The Long term cost of the “I go to church” philosophy…

Jenna3I get a ton of email and, I bet, you do too!  In addition to the regular friends and work issues that come to my inbox, I receive some emails from various "ekklesia" movements around the world.  Recently, I opened up an email that discussed an article that appeared in the United Kingdom regarding the "steep" cost of maintaining the aging church buildings across the country.  In this article, the reporter pines that it could cost up to a billion "pounds" (about $1.7 billion USA dollars) to "fix" the facilities that are falling apart.  Now, remember that many of the church buildings in the UK are old, in fact, very old.  But at issue is THE issue…the cost of overhead in local church ministry that is going to gobble up financial resources of the people who participate in these ministries.  It's interesting, that in the UK there is a STATE church so people are debating how much the government should be shelling out for rebuilding buildings that very few people enter on any given Sunday.  We might not be in THAT type of condition, but we in the USA are facing a similar dilemma as time goes on.

I estimate that the local churches who have large debt and/or an aging facility might be those gatherings who will soon discover that offerings from loving and giving people will fall far short of the mounting expenses in overhead.  I know in my own backyard, in a facility that is over 60 years old, the cost of "just keeping the building open" continues to skyrocket.  We just so happen to have one of our city's leaders in planning sitting on our leadership team.  Good news is that the guy is faithful, smart and gifted as well as a real asset to our leadership process.  The bad news is that he knows too much…he knows the costs of utilities before the news hits the average consumer…he knows what the costs are for permits and other licensing issues that are required for public spaces.  As costs go up and congregations age and decline, there will come a point of no return.  For some of us in local churchworld we are blessed with "paid off" buildings and as low of an overhead stack of expenses that can be possible and STILL it is only by the hand of the Lord that our faith community stays alive.  I know people in other faith communities who are facing unbelievable financial challenges…challenges not wrestled with for decades.  Seriously, who knows what the local expression of "church" will look like in decades to come.  For many, economics alone will put many "out of business."  Again, I know in our backyard how blessed I am to have a group of Jesus followers who make my financial life stable and possible with their generosity.  But say we had a major facility crisis (we have had some minor crises but had savings to navigate those issues), the impact of said crisis might completely pull the wind out of our economic sail.  For many of the people I know if OTHER church bodies, the margins are slim and the anxiety is rising.  Thank God that Jesus said the "gates of hell" could not sink what God is doing in the world in and through HIS body through HIS people.  You see, in many respects, it doesn't matter what the long term cost of "going to church" is going to be…because if you have the value in your heart that you ARE the church, then you know that living and serving and experiencing the Kingdom of God will continue on despite the condition of or lack thereof of some building in which you meet.  The long term cost of the "I go to church" philosophy is that, for many people, there won't be a church to go to…but there is always a Lord to love and serve and there are always people eager to share in a journey in which THEY AS THE CHURCH live faithfully for Jesus and contine to grow and bear Kingdom fruit. 

So, whatever the future has in store, what your philosophy of what Church IS will shape your optomisim, pessemism or cynicism about the future of the local church.  For me, I know that the commuity of faith, the Body of Jesus, HIS Church will survive whatever crumbling structures come and go.  And frankly, thank God for that!   

Morality, Philosophy and Faith

1homer-angel-deveilMorality and Philosophy and FaithMessage by Robin Dugall, May 2014 

If somebody goes home today and says to a friend or family member, “you know what Robin talked about today?  Aristotelian and Symbolic or Mathematical Logic and how that delineates a significant differentiation in our personal praxis and moral deliberation”

What you might get, “well, that was exciting,” “boring”, or glazed over eyes or “what the heck were you thinking”

Here’s my promise to you – not going to get overly technical today…not that I don’t trust your robust intellect, stellar ability to comprehend deeper theology and philosophy but rather because I think you need to walk away today with some practical action steps to apply to your life that can/will make a difference in how you decide between right and wrong

The only way that is going to happen is to give you some INFORMATION…in this instance, I know that this talk will be short on inspiration unless you get inspired by new information like I do…but I do promise that this information is critical and important to you and to people you know if you put your mind to it

  • Here’s the issue – what you think about wrong and right in your world and in our world…how people like you determine and come to actionable conclusions about what is right and wrong – is not just influenced by simple things
  • And the truth is that HOW we make moral choices has shifted considerably, even fatally in over the past century

Here’s what you need to know up from – for centuries – HOW we were taught right and wrong all came from a common foundation of belief – that was theistically driven – in other words, it came from a belief and trust in God

  • But now, in terms of issues like personal and corporate morality and how we view moral accountability – it would be a MASSIVE understatement to say, those things have COMPLETELY changed
  • People do NOT, generally speaking, this is a global reality not just some localized observation, get their moral bearings from God anymore

So, today we are going to talk about Morality – turn to someone around you and talk for a second,

  1. When you think of Morality, what do you think of?
  2. Or answer this question, “most of what I’ve learned about morality, I’ve learned from…

What is MORALITY?  Principles of behavior – perspectives or what you and me recognize in terms of behavior on what is “right/wrong”

Here’s the dictionary definition:  “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior”

Or…”morality refers to any code of conduct that a person or a group takes as important”

Most of us would agree that morality, determining what is right and what is wrong is an important subject to be talking about and agreeing on in any era

But I don’t think anyone, really, anyone upon some honest reflection and observation of what’s going on in our culture today feels good about where we are as a culture morally…

