is no doubt that it does indeed take a good bit of talent to sing as if you just had a root canal without the benefit of anesthesia. I guess the question I’m thinking is; should songs sung in worship need to sound this way to express hope.

To be fair, the historic church has always sung hymns that had a somewhat somber tone during penitential seasons like Lent but the focus of those hymns is always Christ’s journey to Jerusalem and the cross. These wonderful hymns are filled with sung confessions of Christ atoning work is a far cry from songs that can’t even so mention our Lord much less his salvific work.

Now maybe the performer was indeed grief-stricken having only four lines to sing before he had to repeat the chorus five or six times. It stuck me as odd that the chorus was the majority of the song. I know I’d get a little bummed out if I had to perform such a repetitive composition.

And the kicker alluded to above; there wasn’t a single mention of God, Jesus, or Holy Ghost. There wasn’t even a mention of a generic deity that is included sometimes in prayers so as to be all ecumenical and not offend. Who the heck wants to sing a song that doesn’t mention God or Jesus and call it worship. How in the world do you sing a song on a program called Hymns of Hope without giving a reason for the hope we have in Christ Jesus?

Where is the hope without Jesus? Answer, there isn’t and maybe that’s the reason the performer sounded a bit depressed.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Lords Of Kobol Are Happy

The Lords of Kobol are going to be a happy, happy bunch with Variety reporting:

Universal Pictures has set Bryan Singer to direct and produce a feature version of "Battlestar Galactica," confirming a report on the Hitfix website.

"Battlestar Galactica" appears to be on a fast track and sources said that Singer could be looking at a $10 million paycheck to sign on to the film.

Heh, I wonder if Singer will make the missus happy by making Starbuck a guy again.

For those of you who are new readers, I posted a good bit of Battlestar Galactica last year mostly because of Mitt Romney’s fail attempt to be the president of the United States. Romney being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints allowed me to comment on political matters which I traditionally avoid here at the Official Ablaze! Firefighter’s® blog. Here’s a link to a post I wrote discussing Ron Moore ‘s reimagined BSG giving a shout out to the Mormon legends that the original series creator Glen Larson sees as theological fact.

The Mormons have always fascinated me for a couple of reasons. The first reason being is that they are clearly the most successful of the made in America religions. The second reason they have always piqued my curiosity is their temple worship which bears a striking resemblance to a certain cult of which I used to be a member (a future post to be certain).

Just the thought of a Battlestar Galactica movie has me giddy with the idea of new posts on the theology of the sons of Kobol.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Shiniest Story Not Being Reported: King David’s Palace Found

Did you hear about the coolest archeology find in years? Did you hear about Dr. Eilat Mazar finding what is most likely King David’s palace in Jerusalem story? How did she find a palace that was buried in Jerusalem for a couple of thousand years? Heh, she read her Bible.

For a good long while the accounts recorded in Scripture have been treated as legends or fairy tales by many academics. From the story reporting Dr. Mazar’s find:

For a growing number of academics and intellectuals, King David and his united kingdom of Judah and Israel, which has served for 3,000 years as an integral symbol of the Jewish nation, is simply a piece of fiction. The biblical account of history has been dismissed as unreliable by a cadre of scholars, some of whom have an overtly political agenda, arguing that the traditional account was resurrected by the Zionists to justify dispossessing Palestinian Arabs. The most outspoken of these is Keith Whitelam of the Copenhagen School which promotes an agenda of "biblical minimalism," whose best-known work is The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History.

Even in Israel, this new school has found its voice. Israel Finkelstein, chairman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology, began championing a theory several years ago that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. The scientific methods for his assumptions, called a "lower dating" which essentially pushes archaeological evidence into a later century and thus erases all evidence of a Davidic monarchy, were laughed off by traditional archaeologists. But his book, The Bible Unearthed, wound up on the New York Times' best-seller list and he became the darling of a sympathetic media. He concluded that David and Solomon, if they existed at all, were merely "hill-country chieftains" and Jerusalem a poor, small tribal village. He claims that the myth of King David was the creation of a cult of priests trying to create for themselves a glorious history.

For years folks have been trying to locate David’s palace but have given up when it could not be located within what is the nine square acres of the original city. So how did Dr. Mazar know where to look when no one could seem to find it? More from the story:

Some biblical scholars gave up looking for the palace because, according to Mazar, they were looking in the wrong place. Scholars searched for remains of the palace within the walls of the ancient Jebusite city that David conquered and called Ir David (City of David). This city, while heavily fortified with both natural and man-made boundaries, was also very small, just nine acres in size. When no evidence of such a majestic palace as the Bible describes was found there, the next step was to claim that David's monarchy never really existed.

