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Monday, August 11, 2008

Ya know what really urks my nerves?

Church signs.

You know the ones I'm talking about; the real clever ones. "Give God what's right, not what's left." "Give Satan an inch, and he'll be the ruler." "Prevent truth decay by brushing up on your Bible."

Don't get me wrong, I believe that they have truth. They just annoy me. There are infinitely more powerful maxims out there that no one seems to deem worthy of attention. There is plenty of more important stuff that could go there, like when they meet and upcoming evens. Why waste that space with something that does little more than divide attention from the road and traffic?

When was my faith reduced to a series of impersonal puns on the side of the road?

These billboards are just symbols of a problem that has plagued my faith since before I was born. Many churches, as my mentor would put it, are a mile wide and an inch deep. Christianity in general has a chronic case of the stupids. When did this happen?

I've been at my friend's house for about a week. We've been a couple of times to the nearby Christian book stores, because we wanted to see what they had there. I managed to find "How to know that God exists" at one of them. I literally dropped to my knees and said "noooooooooo!" and shook my fists at the heavens, much to my friend's chagrin. Where are the scholar's books. Where's Bruce Metzger? Where's Ravi Zachrias? Where's Ben Witherington the third? I found several books by authors with degrees from the prestigious Liberty University, but I'd hoped to find some authors who schooled at Princeton Theological Seminary, or maybe Emanuel School of Religion or Asburry.

I want ivory towers, dang it. I want an ivory tower that I can take with me to wherever I need to minister. An Ivory tower in a Red Wagon. What happened to the first century church that was so full of scribes and rabbis? I sometimes wish that God had chosen to put me in that time. It wouldn't be so dang hard for me to learn things that I want to know.

I know why I'm not in that time, though. God has called me either to youth ministry or campus ministry when I get out of seminary; maybe they can be taught something. Few people around me think I'm worth the listen; my family wouldn't be full of stupid kids if they would. But as long as I'm faithful to God, I think, some one's going to dive into deeper waters and never come up for air.


  1. I think this is the age of self help for many religions and Ray and others are riding the wagon.

  2. A monk told Joshu, "I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me."

    Joshu asked, "Have you eaten your rice porridge?

    The monk replied, "I have eaten."

    Joshu said, "Then you had better wash your bowl."

    At that moment the monk was enlightened.

  3. I suppose that in the early years of Christianity only the academic elite was literate. Now any idiot can write a book and get it published.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I think this is the age of self help for many religions and Ray and others are riding the wagon.

    In a way I envy his success. He is making good money milking his flock of sheep. I sometimes wonder if I could lie like that -according to Ray I should be free to do lie my socks off - but it is beyond me.

  6. (shrugs) You could always go looking for a non-stupid religion.

    So long, Rob, it was nice knowin' ya....


  7. A "non-stupid religion"?

    Is there such an animal?

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Rob-

    On the lighter side- it might make you feel better to make your own church signs here-

    Church Sign Generator

    Hours of fun...

  10. Curiously, I'm not impressed with Metzger or Zacharias or people who studied theology at Princeton.

    They have no more evidence to support their position, they are no more experts than Ray on the important issues - because one can't be a recognized expert without a demonstrable, independently verifiable truth.

    They simply have a particular view of theology that YOU prefer because it doesn't insult your intelligence quite so quickly as the nonsense that Ray spews.

    I'm surprised you didn't list Alvin Plantinga. While he is, perhaps, the most cerebral of the theologically elite, he simply reworks tired old arguments into new forms via obfuscation.

    While there's little doubt that they all surpass Ray in their understanding of reality, that doesn't make them any more correct in their claims about the supernatural.

    They suffer from the additional crippling blow that their positions often contradict the literal message of the Bible. Their 'authority' is nothing more than their own interpretation - just like every other Christian.

    For an outsider, it's impossible to determine who (if anyone) is correct in their interpretation, but the literalists will always have a more compelling argument from authority (though still mind-numbingly weak) than those who appear as revisionists.

    What arguments or insights have your "scholarly" theologians provided that have been able to withstand the critical eye of reasoned investigation?

  11. hi matt d.,
    nice to see you pop in here once in a while. You described the work of Plantinga very well (I'd add Swinburne to that drawer). It seems to me that every few decades, a small number of intelligent and well-educated theologians set out to get a picture of how their faith fares in the world, and then use all their energy to mold their interpretation to form an understanding that will hopefully carry on to the next decade or two. But what do they actually accomplish? Back in the days, (mostly) dropping outright justifications for violence and maltreatment was the step that changed the face of Christianity in Europe. But what is there to change today? Moderate faith and scriptural interpretation appear to be following events in the real world, constantly adapting ever so slightly to keep pace. Surely, believers today have no more hope of salvation than they had three hundred or six hundred years ago. The only thing that has changed in that regard is the outlook on human behavior; recognition of environmental issues, gradually growing acceptance of homosexuals, and replacement of damnation with advice. Practically the only differentiating factor between clergy and social workers is the former's claim of authority, as you illustrated in your recent show by wearing the collar. I can't see how adding an externalized source of information or inspiration adds any value whatsoever to a contemplation of ethics and morality, as that source still remains extant in a realm of speculation no less than it has for all previous centuries. Outspoken theists and clerical figureheads make very clear statements, but when asked for a substantiated justification they slip right back into foggy mysticism.

  12. Rob,
    I agree with Matt D and Felix.

    I think they are saying, in a nice way, if you have a bag of shit and tie a red bow around it, it's still a bag of shit.

    I know you have a huge emotional investment in your beliefs, probably financial and time investments too, yet you sometimes sound like you aren't quite buying into the Christian worldview.

    I don't know how you will reconcile becoming a youth minister or whatever while telling the kids that the books in Xtian bookstores are a bunch of tripe.

    In fact, the more we talk the more I find myself wondering exactly what it is that you do believe in.

    I think you said you are going for a degree in psycology. Why not theology?

    There is something about you that makes me think that you may be looking for a way "out" of the belief systems you find yourself in.

    Respectfully submitted, /d


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