Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Priesthood - part 2

A few months ago, I shared the idea that God never intended to ever have a priesthood - where human beings stood between Him and His people. Such systems are always based on paganism, and any church or religion that insists that it is necessary to have a priest stand between humans and God are engaging in anti-Christ methods. We are all priests, Peter tells us (1 Peter 2:9), and Jesus is our High Priest (check out the whole book of Hebrews).

So when we insist that we must go to another human being and have them intercede on our behalf with God, we are not only denying the priesthood of all believers, but we are engaging in anti-Christ behavior. We are saying that His mediation is not sufficient.

I came across something interesting this morning in my devotional time that further supplemented this idea. I just happened to be going over this idea again in the Bible, and I noticed that in Exodus 19:22, God instructed Israel to "let the priests who come near the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them." I was a bit confused by this idea because this instruction was given before Israel told Moses to speak to God for them, and before God evidently relented and set up the priesthood in Exodus 28. It was my contention that God only allowed for a priesthood in Exodus 28 because Israel wouldn't talk to Him themselves in Exodus 20. But here we see, in Exodus 19, that apparently there was already a priesthood.

But I was amazed to discover that prior to Exodus 19, the only mention of the word "priest" in Hebrew (cohen) is in reference to pagan priests. Joseph marries Asenath, who is the daughter of the priest of On (Gen 41:50); and Moses marries Zipporah, who is the daughter of Jethro, priest of Midian (Exo 3:1). These two individuals are the only ones who are said to be priests, prior to Exodus 19, with the exception of one other person. Melchizedek, king of Salem, is said to be a priest (Gen 14:18), but Hebrews clearly shows that Melchizedek was a "type" of Christ (Heb 5:6).

Thus, what I am led to believe is that when God spoke of priests in Exodus 19:22, He was talking about pagan priests. Israel must have had their own pagan priests, and this is why God was very specific about these priests consecrating themselves before approaching Him, "lest the Lord break out against them."

What is even more interesting is what I also overlooked in my previous post. When Peter announced in his first epistle that we are all priests, he wasn't coming up with anything original. Exodus 19:6 already announced this. There, when God first leads Israel to Sinai and is trying to reassure them of His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He says to them, "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." Thus, right from the beginning, God indicated to them that He wanted all of them to be their own priests. He wanted to come to the people directly. But, of course, they would hear nothing of it, and it took some 1400 years for God to finally bring them back around to the reality that He wanted to fellowship with them directly.

Sadly, the "priesthood" of all believers only lasted for a couple of hundred years, at best, and then it went into hiding again until the Reformation. But I wonder if it has gone into hiding again since the Reformation. A book I am reading, Pagan Christianity?, certainly has me thinking along these lines.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And the least religious state is. . . .

I frequently get into "discussions" with individuals about the most secular/least religious parts of the country. I, of course, maintain that New England is, while many others claim that the Northwest is. Well, Gallup has put all that to rest - at least for now. The least religious states, according to Gallup, are (in order): Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. These are the only states where fewer than 50% of those polled expressed that religion was important in their every day life.

Below is a map of the results. To read my opinion as to why New England is so secular, read this post of mine from a few months back: Why Art Thou Secular, Ye Olde New England?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Reading List

I thought I would share my reading aspirations for 2009. So here is a list of the books that I have already started reading, or I am hoping to read in 2009. Perhaps you've read some of them or are currently reading them. And maybe you'd like to tell me not to waste my time (of course, I own all of these books, so I am probably going to be reading them anyway). Whatever your thoughts are, please feel free to share any feedback.

Currently Reading:
Pagan Christianity? Frank Viola & George Barna
Prayer, O. Hallesby
Life in the Son, Robert Shank
Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright
Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
Agape and Eros, Carsten Johnsen
Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe
The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs
Einstein, Walter Isaacson
A Passion for Souls: The Life of Dwight L. Moody, Lyle W. Dorsett
The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, Ellen G. White

Perhaps you've noticed, like I have, that I am reading a lot of books at one time. And maybe that's why I take a long time to finish them. So maybe I'll just focus on these before I jump on to these next ones. But, the problem is, when one looks so interesting, it's hard for me not to start into it.

