Monday, February 28, 2005

Shake Off The Dust From Your Feet

"They sang as they lifted the children into the ship. They sang old space chanteys and helped the children up the ladder one at a time and into the hands of the sisters. They sang heartily to dispel the fright of the little ones. When the horizon erupted, the singing stopped. They passed the last child into the ship.

The horizon came alive with flashes as the monks mounted the ladder. The horizons became a red glow. A distant cloudbank was born where no cloud had been. The monks on the ladder looked away from the flashes. When the flashes were gone, they looked back.

The visage of Lucifer mushroomed into hideousness above the cloudbank, rising slowly like some titan climbing to its feet after ages of imprisonment in the Earth.

Someone barked an order. The monks began climbing again. Soon they were all inside the ship.

The last monk, upon entering, paused in the lock. He stood in the open hatchway and took off his sandals. "Sic transit mundus," he murmured, looking back at the glow. He slapped the soles of his sandals together, beating the dirt out of them. The glow was engulfing a third of the heavens. He scratched his beard, took one last look at the ocean, then stepped back and closed the hatch.

There came a blur, a glare of light, a high thin whining sound, and the starship thrust itself heavenward." (Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle For Leibowitz, Fiat Voluntas Tua, 1959)

We grew up in the shadow of the very real possibility of nuclear warfare. As children we lived with the Red specter of the East haunting the outskirts of our otherwise safe and peaceful childhood. Our parents had just fought a long bloody war against a Nazi Germany and an Imperialistic Japan. We saw the black and white images of that war played across the grainy screens of our new TV's. But the Red menace of atomic warfare had no face we could see and focus on. Perhaps the sight of a silly old man at the UN pounding on the desk with his shoe was the closest personification we had of that threat. So we went through the 1950's and early 1960's. It would be another 30 some years before that Red specter collapsed under the weight of its own inconsistencies.

Of all the nuclear apocalyptic literature of that era, A Canticle for Leibowitz is in my mind the most profound and classic. It was one of the few Sci-Fi books I choose to keep in my library. After thirty some years, I recently read it again. I found it even more profound the second time around, and as an Evangelical Christian, I highly recommend it. Yes, Miller wrote with a Roman Catholic perspective, but the issues and questions he wrestles with in the Canticle are fundamental to all of Christian faith, and mankind as a whole.

In the above quote from the end of the Canticle, there is the allusion to the words of Christ in Matthew 10:14-15. To understand that allusion, you will need to know that the quotation above takes place around the year 3781 A.D., about 1800 years after the world had blown itself up in nuclear warfare, and in that carnage had relapsed back into another long dark age in which knowledge had been keep preserved in the monastery. Out of the ancient ashes of the 20th century, civilization has finally risen again only to once again self-destruct.

Come quickly Lord Jesus,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, February 26, 2005

On The Mechanical Solution to Spirituality: " is obvious that there is no mechanical solution to true spirituality or the true Christian life. Anything that has the mark of the mechanical upon it is a mistake. It is not possible to say, read so many chapters of the Bible every day, and you will have this much sanctification. It is not possible to say, pray so long every day, and you will have a certain amount of sanctification. It is not possible to add the two together and to say, you will have this big a piece of sanctification. This is purely a mechanical solution. The real solution is being cast up into the moment-by-moment communion, personal communion, with God Himself, and letting Christ's truth flow through me through the agency of the Holy Spirit."

(Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality: Chapter 7 - The Fruitful Bride )

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lines, Shades, and Forms - The Art of Henry Moore: Our local Sculpture Garden is hosting an exhibition of the works of British sculpture artist Henry Moore (1898-1986). Friday afternoon I went to the exhibition expecting once again to be baffled and befuddled by what has been to me the chaotic randomness and charade of abstract art and sculpture. I don't know if it's because I'm getting old or I am finally beginning to understand a little bit about modern art, but I found this exhibit more enjoyable then some others. But I think that was also due in part to the nature of Moore's work as presented in this exhibit.

