Monday, April 27, 2009

The Twofold Basis of Love

The relationship of love I have with my wife is based on two fundamental epistemological foundations.

First is the objective propositions I know about her. She is Nancy; not Karen or Lucy or Martha. And she is a very specific Nancy; not any of the other Nancys I have had acquaintance with through my life time. There are very specific objective propositions that define who she is and which set her apart from all other individuals. Or to put it another way, there are boundaries that uniquely define who she is in contrast to all others in the world. Those boundaries, of necessity, exclude all others from her uniqueness.

Second is the experiential (existential) relation that I have with her in the marital state that over our years together has resulted in the accumulation of a life time of shared intimate experiences which are not shared with anyone else; and which unite us together in way that was never imagined when we first spoke our vows to one another.

Take away either of these two fundamental foundations, and my marriage to her starts to become meaningless and empty. (In fact I will make so bold to say as an aside that in my observation many a divorce in our culture is a result of a break down at one or both of these foundations.)

It is no small thing that Paul compares the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman to the relationship Christ has with His people as constituted in the church.

I can only begin to know Jesus when I have both objective propositional truth about who He is, and a personal intimate (existential) relationship to Him.

Modernity wants me to rest on propositional truth alone. Post-modernity wants me to rest on existential experience alone. Biblical perspective requires me to resist both extremes, and be counter-cultural to both.

If either one of these foundations are taken away, then it becomes impossible to really know Jesus in any meaningful way. There is a specific Jesus to intimately know. That specificity in itself creates definition and that definition sets a boundary that excludes all others who would claim to be "Jesus".

The Bible talks about false Christs, so it is not just any “Jesus” I need to get to know or “move towards”. The assertion false Christs exist, demands a definition and boundary by which we know who the true Jesus is. That is the Jesus we are be in intimate relation with.

Do you "know" Him?


~ The Billy Goat ~

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

One Late Afternoon in April

You are on the campus of Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan. It is Spring Term, 1969. This is a true story.

It was a late Monday afternoon in the last week of April. Spring was in full bloom. After hibernating in the dorms all winter, we were reveling in soaking up the sun. The University grounds were now green in contrast to the depressing drabness of late winter. We could open our dorm room window and enjoy the warm breeze. Every once in a while someone would set their stereo speakers in their dorm window, put a favorite record on and crank it up loud. A few more weeks and the term would be over, and the campus would pretty well empty out for the summer.

It was time to go to work. I worked about 12 or so hours a week in the Wilson Hall cafeteria. Wilson Hall was one of the many dorms on the campus of our major state university. For this Sophomore year of my college life, it had been my home away from home.

This particular day I was scheduled to work the supper shift. As student employees, we would go in early and eat our own supper before the shift started. Then the dining room doors would be opened to the general dorm population.

I went up to the cafeteria kitchen area and got a tray of food. The full time cafeteria workers were busy in the kitchen finishing up the supper preparations. I took my filled tray out into the dining hall. Other of my fellow student employees were already there, including our student supervisor. Over the school year we had gotten to know one another, and had formed the kind of acquaintances one forms when rubbing elbows with one another at work and in our common student life as residents in the same dorm.

I sat down to eat, and tuned in to the conversation at the table. That was my first hint that not all was well, though the full import of the conversation did not dawn on me until latter. The table was abuzz with the news that three of the full time cafeteria workers had walked off the job. And it was no coincidence that all three who had walked off the job were Americans of African descent; in our cultural vernacular "blacks". It seems they were upset by certain actions and treatment by the cafeteria manager and also the assistant manager. One of the white part time female student workers made a comment about how this particular manager had an alleged reputation for being a little free with the women workers. Implied in that comment was the kind of alleged activity, which if proven true, would in future years get such a person fired for sexual harassment.

The table we were using was at the west end of the dining hall; the end closest to the kitchen area. The main public doors into the dining hall were at the east end. I happened to glance down that way. Through the windows of those east doors I saw black students milling around; some peeking in at us momentarily. That was a little odd, but then there always were some students who lined up at the dining hall door a little earlier then the opening time for supper. I turned back to my plate of food.


The doors suddenly banged open. We looked up to see a wave of black faced humanity surging towards us. I would not say they were angry faces as much as they were very sober and purposefully serious faces. We sat there quietly. I don't know if it can be said we were afraid as such. I think we were trying to comprehend what was happening.

They came on across the cafeteria, approaching our table. There was some shoving of tables and chairs, but nothing to indicate that the intent was to trash the property. The thought in my mind was they probably intended some kind of non-violent sit-in based on the model used in the Civil Rights movement of recent years. One of them, I assume he was one of the leaders, firmly but very politely asked us to leave. I distinctly remember that politeness, and my concluding from it that what was happening was indeed intended to be non-violent. We kind of glanced at one another, then the student supervisor told us to comply. I can only assume he purposed to avoid confrontation, and that in line with his responsibility for his and our safety, as well as the realization that what was happening would have to be handled at a much higher level then his.

We got up to leave. I do not remember if we took our trays with us or not. I have it in mind that we didn't. We went back through the kitchen area, and down the stairs to the first floor. The full time kitchen workers were down there also. Just about all of the full time workers were women, and many of them about the same age as my own mother or older. Of course at this point, the only full time workers gathered there with us were those who were Americans of European descent; in our cultural vernacular "white". Over the year as we had worked in the cafeteria, we had gotten to know some of them and would banter back and forth with them. I suppose to some degree some of them were like substitute mom's and grandma's to some of us.