Plan to Read:
Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren
The Universe Next Door, James Sire
Why I Am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell
The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Understanding Intelligent Design, William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, Eric Metaxas
Jesus Among Other Gods, Ravi Zacharias
The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, George Knight
Seeking a Sanctuary, Malcolm Bull & Keith Lockhart
Here We Stand, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, ed.
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman
John Adams, David McCullough
The Reason for God, Timothy Keller
I Sold My Soul on eBay, Hemant Mehta

Florida Bound

I don't know if I have any readers in Florida (besides my lovely sister and her husband), but if there are any, I would love to see you this weekend at Camp Kulaqua, where I will be speaking for a Prayer Conference. I will be speaking for the Youth on Friday night and Sabbath morning, and then doing a seminar in the afternoon for the adults. At least that's what they're telling me . . . .

Below is the flier for the weekend.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What to Do With Illegally Downloaded Music

For some people, this post may seem so absurd, so ridiculous, so silly, that you may not see the relevance of it. In fact, many of you may think I am downright foolish. But this is a case into modern ethics - when we don't have a "thus saith the Lord." And I'm looking for your insight.

For quite some time now I have been convicted about all the music I have downloaded during my lifetime that has not been secured through iTunes or uploaded from CDs that I have bought. You know what I'm talking about. About five years ago or so I stopped acquiring music through these other means. For some reason or another, I finally realized that I couldn't in good conscience download music without paying for it. No matter how much I tried to justify it or come up with excuses as to why it was perfectly fine, I couldn't get around the fact that I was getting something for free that I otherwise should be paying for.

I'm sure you've heard the excuses or uttered them yourself: "The music industry is so greedy and making so much money anyway." "It's not really illegal." "No one ever complained about copying music when it was just cassette tapes, so why should it be any different now with mp3s?" "If my brother buys a CD, shouldn't he have the right to share it with whomsoever he chooses?" "I used to record music from the radio onto tapes and no one every complained. How is this any different?" "It's not like I am trying to make money off these copied mp3s, and selling them to other people." And on and on it goes. You name an excuse, and I've probably used it in my mind.

Of course, as I said, I gave all this up when my conscience took over. Now, if I download a song, I go to iTunes and pay my 99 cents for it. 

But this is where my dilemma lies: in the last year or so it all of a sudden dawned on me that, even though I am now downloading music by "legal" means, I still have quite a few songs in my library that were not secured by such means. And, just because I am now doing it the "righeous" way, this doesn't change the fact that I still have "stolen goods" on my hands. To make it a little more tangible: just because I might be buying shirts now, it doesn't make it all right for me to have a whole drawer full of stolen shirts, which I wear regularly. 

Now, some may argue that when it comes to creative "property" it is a little more challenging to regulate. After all, one shirt is one shirt, and if someone can find a way to copy that shirt without buying another one, well, then all the more power to him. So long as he is not selling those shirts to someone else then it is perfectly fine. 

But this is not the case with creative property. The laws of the land declare that if a person writes a song, a book, or whatever, then people cannot copy or use that piece of creativity without paying for it, or getting permission from the creator.

Another excuse that I've come up with is that much of the music I downloaded was before it was clear that downloading music without paying for it was clearly wrong. It seems as though there was quite a while, when the mp3 format came out, that people weren't sure if it was wrong to procure music this way. Thus, I can say that I downloaded a lot of it out of ignorance. 

But the problem is, the Bible doesn't necessarily excuse "sins of ignorance." Though a person may very well have done something wrong without knowing it, or not meaning any ill-will by it, they were still expected to make amends for the wrong that was done (see Numbers 15:27-29).

And so I am left wondering what I should do about the music I have in my library that I didn't pay for. Clearly I feel the conviction to make restitution. You may not feel that same conviction about this matter, but this is something that has pricked my conscience over and over again the last year or so. And so this morning, I finally went through my library and made a list of all the songs I did not buy (which is roughly 17% of my library). It's amazing how easy it is to remember which songs I got legitimately, and which songs I did not - even if I got those songs eight or nine years ago.