When most of us spend any amount of time thinking about Morality it is usually when we feel that our moral bearings or anchors are being challenged – and most of us are outraged, angry, dismayed, indignant, whatever adjective you want to pick…

Many of us feel that’s what is happening even as we speak in our world

  • The world is going to hell in a hand-basket
  • I can’t believe people do_______________________
  • I can’t believe people get away with________________
  • How could they do___________________________
  • I’m shocked when I see________________________
  • I get so angry when I hear______________________

In fact, I’ll go even further – If you or me or anyone you know has a Judeo-Christian perspective or what I call “biblical theistic” worldview, you would have to agree that we have a moral crisis in world

The context for our talk today – Moral confusion – we’re going to proceed from there…and talk about Morality

So, this is how we are going to start:

* Moral deliberation has been a subject matter for people for 1000’s of years

What was perceived as “natural law” in addition to what we call the Mosaic Law, the Torah, OR the idea of a God-given sense of morality because of human conscience were foundation blocks for moral evaluation and accountability for centuries – they provided boundaries for living “right”

Natural Law – or the law of nature (Latin: lex naturalis), is a system of law that is determined by nature, and so is universal.  Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature — both social and personal — and deduce binding rules of moral behavior from it

Torah – Law – it isn’t just about that which convicts us that we are broken people, but Jews, even Jesus upheld its relevance as a rule of living…in fact, the Jews proudly proclaimed that the Torah was “THE WAY, the truth and the life”

Yes it eventually was twisted into a means of salvation – but that wasn’t God’s original plan – Law was a part of covenant of love and grace – “this is the way a God-centered people live”

Scripture – Revelation of God – God's nature and character – 2 Timothy 3:16 – "training in righteousness"

C. S. Lewis argued that "conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver." Lewis argued that because we have a MIND and thought and that is a given in our lives as a gift from God (part of His image) we must accept that there is some sort of practical reason, morality, which could not be valid without reference to a higher cosmic moral order which could not exist without a God to create and/or establish it.

IN OTHER WORDS, there was a sense of universal ideas/standards of right/wrong

But there has been a profound shift going on behind the scenes, in fact, progressing over the last couple of centuries that has messed up the moral deliberation and moral action process in most people’s lives

Moved away from universals and God and into the realm of feelings…

In fact, here’s how this works (here’s the shift) – morality has entered the realm of RELATIVITY/SUBJECTIVITY (private and individualistically centered opinion) instead of OBJECTIVITY

Relativity – subjective, individualistic, private, me against you

Objectivity – real-out-there-standard which can be seen through nature and God’s revelation (remember – the heavens declare God, Romans 1)

But when everything about right/wrong is on a purely SUBJECTIVE plane… when you come up against someone else’s SUBJECTIVE perspective on what’s right/wrong – and that person (or group) is no wiser, no smarter or a better person than you AND you feel that THEY are simply arbitrarily imposing their standards on you, you are bound get a bit edgy – even outraged…

Not only outraged but THEN, you have a face, a person or system to that you can blame – that’s what’s happening around our culture today…people are blaming each other or feeling victimized by somebody else’s ideas of what is right/wrong

Now, I want you to know, what I'm going to get into from here on MAY get a bit heady or complicated – but, this is how I see it

I’m done with the hand wringing and despair and the bemoaning comments about how pathetic our changed world has become (why can’t things be the way they used to be)

SO I hope and pray that I’ll be able to break down this issue for you in such a way that you understand the issue and pray along with me for some sort of renewal and rekindling of a God-honoring moral foundation

First question – Where does morality come from?

(1) God – Now that may sound like a dumb question for most of us because it is something that most of us take for granted – for most of us here in the Jesus following community we just immediately tap into God

In fact, for MOST people, that’s their starting point…they believe that morality comes from God and ultimate moral accountability comes from God’s nature, character, and it is HIS perfect sense of justice that will right the world – that’s the first answer

But there are other viewpoints:

(2) Philosophical Quandary – We might say God but for others, it is not that simple – something you may not know about is this answer – for some people who don't share in a worldview that is decisively God-focused, they take moral reflection in a different direction…they move BEYOND God…sounds weird, but let me try to explain it to you:

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about this – there is something called the “Euthrphro dilemma” – that dilemma poses this question:

If we get our morals from God, are they moral because God says that they are or because God is bound by them as well?

Where did these morals come from that are conveyed by God in the first place? 

Again, that may sound like a ridiculous question for most of us but these are the things that you question if you don’t have a theistic perspective/worldview in life…if there is no God or if there is only some sense of man-made religion, then you’ve got to search elsewhere for morality

That’s the second answer to question where does morality come from…for some, it's a philosophical quandary

(3) A Structure built into a DNA – there’s a third – for some others morality is defined this way – morality is a complex structure (something people or nature have built over time) that maintains social cohesion (holds relationships together) and enhance survivability among social creatures

This answer is one that deliberately comes from that who are macro-evolutionists – in other words, they see the world through this prism…naturalism or materialism

They don’t see any substantial differences between humanity and other animals in the world

What this camp believes is that morality is in the DNA

I know that might sound like a flawed system to many of us – but you see, if all you have in terms of truth is nature and the material world and you don’t believe in God, then all you are left with is humanity’s own ideas of social order and, most importantly, peer pressure or competing self interests in which the most popular morals or the morals of the most powerful or persuasive group rules the day

Again, if in comparing humans to animals, you don’t see much of a difference then you break away the biblical narrative (where humanity and animals are very distinctive), this type of thinking is the ONLY frame of reference that is possible. 

