Thursday, August 6, 2009

Church Formation?

Internet Monk's post on church de-formation or mal-formation and new formation (my words) are healthy and helpful for those leaving institutions masquerading as "church."

He wrote, "short of a view that certain Protestant congregations are the only portals to eternal life, it is hard to say that those who leave these churches are imperiling their souls. For many people, the peril of their souls is exactly why they are gone."


"The current defense of the church may be necessary, but many of the assertions being made are not necessary and have about them the scent of males in power having far too much fun flirting with infallibility. The Christian ministry is one of the few places in our world that men can assert that they and their institutions must be submitted to in the name of God. That's heady stuff, and I'm not even close to being prepared to buy the bona fides of everyone who claims it."

Those of us who seek to follow Christ each day are bound to run up against hypocrisy – in ourselves and in others. We can't avoid it because we're still imperfectly "crucified with Christ"! The power against hypocrisy is repentance, confession and forgiveness, and any institution embodying self-assurance in and of itself (or in and of the priests' or ministers' "ordination") doesn't embody the self-sacrificing love and service of others which we see in Christ Jesus.

Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

As Iron Sharpens Iron

Our daughter pulled a sharpening steel out of the drawer, tonight. The rest of us at the dinner table laughed and wondered what knife she was going to sharpen and why!

I was reading articles and posts about philosophical debates, today, too. All of the writings were by men arguing with other men.

Does it occur to us that what passes for "debates" is, too often, one side trying to win vs. another? I.e., the debate's goal seems not pursuing greater truth or exhibiting the "love of wisdom" (philo-sophia), but rather one intellect's victory over another's, one's worldview over another's. The raised arms of victory over another view's "foolishness" crown the conclusion.

Proverbs 27:17 states, "Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another." (NRSV)
In the NLT, "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."
The Tanakh translation is a more literal translation, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the wit of his friend."

The problem I have with many debates is the goal of victory and triumph over any others. Isn't this simply another perverse form of proselytization by academic or philosophical warfare?
Be a Christian! No, be an Atheist! To be religious means you're an idiot. To be a non-believer means you're going to hell! Religion is anti-intellect, anti-logic, and anti-mind. Atheism is anti-god, anti-believer, and anti-order.
To return to the metaphor my daughter pulled out of the drawer...

Anyone who has sharpened a knife by hand realized that if our angle of sharpening is too high, we dull the blade rather than sharpen it. The knife sharpening experts recommend 15/20 degree beveled angles. In other words, the stone or sharpening steel is more alongside the knife than against it. It is counterproductive to confront the knife edge with a harsher angle. The Hebrew isn't impersonal; the one sharpening the wit of another is a companion or friend. In the context of wisdom literature, "love of wisdom" isn't a love of abstract, detached knowledge and logic but love of wise and thoughtful living in the companionship of fellow humans.

So, to those who love debating, may we examine the product of those arguments! Do you gain or lose friends of differing views? (We all know that gathering people of views similar to ours is the norm!) Do we fail at relating well to the person, or do we gain both increasing insight and relationships that last?

Finally, to make a comment on what may have seemed the "coincidence" of men's debates, may I offer another look at the infamous text most frequently cited vs. women?

1 Timothy 2:8, in my opinion, begins a discussion of negative gender paradigms in that culture. Paul began with the men, "I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument..." The Greek word for argument, dialogismos, has the meaning of a "verbal exchange that takes place when conflicting ideas are expressed, dispute, argument." (BDAG)

I've been around enough discussion boards to recognize that the disputes are most frequently dominated by men. There are some women in the fray, but many have told me in "asides" that they are quiet because they don't want to get beaten up in the "discussions."

Guys, please tell me. Is that a coincidence? Or, would you recognize Paul's admonition as countering a particularly male penchant for warfare - whatever the battlefield?

I love wisdom. I find philosophy intriguing, inspiring and provocative, at its best. But, the warfare, folks, the warfare has gotta go. Telling others they're stupid or hell-bent won't win them to your logic, but it may serve to beat them down into submission to your god. (That god isn't mine.) However, loving them and walking alongside them may build up and encourage them in wisdom.