In terms of sculpture, Moore combined landscape and the basic human form. He took his inspiration from the things around him in nature; a mountain cliffed coastline, the skull of an elephant, even leftover soup bones. His medium was more traditional in the sense he avoided the "welded scrap metal" look of other modern sculptors. He was still abstract in the sense that his forms were deliberately made with gaps and missing parts; a torso without a chest, incomplete legs, and under proportioned heads, all suggestive of a landscape where the subtleties of lines and forms incompletely mimic the reclined human form that was the focus of much of Moore's sculpture.

However, it was not so much the sculptures of Moore that caught my eye as it was his charcoal sketches. Moore believed that an artist could not be a good sculptor unless they were first good at drawing and sketching. He had little use for sculptors who could not or did not draw or sketch. Much of his own work started with sketches and drawings, not blueprints as such, but a rendering of the lines and shades that combined to make the form.

It was those lines and shades that caught my eye; lines and shades drawn in minute detail, put together composing a form recognizable as rock, hill, crevice, and cliff. I saw in those sketches a subtle nuance of shade and lines that was to me, just incredible. As good as his sculptures may be, I would gladly have some reproductions of some of those charcoal sketches hanging in my den or office.

For those of you who may be interested, here is a link to the Henry Moore Foundation. There are some pictures there of his sculpture work, but I didn't see any of his sketches there. If I come across some on the WWW, I'll add that link here.


~ The Billy Goat ~
The Content of Faith "Now we have spoken of faith, so let us pause here. Living in the second half of the twentieth century, we must keep on saying what faith is, in the biblical sense. Christian faith is never faith in faith. Christian faith is never faith without content. Christian faith is never a jump in the dark. Christian faith is always beleiving what God has said. And Christian faith rests upon Christ's finished work on the cross".

(Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality: Chapter 7 - The Fruitful Bride )

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Risk of Faith:

"...others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us, they should not be made perfect."
(Hebrews 11:36-40, NASB)

"The walk of faith is a risky path." - Ollie Goad

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

When I am Weak:
Why we must embrace our brokenness and never be good Christians

by Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk

"...Why are we, after all that confident talk of "new life," "new creation," "the power of God," "healing," "wisdom," "miracles," "the power of prayer," ...why are we so weak? Why do so many "good Christian people," turn out to be just like everyone else? Divorced. Depressed. Broken. Messed up. Full of pain and secrets. Addicted, needy and phony. I thought we were different.

It's remarkable, considering the tone of so many Christian sermons and messages, that any church has honest people show up at all. I can't imagine that any religion in the history of humanity has made as many clearly false claims and promises as evangelical Christians in their quest to say that Jesus makes us better people right now. With their constant promises of joy, power, contentment, healing, prosperity, purpose, better relationships, successful parenting and freedom from every kind of oppression and affliction, I wonder why more Christians aren't either being sued by the rest of humanity for lying or hauled off to a psych ward to be examined for serious delusions.

Evangelicals love a testimony of how screwed up I USED to be. They aren't interested in how screwed up I am NOW. But the fact is, that we are screwed up. Then. Now. All the time in between and, it's a safe bet to assume, the rest of the time we're alive. But we will pay $400 to go hear a "Bible teacher" tell us how we are only a few verses, prayers and cds away from being a lot better. And we will set quietly, or applaud loudly, when the story is retold. I'm really better now. I'm a good Christian. I'm not a mess anymore. I'm different from other people.

What a crock. Please. Call this off. It's making me sick...." (Complete article found here.)

[Spencer's article is a call to realism and honesty regarding who and what we are even as Christians; in other words, a call to be authentic in our Christianity. This article should be "required reading" in every seminary, Bible college, pulpit, and adult Sunday school class.

Sola Deo Gloria, ~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Virtue of Unoriginality
By Mark Galli, Christianity Today, April 1, 2002

[What is the "emergent church"? It was in doing some research on that question that I came across this article. Of particular importance is the assertion the author makes that real lasting change comes not so much from wrestling with culture, modern or postmodern, but wrestling with Scripture. For the complete article, click on the link above. Sola Scriptura, ~ The Billy Goat ~]

"A new reformation—at least an attempt at one—is brewing. "Doesn't the religious community see that the world is changing?" plead the new reformers. They say the culture is being transfigured by postmodernism. They say the church is stuck in the modern era. They conclude that the church must become postmodern or die...