It’s a dog eat dog world…hopefully you run in the pack of the right dogs or at least the most powerful dogs

You see, when youlook at morality – through the lens of Evolutionary theory –morals ONLY have a biological origination and are only designed to help us survive and thrive in our ability to work together in groups…

In other words, it is to our advantage to lean into our evolution or advancement of our species to set up cooperative contracts which eventually we can call “morals” 

In this instance, the essence of morality comes not from outside of human being but is innate or genetic and usually is seen or defined as some forms of human altruism…

Altruism – selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others from that come concepts of fairness, justices motivated by our empathy and compassion

Now this seems to run counter intuitive to the one of the tenets of evolution, “survival of the fittest”…because altruism does not philosophically match up well with self-preservation

But there are those who really believe that there is a biologically based sense of altruism in every human being that just needs a bit of support to come out…and all the world’s negativity and “no’s” and rules prohibit the emergence of this perfect and morally pure being

That’s where we see this movement alive and well in culture to prop up or fan the internal flames of self-esteem – the thinking goes – if only we can get people to feel good about themselves, they will treat others better

OR at least we will internally come to a corporate agreement that we need to avoid or prevent harm to people in a specific group

At this point – let me remind you – emphasize that in this instance, these moral boundaries are NOT universal but only followed by a specific group that are the “wise” or “enlightened” ones who can concede that we as humans need some code of conduct as a guide

Sometimes these codes emerge from the need of a specific person in a group to define the group’s behavior – power play – when we talk about morality, we are talking primarily about ourselves – “ethical egoism”

Sometimes they may come from some function or better yet, malfunction of the brain that sooner or later we will be able to program

Sometimes they are “consequential ethics” – primarily by cause/effect deliberation – set boundaries based upon best outcomes

Sometimes they are “informal systems” – primarily situational morality – no guide to all moral situations just based upon the moment

Morality – cause and effect coupled with extreme contextualization and our desire for the well-being of society – defines morals

For some they would call this is a POSITIVE, OPTOMISTIC view of natural world

(4) Created by Humanity out of lies and manipulation – there is an extension of the third explanation that is entirely negative and pessimistic that goes like this – morals are subject to a wide range of applications and extremes and some social morals are created from lies and false beliefs – in this instance NO MORAL standing is based on absolutes but on a negative view of human or natural potential

In other words, the world sucks and hopefully somebody will evolve further in a more positive way to straighten things out

Do you remember when we heard not too long ago that our President said that his views on certain subjects were evolving?  That’s how this works…

When you don’t have moral absolutes and you feel pretty pessimistic about where human have been and are going and THEN you subject your views of right and wrong to the changing winds of culture…

Where the prevailing winds blow your personal morality and people can get caught up in that breeze…thus views of what is right/wrong can change over time

This is especially true when you subject or better yet acquiesce moral deliberation and decisions to the realm of politics – it is politically expedient if you want to gain personal favor in the culture…that you don’t take stands…you just wait to figure out how other people feel and meet them there…then you are all good

So as you can see, in answering the question of WHERE MORALITY comes from – not as easy as it once was – now let me add into our cocktail mix of moral confusion with a couple of other ingredients and you’ll see why world is messed up

Second part of this message breaks down this way – with all that said and out there for you to consider, we’re going to have to talk about a couple of more important issues that make this morality issue even more confusing:

  1. Issue of the privatization of faith
  2. Logic – and the shift from Aristotelian logic to Symbolic or Mathematical logic

1.  Issue of the privatization of faith  

Put faith in a constricted space – once that happens, faith, which used to seek to sanctify all aspects of life, became focused on the individual and on that individual’s self-fulfillment

Last week in Adult Education, we talked about “Dualism” or a “House division” between a person’s religious/spiritual life and their public life in the world

  • Dualism – two circles – God and World with people LEAVING the world to enter spirituality
  • House analogy – private realm and public realm – neither should interfere with the other!
  • For many people, issues of faith are relegated to the realm of being private

This profound shift happened during something we call the Enlightenment – (post Reformation) there was NO broader issue than individualism and individual salvation that unfortunately, for all the good that came out of the Reformation/Enlightenment, community moved from being essential to a faith or life journey to a convenience

  • Between “I think therefore I am” (Rene Descartes, Cartesian philosophy) and Evangelicalism which stresses personal relationship with God via individual salvation…expressive and utilitarian individualism replaced, as modes of thought, the earlier biblical traditions on which society had grown 
  • Those early “habits of the heart” had tempered individualism with more expansive virtues…especially on the importance of relationships and community 

Unfortunate truth though – is that our religious or spiritual identity is inherently communal – Body of Christ imagery and metaphor in the bible

With the decline of religious attachments in society we are seeing proof over and over again that that move impacts behaviors

You see, it takes religious values to shape a moral frame of reference – and it takes religious communities to not only reinforce morals but also to support and encourage people to hold true to what they agree together is what they value

Those two realities are NOT the ones that reinforce individualism

In order to put this in context, we have to go back a few centuries – it was the enlightenment (started in 16th century but really got going in 17th and 18th century) focused relentlessly on two entities – the individual, and the state – the individual detached from historical context and the universal, politically realized NOT in an exploration of Ultimate Reality, but in the secular state

Neither the individual NOR the state is where we discover who we are and why

The world that has emerged is that of individuals as the makers of their own meanings and the state as the perceived moral arbitrator between conflicting interests.  In this environment, personal autonomy reigns supreme

Along with that was the transition from what some people called, “fate” or “God’s will” to personal, or “my” choice. 