But now I'm not sure what to do. There are a number of scenarios that have gone through my mind:
  1. I simply delete all the music that I've downloaded illegally and call it a day. This doesn't seem to be a good way of making restituation, though. The individuals I have wronged and withheld money from are none the better for this route.
  2. I go on iTunes and legitimately purchase all of the songs that I have downloaded illegally in the past, thus putting money into the pockets that I have taken from. This, to me, seems like the easiest and most reasonable solution. However, there are a few problems that arise in my mind: should I still enjoy the music that I have taken? What about the reality that I downloaded a lot of this music before there ever was an iTunes and songs could be purchased for 99 cents? The only way I could have legitimately procured those particular songs back then would have been to buy the whole CD. Thus, it seems as though I am still not fully restoring what I have taken. And what about those artists that don't even have their music on iTunes?
  3. God seems to have instructed the Children of Israel to add "one-fifth" to whatever they had stolen from people (Lev 6:4, 5). Should I not at least do the same? Zacchaeus, of course, went above and beyond that and restored anything he had taken "four-fold" (Luke 19:8). This is especially remarkable considering the fact that Zacchaeus, serving as a tax collector for the Roman government, was allowed by Roman law to take whatever he could get from people, so long as he got at least the minimum for taxes. Should I not follow his example - thus paying at least $3.96 for any songs I might have? And what about interest? And if I do that, should I still keep the songs? Certainly when Zacchaeus returned money to people he had cheated, he didn't still enjoy the benefits of that money.
  4. Maybe I should write a check and send a letter to each music company, admitting my fault and making things right with them. Not only will they get their money, but they might also be touched by the sincerity of someone who is trying to make things right. Of course, I am not so sure that these people will so much as bat an eyelash as they are going to the bank to deposit the $2-3 that I am returning to them. Still, should their potential reaction change my behavior?
As you can see, I have put quite a bit of thought into this issue. And perhaps you are thinking I'm making a big deal out of it. Maybe I am. Maybe all God wants from me is a sincere and good-faith effort to try to make restitution for my downloaded music. But I'm not sure.

Others may think I am spending way too much time pulling my hair out over this matter, or that I am being very legalistic. But doesn't God's goodness lead us to repentance, and part of that repentance is seeking to make restitution for ways that we have wronged people?

Perhaps you can set me straight.

*As an added bonus of looking through my whole library, I was able to see all the songs and music that I probably shouldn't have anyway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Sola Scriptura is Self-Refuting

Taken at face value, the idea of sola scriptura is self-refuting and even unbiblical. I realize that I am not offering anything original by making such a statement, but this idea has kind of been developing in my mind as of late (influenced, in part, by an article I happened to stumble across by Tim Crosby in Ministry magazine from October, 1987, available here).

Taken at face value, sola scriptura implies that the scriptures, and the scriptures alone, serve as our rule of faith. We live solely and only by the scriptures. We do not allow for anything outside the Bible to influence how we live or what we believe. But, as I said, the phrase sola scriptura is itself self-refuting because no such statement is ever made in the Bible, nor even hinted at. In fact, places like Psalm 19:1, which says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork," seem to imply something altogether different.

It was the Protestant reformers who made sola scriptura their foundational creed. Attempting to neutralize the Catholic practice of Apostolic tradition and a sort of sensus fidei (sense of faith), the reformers sought to return to the Bible alone to determine how they were to live. What they did not wish to imply is that science is therefore irrelevant, for example, or that history cannot teach us lessons.

The truth is, practically speaking, nobody that I know of practices sola scriptura, literally speaking. Just this morning, when I was interacting with a friend of mine who belongs to another community of faith, and I teased him about eating cheese, he said, "Which text tells us that we shouldn't eat cheese?" I responded, "The same text that tells us not to smoke." He conceded the point (though I doubt he feels convicted to give up cheese!) It is absurd to suppose that God does not continue to reveal truth to us that moves beyond what the Bible has already revealed. Very few of us would brush our teeth in the morning (or night, or whenever we do it) if we strictly adhered to sola scriptura.

Some may think it is kind of silly to even have this type of discussion. Of course we allow for outside witnesses beyond the Bible to determine how we live. But the discussion may not be all that silly. After all, such a "fundamentalist" attitude toward scripture and revelation can cause a somewhat condescending attitude towards nature and science, for example. Or it may close our minds towards the idea that, perhaps, God has revealed Himself explicitly to individuals after the Canon of scripture was closed (Ellen White, anyone?).

