Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Whence comes disunity?

Methodist Scott McKay, writer of the "Grace Happens" blog, says that unity is not the same as no disagreements. And disunity sneaks in with pride, jealousy, resentment, ego, and a desire for control.

Though Scott, a member of the clergy, associates such problems with the church membership, these same unity challenges pertain to all people associated with a congregation, clergy included. None of us are immune to the sins of pride or arrogance (for example), though some people do better than others in staving off these diseases of the soul.

His posting ends with a reminder of the invitation to Communion ... love, repentance, and peace.

New stem cell technique raises hopes, concerns

A biotech company has found a way to get stem cells without destroying embryos. The process takes a single cell from an early stage embryo, then grows stem cells from that one cell.
Some are saying this is a breakthrough that solves the debate; others say it solves little and raises more concerns. Stem cells hold great promise for treating major diseases.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quiz: Which Theologian are you?

The QuizFarm site has several quizzes that are religious in nature. Have you taken the "Which Theologian are you?" quiz? Just remember that this is for entertainment value. Don't go getting all up in a lather about a particular phrasing of a question or the results.

Here's another interesting quiz: Which Religion is the right one for you?

Also remember that people, imperfect people, make up these quizzes. The results depend heavily on the knowledge and quizmaking capability of the author. Just take a quiz for the experience. If it starts you thinking, so much the better.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sanctity of human life

"The Sanctification of Human Life", an excerpt from "How Christianity Changed the World" by Dr. Alvin Schmidt, addresses the value of human in Roman and Greek times. The article speaks to many areas about the sacredness of life, including infanticide as well as abortion.

Roman society's bankrupt morals included the practice of "exposure" -- placing unwanted babies on the hills and letting "the Gods" decide their fate.

Read with a critical mind, though. The author makes some assumptions that may not be valid. One example is the assumption about translating Galatians 5:19-20 and Revelations 21:8 to imply an anti-abortion stance. The NIV Bible translation has an Evangelical bias, yet neither its study notes nor the NIV Bible Commentary mention either of these passages as relating to abortion.

So use reason with your reading. Reason is one of the four legs of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral "stool", after all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Spiritual Atkins diet starves you

The Atkins diet shuns carbs like bread, but Jesus said he was the Bread of Life. In " Jesus and the Atkins diet", Keith McIlwain reminds us that we must partake of this excellent spiritual food or else we starve. Taste the Bread of Life. Let Jesus fill you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Liturgical worship and the Heisenberg principle

The term "high church" and "liturgical" was once defined solely in terms of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. " Low church" was the disparaging term applied to the Anglican Church. But high church "may now be used in speaking of viewpoints within a number of denominations of Christianity in general" (Wikipedia). High church "emphasizes liturgical and theological formality. Vestments are more formal. Parts of the service are often sung or chanted, and may include incense and sanctus bells (aka 'smells and bells')." Note the word "may" — use of the term "high church" need not be limited to the most extreme cases of formality and rites.

"Protestant churches, which initially kept liturgical forms and music that were consistent with Roman liturgics, gradually saw many of the forms change over time as theology and doctrine itself changed in Western Europe." ( Protestant Liturgics)

Likewise a "liturgical" worship service was originally associated with the type done at Catholic Churches, complete with censer, lots of vestments and other accouterments, plus many rituals — a formal atmosphere. In that light the Methodist Church would be seen as non-liturgical. As culture has changed, however, the terms "high church" and "liturgical" have seen different use. Church members now use these terms to describe their worship service in relative terms.

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies a bit here. We can describe and discuss exactly what we currently do in worship and try to apply a label, but by the time the debate is done, the momentum of our culture can make that label suspect. We need to always consider trends in our culture when deciding where we are and where we want to go in terms of church and worship style. When I was a child I sang as a child (classical, including some in Latin). OK, I was a teenager, but you get the point. Today, that same style of music in worship seems ancient to me ... an anachronism ... out of place in time.

Our current western culture uses several different ways to label our churches and worship services:
High church <---------+---------> Low Church
    Liturgical <---------+---------> Non-liturgical
  Liturgical <---------+---------> Evangelical
  Traditional <---------+---------> Contemporary
   Very formal <---------+---------> Very informal
These are a continuum, not an either-or situation. For example, the Percept Group's area reports of people and preferences done for the United Methodist Church use a "Church style" continuum of Traditional-to-Contemporary, based on worship, music, and architecture styles.
Even using the phrase "traditional" is really a relative one. What is contemporary for a church today will become traditional for that church if used for a decade or two. Individual Protestant churches show a wide variety in use of such things that many would see as leaning toward the liturgical/high church/formal/traditional:
  • Vestments - more vestments, robes, and gowns worn means more formal.
  • Additions such as altar, formal chancel area, candles, use of acolytes, fancy goblets and plates for Communion, and the presence of an oversize Church Bible.
  • Old and Latin language terms such as Narthex, Introit, Gloria Patri, Doxology, Chancel, acolytes, and postlude.
  • Rituals.
  • Standing for the reading of the Gospel (but not the Old Testament, of course).
  • Use of the "Liturgical Psalter", as the Methodist Book of Hymns calls it.
  • Congregational singing of responses during reading of the Psalter.
  • Rigid order of worship.
Discussions about a church's style and worship service would be more productive if all concerned accepted terms as they are commonly used today, not their original usage decades ago. Using terms such as "more formal" and "less formal" to describe our church and worship style might well help newcomers and the unchurched. The relative terms "more liturgical" and "less liturgical" are better suited to discussions within a church community, but then only after discussing what that means.

Wikipedia excursions

Like taking a leisurely drive in the country on a weekend, you can tour Christian Wikipedia topics at your own pace. This free collaborative encyclopedia has an excellent organization of Christian topics. Below are some interesting excursions. Take your time enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mohammed: "Respect each other's ways of worship"

Imam Muhammad Shakoor, leader of a Dallas Muslim congregation, says that the current Israel and Hezbollah conflict reflects neither the true nature of Islam nor the prophet Mohammed.