And individual choices eventually dissolve the commitments and loyalties that once lay behind our choices. 

NOW we choose because we choose.  Because it is what we want; or it works for us; or it feels right to me. 

Something interesting for you to consider, “…The word, ‘heresy’ derives from the Greek, ‘haeresis’, meaning choice.  Once life becomes lifestyle and all morality a matter of choice, heresy has become, as it were, the air we breathe.  The central religious assumption that there are moral absolutes which are given, not chosen, has been sent into cultural exile.”

You see, as long as we Jesus followers believe in individualism and privatistic faith, we really do not have a deep commitment to community. 

Again, another inconvenient biblical truth is that we are grafted into a “shared” faith in community through Jesus – this is indisputable and non-negotiable truth

Believe me, when your Salvation identity comes in and through community” vs. “I’m saved and you are not” that will make an impact on your actions and your morality

Where there is no community there is no morality. 

Individuals just ask for forgiveness instead of needing to live in forgiveness and mercy through community and relationships. 

Without community and tradition, there is no self-expression beyond the inarticulate cry of a child. 

Individualism condemns us to the task of constructing our own morality and becomes inherently private and detached from relationships.

When you or I enter community I learn a moral language, a vision and its way of living.

Community (aka faith family or even biological family) becomes a narrative institution molding and shaping shared meaning

But when we turn our lives over to individualism, our moral language becomes effectively secularized. 

The orthodoxies of our time believe that morality is a private affair, a matter of personal choice, and that the state must be either morally neutral or the arbitrator of what is right/wrong (which we have seen in SPADES –

Reference to the children’s show/video clip Animaniacs and the FCC's requirement of adding moral and educational value to children's programming/ (foundation for a better life – minus God, I might add)

So now, our moral imagination is bound by three central themes – autonomy, equality and rights.

The central character of our moral drama is no longer the saint or the hero, but the free self…

  • Unencumbered by attachments
  • Unobligated by circumstance
  • Freely negotiating its temporary contracts with others

We no longer know what it is to identify a moral issue, as something distinct from personal preferences on the one hand or technique on the other. 

We have arrived at Nietzsche’s conviction that morality is no more than a camouflaged way of imposing our will on others. 

Which brings us back to the issue of God – if there is no God, than all is permitted. 

In other words, we cannot edit God out of our language and leave our social world unchanged.

The tasks of religious institutions are NOT to influence governments but create communities of faith. 

Governments can only see morality as that which must be addressed by legislative constraints or/and financial inducements and can only underscore morality as a matter of punishment and reward. 

In the beginning, God created the world.  Thereafter He entrusted us to create the human world, which will be, in the structures of our common life, a home for the Divine presence. 

2.     Logic

Aristotle – Aristotelian philosophy

Symbolic or Mathematical or Analytical logic or philosophy

Let me give you a bit of history:

350 years before Jesus, a guy by the name of Aristotle wrote his first series of textbooks on philosophy

a)   From THEN until 1913, when a guy by the name of Alfred Whitehead published the book, “Principa Mathmetica” – most people learned to think…deliberate…and have as their foundation to moral questioning – Aristotelian logic

Aristotelian philosophy is based upon the assumption that human beings can KNOW things that really are and can know them with certainty

  • e.g. 2 +2 = 4 (when we use something like that, we are saying that the universe and truths of the universe CAN be know)
  • Aristotelian philosophy/logic – was established on something called, “realism”
  • Assumes we have the ability to know reality and that that reality is ordered and knowable
  • It is also a philosophy that appreciates and acknowledges that there are absolutes…universal truths that can be known and experienced

b)   But then something called Modernity and the Enlightenment came along and out of that a NEW way of thinking…a new logic came out of the works of people like Francis Bacon, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Stuart Mill, John Hume championed – was affectionately called, “symbolic logic”

Symbolic logic was influenced by the rise of the scientific method – which stresses quantitative value vs. qualitative value

Symbolic logic says that knowledge of reality is impossible – there is no universal, objective truth, knowledge only corresponds to ideas and nothing that is universal

  • One philosopher – our minds merely manipulate the world as we experience it and our reality is only that which we formulate in our individual minds
  • In other words, there is no one reality…we only know reality as we understand an individuals understanding of their reality – again, in other words, there are no universals but simply personal perspectives or competing personal preferences
  • So, if you can’t really know what something really IS then all you are left with are your feelings about what you experience in the world
  • How we feel about things, how we can use them, how we can work them, how we can change them, how we can control them becomes the foundation of our understanding of the world
  • Again, in Symbolic logic, nothing is inherently valuable…nothing is inherently real…
  • It is only feelings are real and the feelings of value that we attach to things, people, experiences are that which emerge from individual perspectives and feelings
  • Since morality is NOT objective knowledge everything in that realm has to do with the subjective evaluate on an individualistic, relativistic vantage point
  • Symbolic logic has huge implications on ethics – because there are no such things as “normal” any longer…nothing can be universally called “unnatural” because that can only be measured individualistically

Morality in the age of secularization – built on individual feelings (most likely empathy and compassion) and instituted by mass consensus…shifting and evolving depending upon mutually acceptable outcomes.