But there is caution, of course, and that is why we might be better off taking a prima scriptura approach. That is, we judge everything against the Bible, but allow for other avenues to determine how we should live. Yes, we take into account science, tradition, further revelations, but we do not accept anything that directly contradicts the Bible - and I emphasize "directly" because we may discover things in science, for example, that contradict behaviors that even Jesus engaged in, but that are not necessarily mandated in scripture. So, if we discover that eating lamb isn't the healthiest thing in the world to do, we can't necessarily go to Jesus' example at eating the passover lamb and say, "See, Jesus ate it, so we should too." Nowhere does Jesus give a command to do anything of the sort and so we are not to make it a rule to live by in our own experience. The Bible doesn't say that Jesus brushed His teeth, either, but this shouldn't lead us to believe that brushing our teeth is not important.

On the other hand, when it comes to something like practicing a homosexual lifestyle, for example, and modern psychology proposes that it is perfectly normal to practice such a lifestyle because a person's sexual orientation is "neutral," and therefore perfectly acceptable and even good to indulge, we have to reject such a notion because it directly contradicts normative and prescriptive statements in scripture (see 1 Cor 6:9, Lev 20:13, etc.).

Anyway, you get the idea, I hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Excuse My Politics

It seems to me that every time I even hint at talking about anything in the political arena, someone gets upset. This is especially true if I am sarcastic about the political process, or someone in that process. Others may be far more passionate about the whole affair than I am, and they inevitably get upset when I do not approach the subject with the same amount of fear and reverance. Please forgive me. It's just that I have grown a little cynical over the whole game.

Truth be told, I think we spend way too much time talking about politics; especially those of us who call ourselves Christian - be we of the "red" or "blue" or - what color do you get when you mix blue and red? I never went to Kindergarten - variety. Yes, we should be responsible and vote and do what we can as citizens, but have we forgotten that Christ said His kingdom was "not of this world"?

My views on politics are forever changing. I first registered as a Democrat and shocked my whole family. Then I moved to Vermont and learned my lesson. Now that I'm in New Hampshire, I've taken up permanent residence in the Independent "party," just like the other 40% in this state. I guess I'm in the right place.

I get tired of politics. Who really knows who is telling the truth? Both sides just fling mud at the other side, and nobody really knows where the truth lies. More than likely it resides on neither side. There is also incredible hypocrisy. Republicans cry out that there is a double-standard in the "mainstream" media towards Democratic candidates, all the while the same can be said for those on the right. Both sides are guilty of hypocrisy. And that leaves me listening to Bill O'Reilly - all kidding aside.

What also bothers me is the passion that so many clergymen put into this subject. Many openly support and endorse a political candidate - something I thought was illegal. If we spent as much time working on growing God's kingdom as we did pushing our political agendas, I think a lot more good could be accomplished. Don't get me wrong. I think there can be Martin Luther Kings and William Wilberforces and Abraham Lincolns - men who used politics to bring about wonderful change - but those types of individuals are few and far between. The majority of politicians are looking for face-time and approval ratings and making a names for themselves. Thus, I am cynical.

So this is probably the last thing I will say on this subject on my blog. You can find plenty of other pastors who are more than willing to give you their opinion on politics. This is not that blog. But, for the record, to those who are interested, this is where I stand politically on certain issues. Then, we'll leave it at that, and I will go on doing what I have been called - and get paid - to do. (If you feel inclined to respond to this post, please remember that you probably care more about this subject - and know more about it - than I do.)
  • I think individuals should be more responsible for what happens to their money than the government.
  • I find it repulsive that "progressives" would rather spend other people's money than their own. It's rather telling that "conservatives" give a lot more to charities than "secular-progressives."
  • I believe the United States still has a racism problem and I agree that many blacks are discriminated against.
  • I am for gay rights, but not gay "marriage."
  • I don't believe in the death penalty.
  • I am pro-life.
  • I don't believe in war, in theory, but wonder what it would be like to speak German.
  • I am agnostic when it comes to immigration, but find it arrogant and elitist to presume that we have some god-given right to this land. This T-Shirt kind of sums up my feelings on this subject.
  • I think the "Christian Right" needs to cool it.
  • I am not sure that polution equals climate change, but do believe we have been called to be stewards of this earth and that we should do a better job of taking care of creation. However, I don't think trees are more important than people.
  • I believe there should be a Fair Tax.
As always, I have the right to change my mind about any of these things. And to reiterate my previous point: since I am not called to be a politician, I don't care to get all that passionate about this discussion. If something offends you, I apoligize. It was not my intention to do so. And if you want to disagree with something I said, go for it. That's your perogative. But I have not listed my views to get into a debate. I am not going on the campaign trail for any of these things. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Soft Porn is All Right

All right. I'll ask: what causes otherwise nice Christian young ladies to participate in soft pornography? I was on Myspace today (perhaps that's part of my problem), and I needed a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit to refrain me from clicking on a thumbnail picture that a friend of mine had posted. It was a picture of her and two other girls, standing on the beach in bikinis. Don't take this too far, but gazing upon such a picture would not have been good for my spirituality.

