Sunday, July 30, 2006

Where do Christian Doctrines Come From?

I came across this quote in Nancey Murphy's book Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism. It is from a book by Shailer Matthews The Faith of Modernism and she says it was liberal Christianity's most well read book of the 1920's.

"We must discover when a doctrine arose, for what purpose it was organized, what religious attitude it expressed, what unifying social proactice or idea it used as a "pattern". From such a study the conclusion will be clear that while formulas are a part of our religion they are not to be identified with that religion. They spring from the effort of Christians in different situations to organize their lives and carry their daily burdens, perform their varying tasks, not only with prayer and sacrifice but in loyalty to the inherited attitudes and convictions of their group regarding God and Jesus Christ.

...A study of the origin and purpose of our doctrines shows how patterns have originated and served actual needs of a group."

Since shortly after adolescence, this sums up how I've always felt about doctrinal matters. I'd say doctrinal matters serve the needs of the group, generally. On the other hand, unfortunately, doctrinal matters can be exploited to serve the alpha males who are running things. (Even though they don't know it.)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Transformative Power of Travel

Traveling away from one's home for vacation or work or vocation can change a person's life.

What is it about travel that does that to a person?

1. Senses are heightened. Sights, smells and tastes are more intense. Memories are "burned" in more deeply.

2. When you are away, the usual cares and stresses of everyday life are gone. You are at attention.

3. Being in another culture helps you see things about yourself and your way of doing things that you take for granted, that you never even think about. It works two ways. It may cause you to confirm your existing way or it may suggest to you a better way.

4. The chance to be with people and share with them and develop new relationships always has assorted benefits.

4. In a different place and environment, one gets a chance to view things from a different perspective. One can rediscover one's self.

6. One always benefits from learning the history of a place and the manner of its people.

I write this based on my experience since I spent the summers of 1970 and 1971, between college terms, in Holland, Germany and Austria, doing church work. The people I met, both the ones native to those places, as well as other Americans, are still vivid in my memories.

I am not only talking about trips abroad. Traveling in northern New Mexico, when I first began working, created a new set of experiences and feelings. The annual trips we made from Arkansas to Michigan to see grandparents while growing up is a part of who I am and what I am. When I was young, even going into remote (to me) regions of the county to smaller country churches, provided me with some memories of a world that has largely vanished and memories for which I'm grateful.

Traveling is an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Here is something interesting which I just came across: 10 Tips for Spiritual Travel. I think all travel can be spiritual if you want it to be.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Singing is Therapy

Last night Dorothy and I joined a group of ten others to sing at a funeral in the Tennessee hills about an hour NE of our Knoxville home. We weren't good but we sang with enthusiasm. Tom, our leader, could have sung professionally. He's a Science Applications chemist who flies periodically to Russia to help with nuclear things. Me, I can pinch out the notes of the tenor part, usually. The man who had passed evidently was a good man, a colorful man, and a man well respected and loved. The mortuary was full. He was the father of a lady from a church where we used to attend. The minister had a relationship with the man and gave a loving tribute to him. That he felt intimacy, respect, and love was clear. I believe it gave we singers especial verve and resolve to sing the final two hymns with even more enthusiasm and meaning. And we did, especially the last one, It is Well with My Soul. It put me in a much better state of mind.

Singing is Good For You.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I Need Coffee

I went from Mark Frost's blog to Jeff Slater's blog to one of Jeff's links that speaks to my main addiction: coffee. If you are addicted also, you may want to check out I Need Coffee.

It contains history, recipes, jokes, poetry, coffee-praise etc. It has advice, like how to convert a popcorn popper into a hot air roaster.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fireworks on Independence Day Truman Arkansas 1963

The most thrilling and scary fireworks display I ever saw was on the fourth of July, 1963 in Truman, AR. Being from the town of Pocahontas of a neighboring county, we were there for a Little League baseball game to be played following the display. I was twelve and recall standing behind the fence parallel to the first base line and looking toward left center field where they were set up to begin.

Not long after the show began, something went wrong. There was an explosion on the ground. All control was lost. That explosion set off other fireworks on the ground and that continued for what seemed to me a long time, maybe fifteen minutes? The display was marvelous. It was continuous and chaotic and beautiful. No fireworks display has ever or ever will compare to that one. But, the whole time one was wondering about the safety of the guys who were at ground zero. If memory serves correctly, they got away, thankfully, with only singed hair on their arms. Eventually it played out and they sprayed water on the remains. It was still wet where my brother played in the outfield. I was a catcher and didn't make it out there.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Are You an Arminian?

I was asked in a religious conversation a few years ago if I was an Arminian. I had to go the internet to find out. Yes, according to the Wikipedia article on arminianism, the Churches of Christ tend to be Arminian. (As do Methodists, Anglicans, Free Will Baptists and others.) Upon reading the article, though, I tend to think in different categories than that. It seems to me we have free will to do what is right or wrong. In part that is because all my life, I have heard the doctrine of predestination, the understanding of which Arminius (a Dutchman - 1560-1609) sought to change, derogated many times from the pulpit in my lifetime. Sometimes the term Calvinism was used interchangeably for this. I did not know that there was a name, arminianism, for the competing doctrine. I guess we tend to call our own beliefs "the truth" and the beliefs of others with whom we disagree by some name ending in "ist" or "ism".

Here is something John Wesley said about it in answering the question "What is an Arminian?"

1. To say, "This man is an Arminian," has the same effect on many hearers, as to say, "This is a mad dog." It puts them into a fright at once: They run away from him with all speed and diligence; and will hardly stop, unless it be to throw a stone at the dreadful and mischievous animal.

I've always liked the sound of the word, probably because I once had a friend back in the 70's who was of Armenian heritage. This is one of those accidents of sound, Armenia and Arminius are not associated.

We have all kinds of beliefs and cultural predispositions that we are hardly aware of. I enjoy doing the mental archaeology the find out what and why these are.

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