Why is all this important?

Here’s what I said earlier – I think you need to walk away today with some practical action steps to apply to your life that can/will make a difference in how you decide between right and wrong

Application – in a complex, increasingly amoral culture, how are you and me going to make moral decisions?

Let me show you a chart – External, Internal or Eternal authority

a)   Internal – feelings based – goes along with biological, altruism, and other philosophical explanations – reinforces the belief in NO absolutes

b)   External – competing self interests get to consensus…usually shifting because people find it convenient to change their minds if there is self-interest or self-fulfillment or “good feelings” generated by the decision – or in some cases imposed upon us from outside influences

c)    Eternal – this is an absolute – universals that can be known

Do you think, like I do that the world is a mess because we have detached from God? 

By all means – untethered from God, humans can make up their own rules and power up or impose them on others arbitrarily and without a foundation of absolutes like truth, justice, freedom, community, and the like

That's why God has given us, or better yet, revealed His Word to us – Revelation of God determines how we interpret right from wrong

We were created with an image, the image of God – embraced for 1000s of years as the truth and foundation of all moral deliberation and action – in addition, Jesus revealed God's will for our values/morals in the teaching and through the teaching of the Bible – Sermon on the Mount, Fruit of the Spirit, James (faith w/o works dead), Jesus (if you love me you will obey me), the Torah

These are simply SOME of the places on which we can secure our lives, not on the shifting sands of culture and individualism or relativity…but on an absolute truth, God's presence and revelation.

Note – now there was more to the end of the message that I gave…but this is essentially the main text – if you want to hear how it all came out verbally, see and watch the video.



Good Words brother Francis!

1TonyTheTiger-200x198"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life." – Pope Francis

Kicking it old school – back to the archives for some “relevant” thoughts on church

Qmokhemkir_peep_1I'm reposting one of my original Typepad posts…yes, 949 posts ago (back in 2006).  I thought it would be fun to go back and see the types of things I was thinking about a while ago.  I had posted this article below by SoCal professor and author Ryan Bolger where he made the appeal, "Please, no more doing church for 'them'!"  Here is HIS post on which for you to ruminate:

"I just received a question from an associate that asked how to start a service to attract people from outside the church. I encouraged her to give up on this idea. But what could possibly be wrong with starting a relevant church service directed to spiritual seekers? Relevant churches are rarely even closely relevant. Most Christians don't even like them. They might be better than Mom and Dad's morning service, but they usually are quite irrelevant to the outsider. The church person cannot 'guess' what the seeker wants, undoubtedly getting it wrong.

What Christians need to do is create meaningful worship through bringing their very own lives to God. Worship must reflect the culture of the community that is currently part of the church, not replicate current worship CDs, nor 1980s soft rock, nor 18th century hymns. Instead of mimicking other church cultures, the community collectively brings their own idiosyncratic ways of life to God, whatever they may be.

Indeed, the church may have the stray outsider finding themselves in the worship service and joining the community. But if the focus is on them, simply to be relevant, their worship will satisfy neither the church members nor the outsider. Other reasons?

A focus on the church service as connecting point perpetuates the idea that following Jesus is about going to church. The community's life takes the form of American congregational religion rather than the fluid practices of the gospel, and this emphasis presents quite a barrier to the 'seeker' outside, as they need to be converted to the values of American religious congregationalism before they can come to faith.

Thus, virtually all of those who are attracted to the relevant service were raised in church or are currently going to another church — they are not the never-churched. In contrast, a missional congregation connects with those outside the faith by, well, connecting with those outside of the community in their world. Connecting happens not in a 'come to us' CHURCH service, but through 'go and dwell' church SERVICE, i.e. service in the community — living alternative lives.

A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the sacred/secular split of modernity. When the bulk of the community's energy goes to maintaining a church service, it implies that the church service is more holy, more important, more worthy of our time than the everyday practice of our spirituality.

A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the clergy/laity split — there are those who 'do' ministry, and then there is everyone else. Instead, the role of the leaders is to facilitate the worship expression of the community as a whole.

A focus on the service as connecting point perpetuates the producer/consumer form of spirituality — those on paid or volunteer staff produce spiritual products for passive spectators to consume. Instead, the church must create a context for the community production of worship — we consume as we produce… What are the alternatives to connecting through the church service? To clarify, those who desire to connect with the outsider are in synch with the God of the universe. Truly, mission lies at the very heart of God. However, those of us raised in the evangelical tradition have been socialized into thinking that this connection needs to happen through a church service. Instead we need to take another look at worship and mission and allow for some other possibilities, such as: The worship service is no longer an evangelistic service for outsiders but a space to practice heaven for a period of time, facilitating the offering of the community life to God in worship. If a guest of the community finds God in the service, all the better, but this is not the focus. Mission happens in the 'world', in the world formerly known as secular, on their 'turf' — not ours. As servants, the Christian connects with the seeker through service in their world."

Bottom line, I wish I had written those words…I liked them almost 10 years ago and I like them now! I do like green eggs…er, sorry!  Anyway, for a final thought, here some other words that are bound to make you go, "hmmmmm":

"We’re not trying to start something, launch something or open something. We’re just trying to live in meaningful relationship with ourselves, with God, with each with the world and with the entire universe. We don’t want to be artsy, pomo, alternative, cool, emergent, indie, oozing or anything else. We’re just trying to stumble through life together."