And I'm afraid that many young ladies don't understand this. It's not that all men are sexually-addicted animals. It's just that we were created to appreciate the beauty of females to a level that is not reciprocated in the female gender towards males. As Carsten Johnsen notes:
I am not saying one single disparaging word about the natural beauty in a woman's body. It certainly is not Eros who has had anything to do with creating that. The Creator's name is Jesus Christ, and He is Agape. It is not Eros who has made sex a pleasant experience, any more than he has made strawberries taste delicious. It is God, and God only, who has prepared all things that are good - really good. It is He who has invented feminine beauty (Agape and Eros, p. 40).
To put it simply: man was designed by God to be attracted to the female body when he sees it, much the same way he is supposed to be attracted to the taste of strawberries. The problem arises when he sees too much of a female's body that does not "belong" to him. And in this day and age of maximum exposure - even among those inside the church - where women leave very little to the imagination, males are being bombarded with images that he has been created to naturally respond to.

I was talking with a female church member of mine a few months ago who has a burden for this particular issue. She recalled that at a previous church she attended, there was a woman who attended who was extremely modest. She would even get embarrased if her long skirt happened to blow up a little bit because of the wind. To the utter surprise and shock of my church member and her husband, one day when they all went to the beach for a church picnic, they saw this same lady, dressed in a fairly immodest bathing suit, and on the shoulders of the head elder, playing a game of "chicken."

There seemed to be a huge disconnect. An otherwise modest Christian woman threw off all restraint, simply because she was at the beach. And many women who would not be caught dead walking around in their lingerie with other church members visiting, all of a sudden break out the bikinis when it is beach day.

Interestingly, there is a quiet "modesty revolution" that is taking place among some young ladies - even those in the secular world. I heard just such an idea on NPR last year, when they were interviewing a few people who have written books about girls who have "gone mild." Instead of exposing themselves to the world, they now understand that they do not need to flaunt their bodies to find worth in the world's eyes.

Perhaps this post seems startingling, and if you're female, maybe it makes about as much sense as claiming there are cows on the moon. But I think it would be better for everyone if we raised the necklines, covered up more when we went to the beach, and asked ourselves what our brother's thoughts are turned toward when we show a little skin. This is not legalism. It's acting within the context of love. If we are to be perfect in love, we should ask ourselves, while getting dressed in the morning, "Is this tight shirt going to keep my male coworkers or friends' minds pure, or is it going to cause them to stumble? Is this short skirt going to be a stumbling block to my boyfriend, my boss, my pastor?"

Ladies, you have a responsibility towards us, just as we have a responsibility towards you - to protect your emotional wellbeing and treat you as more than simply a pretty face. No, we are not exonerated of any responsibility, simply because we may take particular notice of a woman who walks by in a miniskirt and a tight shirt, but it would go a long way in helping us if you loosened up the tight clothes, and covered up the skin. And we're not talking about going all Muslim on us, by wearing a hijab. We're just talking about using common sense.

"Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, lest I make my brother stumble" (1 Cor 8:13). Likewise, if what you wear - or don't wear - causes your brother to stumble, maybe you should think twice about wearing it, and certainly pause before uploading a picture of it onto Myspace or Facebook.

*Update: To listen to the NPR program mentioned above, click here.

Atheist Says that Africa Needs God

Matthew Parris is an atheist who believes God has a place. Having grown-up in present-day Malawi, he has come to the realization that God is good for Africa. His reflections are shared in Britain's Times Online. His honesty is a breath of fresh air. Pride does not prevent him from recognizing the value of Christianity in Africa.

"The Christians were always different," he says. "Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall."