One of these ladies, an older white haired lady was agitated. She was worried that up in the kitchen was a drawer full of knives, and she feared those knives would be taken by the blacks. I agreed to go back up and get the knives out of the drawer and bring them down. She told me exactly where the drawer was, and gave me an apron to wrap them in so they wouldn't be seen when I brought them out. I will leave it to you the reader to choose for yourself if what I was about to do was brave or foolish. For myself, in retrospect as you will see, it was neither.

Taking the apron in hand, I headed back up the stairs to the kitchen. At that point, no one else was in the area. I went to the drawer and opened it. I glanced up to see a black student walking across the other side of the kitchen. He glanced my way, said nothing, and kept right on walking to wherever it was he was going. I remember the glance. It was not threatening, an almost friendly look as though nodding to one another when meeting on the street.

I scooped up the knives into the apron and turned to leave. As I was turning, I inadvertently bumped a tray of dessert dishes. The dishes were filled with a fruit cocktail, and the tray had been set there as part of the supper preparations. One of the dishes fell off the tray.


I was a little stunned and thought, "Boy am I in for it now!" Then a voice called out from over on the other side of the kitchen. I didn't see the speaker, and I don't remember the exact words, but the clear meaning was, "Hey! None of that! No busting things up!"

I headed back down the stairs thinking how ironic it was that the only property damage done in this whole affair was not done by any of the blacks, but me, the white guy breaking the dish. Once back downstairs, I delivered the knives to a much relived and thankful, dear little old white haired lady.

At that point there was nothing more for us to do, The Black Student Association held the cafeteria, and no supper was going to be served there on this late afternoon in April.


The Assistant cafeteria manger went home that night and never returned to work.

A day or so latter, a hearing was held where the three full time black employees aired their grievances.

As a result of the hearing, the cafeteria manager and a dorm manager were moved to non-supervisory jobs, the three black workers were reinstated in their jobs, and an ombudsman office was set up in the University to handle grievances involving racial issues. There were other changes recommended relating to these items as well as race relations at the University in general. The Black Student Association agreed to end the cafeteria sit-in.

Dr. Walter Adams in his capacity as temporary University President is to be credited for handling the Wilson Hall Cafeteria incident in a manner that worked to defuse the situation rather then confront it. My own observations of his actions at that time confirm those written records crediting him for keeping this incident from becoming the kind of ugly confrontation that would have left a permanent negative mark on the University.

As far as I know, aside from the prepared food that had to be thrown out, the only real property damage from this incident was one broken dessert dish; broken not by any black students involved in the takeover, but broken by one clumsy white guy. And now you know the rest of the story. Peace.

Copyright © April, 2009, forty years latter. All rights reserved.

Historical Sources:

"BSA holds Wilson cafeteria; claims harassment of blacks" ; Michigan State News, April 29, 1969

"Wilson hearing airs charges; BSA stays; decision pending"; Michigan State News, April 30, 1969

"BSA leaves Wilson cafeteria; committee suggests 9 changes"; Michigan State News, May 1, 1969

"Adams’s Peace In History: MSU’s Approach To Student Activism From 1967-1970"; Susanna A. Muzbeck and Kahler B. Schuemann ; (Date unknown); paper published

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Jesus wants the rose!

Trevon Wax quotes Pastor Mark Chandler's comments at a recent Desiring God Conference. Chandler's remarks accurately and powerfully illustrate the difference between legalistic moralism and the Gospel.

Here is a link to more complete notes from Pastor Chandler's sermon at Desiring God Ministries. There are also on this page links to audio and video files of the sermon.

A Shepherd and His Unregenerate Sheep

~ The Billy Goat ~

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cultural Evangelicalism Or Theological Evangelicalism?

With all the on-line discussion in past weeks regarding Evangelicalism and projections of the demise of Evangelicalism as we know it, I find myself distinguishing between cultural Evangelicalism and theological Evangelicalism.

I think we would all agree that if certain aspects of cultural Evangelicalism were to "go away", many of us would give a sigh of relief followed by the thought there is no loss there. We might even celebrate with thanksgiving the demise of those aspects of cultural Evangelicalism that play to the idols of consumerism in our secular materialistic society.

But what would be a real and tragic loss would be the demise of theological Evangelicalism. I'm not talking about Dispensationalism or Reformed theology or whatever theology you think you hold to. Those distinctions are subsets to basic Evangelical theology. (Both Reformed and Dispensational writers contributed to The Fundamentals, a series of essays compiled in response to the theological liberalism in the early 20Th century.)

Evangelical theology is about the essence of the Gospel; that God has broken into time and history, and through Jesus Christ is reconciling a lost humanity to Himself, and in that Gospel He is calling us not to just assent to a basic set of doctrine, but along with that assent to also enter into vital personal relationship with our Creator God. Whenever and wherever the Gospel is preached there will be in some form or fashion, to some degree or another,an Evangelical theology.

That is why I am personaly optimistic about the future of Evangelicalism. The cultural trappings may and in many cases should be stripped away, but the Evangelical message will never change.

"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

"..and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." (Matthew 16:18b)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

things unpublished

I had published a poem here, but for several different reasons was not comfortable about having exposed it for public reading. That's a little frustrating. I think it is a good poem, but there were some nuances that could to easily be misconstrued and twisted. For now this particular poem will remain unpublished...


~ The Billy Goat ~