In this instance, I don't know who wrote them, but I love them.

Climate Disruption, Neo-Darwinism, and Worldview – LONG post but hopefully worth it!

29185-really-dogClimate Disruption, Neo-Darwinism and Worldview

I hesitated a bit this morning writing this post.  For many of the readers of my blog, they MAY get the wrong idea.  So, let me be perfectly clear from the beginning…this is a not a political post.  I’m not trying to take a political side or try to pose myself as some sort of climate expert (because that’s way outside of my ability to fully comprehend).  This is a blog post that has more to do with philosophy and the theology behind our current culture and the “panics” that seem to sweep through the world given the heightened attention on specific issues.  Remember, although each of the issues I will refer to in this post have massive political implications and each is being used as a tool of polarization and argument, my purpose is to attempt to give you an idea of how these issues stack up from a different perspective – that being a person’s and a worldwide shift in worldview.

First of all, permit me to build some common ground of knowledge on this particular subject matter…here are a few comments on the issue of worldview:

A Worldview is:

Big Picture of what we see in life

  • It is the way we view reality – foundation on which we live our lives
  • Directs our daily decisions and actions
  • All of us have one – whether we believe it or not
  • Worldview is a map – built on assumptions and unique perspectives
  • Or to get a little more “academically” oriented for some of you – A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.  It refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.

According to scholars, a worldview is an ontology, or a descriptive model of the world. It should comprise these six elements:

  1. An explanation of the world
  2. A futurology, answering the question "where are we heading?"
  3. Values, answers to ethical questions: "What should we do?"
  4. A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action: "How should we attain our goals?"
  5. An epistemology, or theory of knowledge. "What is true and false?"
  6. An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own "building blocks," its origins and construction.

Why a worldview is important is clear – they shape our choices and opinions and THAT is important…why? Because our choices are shaped (or at least should be shaped, by our core beliefs). 

Now let’s cut to the chase and move to the realm of personal opinion, be it, MINE!  There are essentially TWO worldviews that are alive in culture and society:

  1. Theistic worldview that embraces a Deity, some transcendent Ultimate Reality through which we have allegiance and ultimate moral and ethical accountability.  That Ultimate Reality is a frame of reference for life, living, thought, and perspective.  In other words, the Theist understands that there is something more to the world and embraces the reality that God (in this instance, I’m referring to a biblical theistic worldview) interacts with human history bringing it meaning and purpose (I prefer to say actually that we enter God’s story…but that’s for another post).  Theists understand, or at least should understand, that there is something more to this world and that there are purposes that we should be accomplishing in the world given our accountability to the reasons for which we were created.  And yes, you read that right, a Theist defaults to the fact that God give direction and has a created order in which we play a part.
  2. A NON-Theistic worldview is just that – a worldview where there is no Ultimate Reality (aka God) framework of personal and societal reference.  In this instance, the only frame of reference possible is that which was birthed in the Enlightenment that being that HUMAN reason, personal initiative, definition of justice, and ethics are essentially issues that relate to personal (or individual) fulfillment.  If there is NO ultimate meaning in the universe beyond the material, then the only choice we have is to deify ourselves (thus setting up a clash of perceived knowledge and expertise of competing self-interests are postured to rule the culture).  Now, there are a multitude of “offshoots” of a Non-Theistic worldview, offshoots that have “labels” that I don’t necessarily see as helpful in this discussion.  All I do know is that with the emergence of Post-Modernity (which has accelerated non-theism as a worldview) there has been an increasing movement of disruption and deconstruction of people’s life frame of reference that has anything to do with God.  People and culture are much more apt to look to themselves (Individualism, Narcissism or Moral relativism), what they own (aka “consumerism”), a sense of collective (sometimes known as “Nationalism” but nationalism individualistically defined), “groupism” (political parties, political philosophies, race differentiation, etc.), existentialism (individual pursuit of meaning through human passions), etc. 

Now for the kicker…the seemingly insane passion, panic, and distress for issues like Climate Disruption (aka Climate Change or Global Warming) or Neo-Darwinism (a modern evolutionary synthesis is a 20th-century union of ideas from several biological specialties which states that evolutionary theory is now dogmatic, indisputable fact…not only on a macro but primarily on a micro level – in other words, evolutionary theory is the new “doctrine” of how life is observed…if you don’t believe me, study how this issue to communicated in education – it is taught dogmatically) are primarily emotional reactions to that which proceeds from of a NON-Theistic worldview. 