But Mazar always suspected that the palace was outside the original city, and cites the Bible to prove it. When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed, they went on the attack to apprehend him. This occurred after he conquered the Fortress of Zion, which was the actual nucleus of the city, and built his palace. The Bible says that David heard about it and "descended to the fortress," (2-Samuel 5:17), implying that he went down from his palace, which was higher up on the mountain than the citadel/city.

Mazar told "I always asked myself: Down from where? It must have been from his palace on top of the hill, outside the original Jebusite city."

Mazar says she was confident in her assessment of where the palace would be. What she discovered was a section of massive wall running about 100 feet from west to east along the length of the excavation (underneath what until this summer was the Ir David Visitors Center), and ending with a right-angle corner that turns south and implies a very large building.

One of the things I love about archeology is the fact that this science in particular is one of the Christian’s greatest friends in refuting the idea that a group of people, whether they lived two or even three thousand years ago, created a religion out of thin air that had no ties to real live history. The fact of the matter is that ancient Judaism and Christianity are the only religions that can stand up to the archaeologist shovel and still come out on top.

It just bothers me a bit that nobody seemed to want to cover this story. This find confirms a major religion’s place in history when the majority view of scientific community seems to be otherwise! It just seems like we’re living in Bizzaro world when the main stream media will report a grilled cheese sandwich that looks like Mary, the mother of God, up for auction on Ebay and overlooks important archaeological finds that validates the Biblical narrative from a scientific prospective and methodology. The next thing you know they’ll skip the finding a stegosaurus carved into Buddhist temples story! ;-)

One thing I told my Sunday school class recently is that Christians should never fear science. Yes, there are claims out there that seem to contradict Scripture but when the rubber hits the road or the shovel hits the Jerusalem hillside, my bet’s on God’s Holy Word coming out on top when it comes to truth. Yep, my money is on Scripture.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Time Out Episode 25

Dan over at Necessary Roughness has the newest Time Out; Time Out Episode 25 posted.

The Scripture reading for this episode is the first chapter of Colossians and the hymn is “By Grace I’m Saved” found on page 566 in the Lutheran Service Book.

The audio for Episode 25 is from the Higher Things 2009 Sola conference at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. It is included with permission from Higher Things. You can hear the hymn by itself at their Sola 2009 page now, but it will eventually become part of the HT-Online subscribers-only page. When that happens, you will need to register at Higher Things for free and then add the premium service. The premium service will also contain other great audio from both Sola conferences.

Be sure to stop by, say howdy, and thank Dan for doing such a great job on Time Out Episode 25. And while your there, wish Dan a happy birthday as Necessary Roughness turns 5 years old today!

Time Out Episode 24

Time Out Episode 23

Time Out Episode 22

Time Out Episode 21

Time Out Episode 20

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Feature: Issues, Etc. Soundbite Of The Day

Today marks the debut of something new here at Putting Out The Fire; the Issues, Etc. Soundbite of the Day. It’s not that I’m not a huge fan of the Issues, Etc. Soundbite of the Week, I am a huge fan of the Friday segment. I've even called in and voted myself a few times. It’s just that, every now and then, there is just a portion or two of an interview or segment that catches my attention in a big way that might not make it to the Friday show to be voted on as a possible soundbite of the week.

After I had the idea that it would be fun to do my own soundbite, I emailed the producer Jeff Schwarz and asked for permission (yes, I really asked for permission, no joke!) to have my own audio pick of the day and post it. My request was granted (it only took a day or so; I’m assuming it had to be run by all the big wigs and such) and all I needed to figure out is how to post my pick; whether it be strictly audio or was there going to be a visual component to my project. Today ya’ll get to see the results. It should be noted that this is still a work in progress and from time to time there may be changes as I make improvements.

My inaugural Issues, Etc. Soundbite of the day is from none other than the host of the program itself. I picked Pastor Todd Wilken wrapping up an interview back on June 23 with author Pastor Daniel Deutschlander on his The Theology of the Cross book for two reasons; first, Pastor Wilken has never had his own soundbite even though there is at least one listener who has suggested a comment or four for Soundbite of the Week. Second, and more importantly, Pastor Wilken makes an important point about the theology of the cross and the preaching that comes from the pulpit.

Congratulations Pastor Wilken on the high honor of being the inaugural pick of Putting Out The Fire’s Issues, Etc. Soundbite of the day!