He finishes the article by saying, "Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete." It would be well for us to take note of this atheist's warnings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Than Semantics

What we say is extremely important. Ideas are important. And how we say what we say, and express our ideas, is also important. Many would like to downplay ideas, downplay theology, downplay Orthodoxy. To do so, however, would be to the peril of our souls.

One of my church members e-mailed me something a few weeks ago that I just finally had a chance to look at yesterday. My initial reaction was a bit standoffish and I was tempted to discount it immediately. But then I got to thinking about it in relation to some things that I had already been thinking about, and part of me wants to give the concepts some more thought, while another part of me wonders where we draw the line.

The member is concerned - justifiably so, in my opinion - about some of the "compromise" that is creeping into our church. He is concerned that many "New Age" ideas, among others, are finding their way into our "conversations." One of the examples he gave is something that Eugene Peterson's Message translation utilizes when quoting the Lord's Prayer. Whereas most translations quote Jesus as saying something to the effect of "on earth, as it is in heaven," Eugene Peterson instead utilizes the allegedly-loaded phrase, "as above, so below." This, apparently, is a common phrase that was utilized within the Hermetic movement, which is based primarly upon the Hellenistic Egyptian writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. Today, the New Age movement has adopted it as one of their "slogans."

Like I said, my initial reaction is to quickly discount any connection. And perhaps I should leave it at that. After all, who knows if Eugene Peterson deliberately put the phrase in there, or whether it is just a coincidence, or some other explanation. Even if he did utilize this phrase, knowing full-well where it came from, are we to conclude that anyone who unwittingly reads it will automatically be set up to accept New Age ideas? This would be akin to reading, elsewhere, the phrase "Just do it," and supposing that reading such a phrase will necessarily lead me to buy a pair of Nikes.

Of course, as I said earlier, semantics are extremely important. And sometimes we may be opening ourselves up to influences we may not otherwise be open to.

This has been a burden of mine with some of our contemporary "praise songs." I fear that we are setting ourselves up to buy into some bad theology when we - almost mindlessly - repeat lines from choruses over and over again. Do we actually give much thought to what we are singing?

I like to "exegete" such songs, and I happened to exegete the same song that N.T. Wright did a few months ago, which I mentioned here. After we sang the well-known contemporary hymn "In Christ Alone," Wright pointed out that instead of singing, "Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied," perhaps we should sing, "the love of God was satisfied."

My problem with this particular song is elsewhere, however. I will quote the last verse and see if you can identify some of the challenges in the theology:
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.
Did you catch it? The first six lines are problematic because they hearken heavily upon a Calvinistic predestination/once saved, always saved idea. Jesus "commands" my destiny? Nothing can pluck me from His hand? Yes, that line is taken from Jesus, Himself, but knowing the theological perspective of the songwriters - who have openly said in Christianity Today that they want their hymns to be faithful to Calvinistic teaching - they are definitely promoting the idea of once saved, always saved - that if Jesus has destined me to be saved, I can never lose that salvation. Even my choice cannot undo that.

More than that, what about the second to last line, which is even more overtly problematic? One little conjunction - "or" - calls the whole idea into question. Is Jesus' return, and calling us home, two separate and distinct events, as if being called home possibly takes place at a different time than the Second Coming? The conjunction "or" gives this impression, and were it changed to "and," there would be very little to worry about.

Interestingly, Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review, also made similar points about another song in an editorial a year or so ago. Are we setting ourselves up to accept certain winds of doctrine because we are unknowingly - or perhaps knowingly - regurgitating what popular Christianity and spirituality would like us to believe?

Of course, as I said before, how far do we want to take this? Can we really make a case that just because I read soemthing in a book, or sing it in a song, that I am necessarily going to subscribe to whichever philosophy that author is trying to establish? That's what I'm not completely sure of. I do believe that it is harder to keep bad theology/ideaology out when reciting it in song (as opposed to reading it in a book, where our logical and reasoning faculties are more intact),because there is a certain mindlessness and hypnotization that is taking place when we are influenced by not only words, but melody and rythm. But I am still grappling with the question beyond that.

This I do know: as I read in 1 Corinthians 10:12 this morning, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Many of us flatter ourselves into thinking that we can fend off the deceptions of the devil. After all, we are reasonable and logical people. We can analyze truth and error. But lest we think too much of ourselves, we constantly need to be falling upon the Rock - Jesus Christ - lest the devil deceive us in a way we are not expecting.