Here’s my thesis – if your worldview is decidedly Theistic, your frame of reference in evaluating reality originates in an acceptance of the presence of a Creator or God that brought life into existence (whether through the big bang, evolutionary Creation theory or “pure” ex nihilo, out of nothing creation) and currently “resides,” protects, and placed natural laws in place to guide His Creation (I’m going to use a masculine pronoun here although the reader should understand that the word God or the concept of God is “asexual”…transcends the categories of human gender differentiation).  People of faith (theists) would be apt to use a biblical phrase, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1) as their frame of reference from which they trust and believe God to act in a manner consistent with His love for His creation. But that is not so for the non-theist.  The Non-Theist only has themselves as their frame of reference setting up the scenario that life is lived primarily from the perspective of competing self-interests.  Again, it is not that they are “bad” people it is simply that they have a completely different frame of reference from which to evaluate the world than the theist.  In fact, most Non-theists are essentially utopianists.  In other words, they have an absolute belief in the inherent goodness and infinite/infallible ability for humanity to make a perfect world (given the “right” thinking that, usually, they or their group possesses).  That is why, at least from my humble vantage point, the adherents of Climate Disruption (new politically correct term because warming or cooling or many of the other categories of evaluating what is occurring from their point of view is too restricting to the far-reaching changes to society that they want to make to curb their panic) and Neo-Darwinism AND a host of other issues, communicate to the world their passions with religious fervor for these issues primarily because they have a NON-Theistic frame of reference.  In other words, if you don’t have a God to look over the human journey you only have yourself, your own views (limited by virtue of a limited human condition) or your “group’s” view that you have agreed to impose on the rest of the population because you have, what you consider, the only right perspective.  It appears to me that those of us alive in these moments have witnessed the birth of a NEW religion of culture, that which was mentioned by the apostle Paul centuries ago when he made reference to the great “exchange” of worshipping the creation rather than the creator.  In other words, we see a vast “evangelistic movement” (observed regularly on news outlets and political systems) of those who blindly worship the earth and human potentiality to attain its own fulfillment and perfection.  If there is a bane to the world, from this perspective, it is the human being that is hurting or destroying its “god.”   And because of that, they (humans) must be stopped no matter the cost. 

Here’s the reality – IF a person has a Non-Theistic frame of reference (aka worldview) and ethical, moral, value oriented decisions or challenges face them they ONLY have individual, competing self-interests or “groupthink” from which to inspire action.  To make that sentence even clearer – when a person is a Non-Theist and issues arise which call for perspective and action, the only foundation from which a person acts is from the perspective of narcissism and/or a sense of groupthink, aka “majority rules.”  If a person doesn’t have Ultimate Moral Accountability to God then all they have in life is a battle of self-wills and individualistic directions.  Here’s how it comes down in reality, “if I can gather enough people to believe in what I believe and my group can become a majority voice in culture or a voice labeled as disenfranchised or a victim, we can change our world’s reality, values, morals, attitudes, etc. In other words, I (or me and my group) have to argue YOU out of the conversation because I’m (or we’re) either more enlightened, smarter, or more popular, or have specific evidence that proves I’m (we’re) more authoritative than you.  In addition, and we are especially seeing this in the Climate Disruption scenario, WE have gathered the MOST experts on our side to call “your side” irrelevant, idiotic or moronic because “everybody knows” that what we are seeing in indisputably right.  As long as the majority rules and that majority owns or controls the means of communication of broadly available information and/or has the political power to impose their will, that is PERFECTLY morally acceptable because THEIR RELIGION is their non-theism.

Now, this evaluation is on a blog post…so it is not comprehensive.  Even so, the issues of theism vs. non-theism and their implications on decisions and perspectives regarding ALL the issues we face in the world are profound.  For example, when I heard the President of the USA say the other day that it was our responsibility to pass on the nice weather we have enjoyed in our lifetimes on to our children and grandchildren, I thought I was living in some Twilight Zone.  Do we have responsibilities to steward the planet?  Absolutely!  Because that was, from a Theists perspective, what God wants.  But to be able to say that we can change the climate (that has been fluctuating for centuries) or that by controlling flatulence of mammals we can right the planet (when the very planet has been teeming with life, extraordinary and abundant and “flatulating” life since the beginning of time), or that the planet is more important than the human experience (which is the foundation of Earth Religion) is clearly an unmasking of the non-theists worldview.  For that reason and that reason alone I reject their assumptions.  Like I said, I want to care for the environment because that was one of the purposes of human creation (look it up in Genesis 1) but to propose that humanity can change the climates of the world just doesn’t add up to this theist.  Yes, scientific evidence is there for some of their theory…of course, since “the majority” now rules the communication threads of culture, they can purposely ignore what happens with other issues (like Neo-Darwinism) they can ignore that other evidence contradicts their findings.  Again, all non-theists do when persuading the masses is appeal to groupthink and “majority rules” paradigms.  Why?  Because that’s all they have as their frame of reference.

So, give that some thought…I know that this post is long, that cannot be prevented when you open up a “can of worms” like worldview.  A bit of explanation must occur within the context to set up a foundation of debate.  But for now, that’s where I stand on the issue – I’m appalled that human beings believe (that’s why I say the language of the Climate Disruption community and others of this ilk use religious language of belief and faith as they describe their point of view…but the bottom line in that they “believe” that they have the ability to change the universe.  Zealots for Climate Disruption have claimed that “we” will plunder the earth so that it falls off its axis, rotates faster/slower, kill all wildlife and almost ever other apocalyptic scenario you can imagine.  But of course, it completely makes sense from an individualistic, narcissistic perspective.  Once you believe that you are the center of the universe, you have no one that can really argue with you.  But that’s for another post!

Social Media “Enslavement”…yep, you read that right!

1social-media-dangersWalt Mueller is the Prez of the great organization, Center for Parent and Youth Understanding.  I've quoted him before and I recommend his website and ministry highly!  Walt has his finger on youth culture from a "theocentric" perspective…in other words, if your worldview is decisively influenced and informed by your faith in God, Walt's blog is for you!