"Doesn't the religious community. … have anything fresh and incisive to say? Isn't it even asking any new questions? Has it nothing to offer other than the stock formulas that it has been offering? Is there not a Saint Francis or Søren Kierkegaard or C. S. Lewis in the house with some fresh ideas and energy?"

McLaren's plea is typical of postmodern reformers. Indeed, their passion is admirable, and their cultural analysis is keen. But I fear they would merely slap a coat of paint on a sagging building whose foundation needs attention. They would do well to take lessons from the very people they say they admire.

C. S. Lewis, for example, was uninterested in "saying something fresh." His prologue to The Problem of Pain is typical: "I have believed myself re-stating ancient and orthodox doctrines. If any parts of the book are 'original,' in the sense of being novel or unorthodox, they are against my will and as a result of my ignorance."...

...Kierkegaard's scathing critique of his church culture was based not on his take on how "the world was changing" (though as a leading philosopher of his day, he would very well have known how it was changing). Instead, he looked backward. He weighed the church's shortcomings against what he called "original Christianity." In a very typical passage, he asked, "How many are able to say they are truly Christians in the New Testament sense, or that their lives are even close to resembling those of the first disciples?"...

Francis lived in an era of profound church corruption—popes and bishops waging war in the name of Jesus, accruing wealth and political power, winking at dalliances with mistresses and prostitutes. But Francis spent little time wrestling with these "data." Instead he grappled with the teachings of Jesus—especially his injunctions about poverty (what Francis called "apostolic poverty"). He so patterned his life on Jesus' teachings that many refer to him as "the second Christ."

In fact, nearly every agent of church renewal began by comparing the church or himself not with intellectual and cultural trends but with the faith of the ages, particularly with biblical teaching...

Postmodern reformers have many wise things to say, but I fear they will never be able to produce a "new kind of Christian." The bulk of A New Kind of Christian wrestles with culture and church, and implies that by such analysis, a new kind of Christian will begin to emerge. But there is no deep engagement with Scripture in the book. Scripture is only referenced, and often as a proof text for a larger cultural argument (at least it feels like this to me)."
Random Musings: In our part of Michigan, we are enjoying the February thaw. Temperatures are getting up in the high 40's, and the snow cover is slowly melting. Today the sun was shining, and I enjoyed being outside in the relative warmth with my grandson. I know we will have more cold and snow before we're done, but the days continue to get longer and we're through almost half of February already.

This past few weeks at work we've had one of those projects that from the very start seemed to be intent on self-destruction. There was one obstacle after another, and it seemed we continued to stumble from one crisis to another. In the end it all came together, and product was rolling off the line.

Early on in this project I had a "Chicken Little" episode. The logical, rational, "Spock" side of the brain was saying we would work through things, one problem at a time, finding reasonable and workable solutions. The "Chicken Little" side of my brain was saying, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" The only relief and resolution from that emotional stress was to take all those feelings and thoughts to the LORD; crying out to Him for help and mercy. And He did... To Him be glory!

Over this past week I've contemplated several projects for blog articles. I want to post some more Francis Schaeffer quotes from True Spirituality. There is also a word study I got into when preparing to teach the men's Bible study this coming week. As time permits, and the LORD wills, those projects will be published here.

On another note, just today we had an e-mail from old friends we've not heard from in many years. It is always a joy to reconnect with those you've thought of and prayed for from time to time over the years.

I want to say a word about the Francis Schaeffer quote now appearing at the top of these pages. If there is one thing I want to work for, if there is one thing I want to see in myself and in others, and in those of you who happen to come by ~ The Billy Goat Blog ~, it is that we would embrace and practice true Biblical spirituality; the kind of true spirituality Schaeffer has Biblically defined and articulated. It is in the practice of that true spirituality that we will then more and more reflect the image of Christ Himself.

" whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

In His love and joy,

~ The Billy Goat ~

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Francis Schaeffer on Justification and Sanctification:

"In justification the basis is the finished work of Jesus Christ; in sanctification it is the finished work of Christ. In justification we must see, acknowledge, and act upon the fact that we cannot save ourselves. In sanctification we must see, acknowledge, and act upon the fact that we cannot live the Christian life in our own strength, or in our own goodness.

