Saturday, November 20, 2010

Evangelical freestyle

Friday was one of those days that we'll remember for a long time. I took the day off work because Lisa was catering dinner for about 200 people. She doesn't do this sort of thing often; she needs a good reason to want to work that hard. Nevertheless, I know my job when it comes to catering. My job is to do whatever needs to be done. So my day started taking the girls to the community center so they could swim their 1000 yards. If Lisa kept her routine of taking the girls, then it would either extend her day, or create time pressure on the food preparation. My taking the girls to the pool gained Lisa some time. How much time, Lisa had no idea.

Gabby lollygagged in the pool. It was Friday and I've relented that the girls' Friday routine need not be as rigorous as Monday through Thursday's. With a half lap to go, and Claire already finished and ready to leave, I coaxed Gabby (age eight) to swim freestyle as fast as she could. I had to walk fast to keep up with her. I saw her take two breaths in the 25 yards, but she told me she took three. Unfortunately, the burst of energy did not prevent her from lollygagging in the shower for 45 minutes. I'm glad she showers on the community center's dime rather than on my own.

By the time we joined Lisa at the Evangelical Free Church where the dinner was being held, it was practically noon. We all worked in the kitchen all afternoon prepping, cooking, and cleaning until suddenly the food was all hot and ready to put out in the chafers. I had never been in an Evangelical Free Church before, and I guess I still can't say that I've attended one, but in case you're interested Evangelical Free is not like sugar free. The place was loaded with 'em!

A funny coincidence leads to angst

Lisa has catered two events in the last two years, and other than our family, one person has attended both events. A coworker of mine seems to be following Lisa around.

When she recognized me, she asked me if I attended that church. I explained that Lisa was helping a long-time family friend. It immediately caught me as odd that I was in a position where in the time allotted and with the background noise, I could not express what I believe. I had to choose a label: Evangelical Free or not-Evangelical Free.

I did not have time say that while I've never attended and don't intend to attend an Evangelical Free church, that I consider the people there brothers and sisters. I could not express that through October we celebrated the Lord's Supper in our home with many people from different denominational labels. I could not say, that I find church labels offensive but I find the Gospel to be the "power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes." Romans 1:16

This week I read a little bit from John Calvin's Institutes. I also ready a bit from Herodotus' Histories. I have to admit, I enjoy Herodotus much more than Calvin. I've been working on a blog post about Calvin, but I hesitate to publish because it will offend. I don't identify with Calvin. He doesn't represent the Christian faith as I see read it from the pages of the Bible. I do identify with Herodotus. He writes, I think, historical fiction – that is to say he embellishes the tale to emphasize the irony of life and death and fate. Herodotus struggles to understand the world without saying aloud, "The gods must be crazy." Calvin presumes to invent a god who is crazy, impose him upon the world, and burn at the stake those who disbelieve him (google "Servetus").

I haven't given Calvin a second thought for years, but recently read a research summary from Barna ( Is There a "Reformed" Movement in American Churches? ). I am annoyed that a segment of Christianity still associates itself with Calvin. Aside from the despicable Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, I doubt that Calvin would give passing grades to many churches in America. Would Calvin really lend his name to churches who do not exhibit his murderous rage? Why then, would churches identify themselves according to Calvin? Do people actually read Calvin before proclaiming themselves Calvinist?

The Apostle Paul asks, "Is Christ divided? Was [Calvin] crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of [Calvin]?" (1 Corinthians 1:13) So I took some liberty with that translation, but the point is can we really label Christianity according to sect? By doing so, we offend Christ.

In a more general sense, organized church frustrates me because you just can't from point A to point B – point A being Scripture and point B being everything that happens in a church building on Sunday morning. I'm also puzzled by folks that say that the New Testament does not prescribe church practices. It seems to me that the New Testament just doesn't prescribe their practices, and so they jump through hoops to dismiss the prescriptive practices in the New Testament.

They say that the Book of Acts is descriptive; not prescriptive. OK, maybe, but Acts describes what the Apostles did, and that sounds like a reasonable model to emulate. Good enough for Peter
might be good enough for us. Even if you discard the Book of Acts, Paul is emphatic regarding church practices in 1 Corinthians 14:37, "If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command." Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. That's prescriptive!

Does your dispensational predilection make you uncomfortable with Paul's directive? ("Was [Clarence Larkin] crucified for you?") Perhaps Paul's instructions had an expiry date in margins of the original autographs? Not OK, but what about Jesus' teaching in Matthew 23:8-12?

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'Father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'Teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Do we think that God is fooled when we use synonyms for Rabbi like, "The Reverend" and "Pastor"? Why do we revere any man other than Jesus? Why do we revere other men's writings above Scripture? Are we really supposed to make some people more important than others? Surely, we are to make other more important than ourselves, but that's universal and not specific to the one man with a title or a book.

By the way, the word pastor appears once in most English translations of the Bible (Ephesians 4:11). It was not used in context of an ecclesiastical position, but rather describes the realms of gifts in which people operate. In the Greek, poimen, appears several times. Why is it translated shepherd everywhere but Ephesians 4:11? It's translated pastor because the translators are injecting common practice into Scripture rather than asking us to derive our common practices from Scripture!

Jesus tells us not to make distinctions among us because, ". . . you are all brothers." You might think that followers of Jesus might try to take His words as Gospel truth, but then again . . . what would we do with Calvin? Just because the "Reformers" were anti-Romanist, doesn't mean that either were right!

There is a better way to go about this than the sectarian status quo! "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 1 Peter 1:3 (NIV) In Matthew 7:15-23, Jesus tells us what to do with Calvin and a lot of other so-called leaders, but I don't expect everyone to agree with me.

From angst to thanks

As I worked last night clearing the buffet, washing pots and pans, and mopping the kitchen floor, I debated with Calvin and marveled that his ideas have endured his Putrification. Nevertheless, last night I was confident that I was where I was supposed to be. Some fellow-believers—mostly unknown to me–were coming together in a building owned by an institution that I cannot understand. However, they were coming together to raise money for a school and orphanage in Guatemala. Their generosity would have a direct and immediate impact upon poor in a foreign country.

Command those who are rich in this present world . . . to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV)

I'm thankful that Christians can some days work together for furtherance of the true kingdom. To the extent that my family and I could work for last evening's success, I am thankful for the opportunity.

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