Anyway, this post appeared on Walt's website this week.  I've editted it a bit to give you the gist of what he is saying.  In addition, another pal of mine pointed out a video that "preaches" the potential downfall of social media.  I know for me, these are the days that I'm seriously reflecting on how much time technology takes out of my life.  My problem is that I have an insatiable curiosity that the internet and instant information exposes and feeds.  What I find in my life is that my head is buzzing ALL THE TIME…and that's not good!  So, read the info below…reflect on it…pray on it…and then ACT ON IT!  

Social Media Enslavement. . . What I'm Going To Do. . . and a Challenge. . .

 As a regular part of our "No Parent Left Behind" seminar on youth culture, I pause and ask parents this question: "What concerns you most about today's youth culture?" It gives them a chance to talk in groups about the ways that youth culture has changed since they were going through adolescence themselves. I then ask someone from each group to verbalize a youth culture reality that causes concern.

Last night the conversation among a group of wonderful and engaged parents in Boulder, Colorado was weighted heavily towards the emerging world of social media. . . not at all surprising since the overwhelming majority of today's technology and social media wasn't even present just a few short years ago. It certainly wasn't a part of my growing up experience. The good news is that parents realize that social media and technology are not at all benign in their influence. This stuff matters because it shapes us in powerful ways. And because it matters, we need to make a matter of deep thought, discussion, and attention.

One young mom in last night's group raised her hand and asked this question: "So, is it ok that I don't put screens and smartphones in the hands of my young children?" I loved the question and I wish that more young parents would ask it. I believe she knew the answer already. But because she knew her best judgment would put both her and her kids at odds with the majority of their peers, she simply needed some affirmation.

These are the kinds of questions we always need to be asking. When media critic Marshall McCluhan stated that "first we shape our tools and then our tools shape us," he was sounding a warning that continues to fall on deaf. . . or maybe distracted. . . ears. This morning's Wall Street Journal  included an interesting piece on summer camps that require campers to unplug and take a kind of technology sabbath. That's good stuff. In recent weeks, I've seen a growing number of researchers and commentators suggesting that parents are spending too much time engaged with their screens and social media, all at the expense of focusing on what really matters. . . their kids. Not only are they ignoring their kids, but they're teaching their kids to grow up and do the same to their children.

On a personal level, I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I have a smart phone. I have a tablet. I have a computer. And there are times when I should be engaged with other people and other things that I'm far too engaged with my electronic screens. And while I might possibly be doing something valuable and beneficial, I'm also letting things that are usually more important slip. . . like engaging with other people and other things.

So. . . I've decided to lay out some rules. Initially, I thought they'd be great rules to pass on to parents, teachers, and teenagers themselves. Reality is, I can't pass them on unless I'm already gripping them tightly in my own hands. Here are the rules I'm going to enlist in my own life. I want to invite you to try them out as well. . . for a week maybe. . . and then let me know if you've seen any benefits.

1. Don't engage with your smartphone as long as you are present with and/or in conversation with real flesh and blood human beings. They deserve your full attention.

2. Don't bring your smartphone or screen of any kind to the table. Converse with others over the meal. . . using your eyes, your voice, your ears, and your full attention.

3. Don't sleep with your smartphone on or near your bed. Sleep. Rest. You need it. When you wake up, the world will still be there and you can tend to your business. And if by some chance the world is no longer there when you wake up. . . well, you won't need your phone anyway!

4. Make your family room a no-smartphone zone. When you come in the door to your house, put your phone down. Then, go to the room where your family gathers without that electronic distraction. Put that phone out of sight, and pretty soon it will be out of mind.

5. Don't engage with your phone while you're driving. You'll be doing your passengers and everyone else on the road a huge favor.

6. Take a social media Sabbath. God created us for a rhythm of work and rest. Take one day. . . Sunday maybe? . . and power down. No posts. No comments. No replies. Sure, you can carry your phone with you in order to stay in touch with and be available to family. But forget walk away from all that other smartphone stuff.

Now, here's that video!


Special Announcement for my friends in Monroe, WA – Summer Study – “How to Study the Bible”


Summer Bible Study Training


Sundays @ 8:45am to 9:45am beginning June 8th
Peace @ Monroe
Taught by Dr. Robin J. Dugall

Beginning on Sunday, June 8th @ 8:45am to 9:45am on Sunday mornings, Robin will teach a series of 10 sessions on HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE. Robin has been a biblical studies professor for the past 7 years teaching at Azusa Pacific University, Concordia University and Trinity Lutheran College. In addition, he teaches courses for the Mission Training Center of the Lutheran denomination.

This course is an introduction to the interpretation of the bible and will specifically train YOU to understand the bible in a deeper, more relevant and more practical manner.

After this course, you should be able to:

1. Recognize literary genres of the biblical text
2. Apply principles of detailed observation to a verse, paragraph, etc.
3. Determine word meanings within texts
4. Be able to access original language resources
5. Explain the role of the Holy Spirit in interpreting the bible
6. Understand the differences between translations of the bible
7. Understand the sources that led to the organization of the bible
8. Understand the role of context and historical background
9. Have FUN!
10. And recognize YOURSELF as a faithful and growing disciple handling and understanding God's Word.

Make sure you bring a BIBLE and a pencil for your study time. If you have a laptop computer that would be useful to you as well.

YOU DON'T NEED TO REGISTER OR ENROLL…just come on Sunday, June 8th and be ready to join the journey!

Remember, the course, "HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE" begins on Sunday, June 8th @ Peace in Monroe
(202 Dickinson St, Monroe) (email me if you plan to attend)