In justification the instrument by which we receive the free gift of God is faith, which believes God as he has given us his promises in the Bible. In sanctification the instrument by which we receive the free gift of God is faith, which believes God as he has given us his promises in the Bible. It is exactly the same thing. There is one difference between the practice of justification and sanctification. As justification deals with our guilt, and sanctification deals with the problem of the power of sin in our lives as Christians, justification is once for all, and the Christian life is moment by moment. There is this a difference in that one deals with the guilt of my sin, and the other deals with the power of sin in my life.

If we are Christians, we have understood and acted upon the finished work of Christ once for all at our justification, and our guilt is gone forever. Now let us understand and act upon the practice of that same work moment by moment in our present lives.

Let me repeat: the only difference in the practice is that in justification it is once for all, and the Christian life is lived moment by moment. The Christian life is acting moment by moment on the same principle, and in the same way, as I acted at the moment of my justification." (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, Chapter 7: The Fruitful Bride)

Secondarily to the Bible itself, I consider True Spirituality to be among the most important and influential books in my own life. I first read True Spirituality years ago, and for many years it collected dust on my shelf. A few years ago I read it again and realized Schaeffer was articulating many conclusions and thoughts about the Christian life that, over the years, I was coming to see more clearly. Whatever I did or did not understand when I first read True Spirituality many years ago, Biblical seeds were planted that, unknown to myself, over those years were bearing fruit in my mind, heart, and life.

Sola Deo Gloria,

~ The Billy Goat ~
Quote on Discipleship: "It is one of the major transitions of life to recognize who has taught us, mastered us, and then to evaluate the results in us of their teaching. This is a harrowing task, and sometimes we just can't face it. But it can also open the door to choose other masters, possibly better masters, and one Master above all." (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, Chapter 8: On Being a Disciple, or Student of Jesus)

Friday, February 04, 2005

New Report On Saudi "Hate Publications" In America: "(Freedom House) Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom has released a new report exposing the dissemination of hate propaganda in America by the government of Saudi Arabia.

The 89-page report, "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques," is based on a year-long study of over two hundred original documents, all disseminated, published or otherwise generated by the government of Saudi Arabia and collected from more than a dozen mosques in the United States...

...Various Saudi government publications gathered for this study, most of which are in Arabic, assert that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping them in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations;

The documents promote contempt for the United States because it is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. They condemn democracy as un-Islamic;

The documents stress that when Muslims are in the lands of the unbelievers, they must behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines...

Regarding those who convert out of Islam, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs explicitly asserts, they "should be killed;"

Saudi textbooks and other publications in the collection, propagate a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim's duty is to eliminate the state of Israel;

Regarding women, the Saudi publications instruct that they should be veiled, segregated from men and barred from certain employment and roles;..." (Religion Journal)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Will the real Joel Osteen please stand up... Respected Evangelical Pastor of a Texas mega-church? Popular Christain speaker and writer? Or purveyor of a message so watered down, it's hardly recognizable as the Christian Gospel, and thus becomes no gospel at all? Who is the real Joel Osteen?

Mike Spencer at InternetMonk is on a campaign to Out Joel Osteen. Mike also is challenging the Evangelical Blogosphere to join in the expose'. Spencer is not just ranting and raving. He has links to a number of articles where Joel Osteen in his own words, or lack of words as the case may be, speaks for himself. In pondering some of those interviews, I found myself asking if Osteen would even confess to those fundamental doctrines as articulated in the Apostle's Creed. Maybe he would, but you would not necessarily know it from what he says in those interviews. Don't take my word for it. Check out the resources Spencer has made available, and draw your own conclusion.

I've always been skeptical of the "mega-church self-esteem" stuff, so it's easy for me to be skeptical of Osteen right from the get-go. What's scary is Osteen's own words play down some fundamental gospel truths. Where is the preaching of the cross, Joel? Where is the preaching of Christ crucified that is a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others? (I Corinthians 1:22-24)

Solo Christo,

~ The Billy Goat ~