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His Master's Voice
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Written by: C. W. Booth

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Were You Told, “You Are Married to the Church”?

In our young years my wife and I left our home to become a part of a church-planting team in another city. That church’s pastors became wrapped up in a form of the “shepherding movement.” The shepherding movement was, and still is, a form of highly authoritarian oversight by pastors who consider themselves to be part of God’s elite management team. They consider their positions (as pastors) to give them superior access to the secret will of God for the members of their local church congregations. When the pastors give spiritual counsel they feel they are giving God’s own mind to the counselee with near-prophetic weight.

One of the many aberrations that develop over time with shepherding movement churches is their implicit or explicit teaching that the local church is a family that one marries into when they join as members. This improper view of the church is necessary for them because the pastors see themselves as the head of the spiritual church “family” in the same way that the husband heads a literal family. As the local church’s husband (“head”) they feel they have the same right to subjugate, direct, and make decisions for every member of the congregation similar to how a husband is to govern a family household.

When my wife and I took issue with the increasingly aberrant doctrines and teachings of these shepherding movement pastors we ultimately felt convicted by conscience to resign so as to begin to attend a more Bible-adhering church. We resigned in person at 1pm on a Sunday. That night the pastors and elders showed up at our apartment unannounced at midnight to explain that by leaving their local church my wife and I were literally committing the sin of “divorcing the church.”

Try as they might they could not identify the passage of Scripture that states that congregants are married to a local church when they become members. They misapplied the Scriptures that state that pastors administer local churches and that all members of the universal church are actually brothers and sisters in Christ. We, the church universal, are to be married to Christ some day, but in no sense do we marry the church or worse, marry the pastors!

Indeed, if congregants really did marry the church when they joined, then the congregation would be the bride of the pastors. This would make the pastors the husband of the church, a position both symbolically and literally that belongs to Christ alone! Shepherding movement pastors usurp the very title and role of God.

In short, if you ever hear a pastor state that the members of the congregation are married to the local church (instead of being married to Christ) it provides you with the following information:

1) the pastor is ill trained in Scripture and in doctrine

2) the pastor has a shepherding movement mentality of elitism

3) the pastor is likely highly controlling in most areas of your life

4) the pastor likely makes decisions using a mystical sensing instead of relying on biblical principles

5) and it is time to consider finding a new church to join.




Thursday, April 05, 2012

False Doctrine: “Head Knowledge without Heart Knowledge”

An Unbiblical Saying

Seminary education is not a biblical criterion for entry into the pastorate. However, the ability to teach sound biblical doctrine well is one of the criteria.

Any person who utters the following phrase as if it were some kind of a scriptural truth demonstrates their ignorance and exhibits their lack of ability to teach sound doctrine, “That person is wrong because they have head knowledge but not heart knowledge.” The notion of a “heart knowledge” that is superior to an intellectual knowledge of God and Scripture is unbiblical as is the idea that "heart knowledge" is somehow different or distinct from "head knowledge."

A Modern Bias Wrongly Imposed

At the core of the error is the interpretive crime of imposing on ancient literature (written 2000 to 4000 years ago) meanings of words and concepts originating in modern centuries. In our contemporary era we have come to view the brain (the head) as the seat of the intellect and the heart as a symbol of emotions. We say that the heart does not cogitate, it emotes. The brain does not feel, it thinks. Today few would dare to write, “I have developed this mathematical theory of physics by examining it day and night with my heart.”

Yet, today’s ideas and conventions of word use may not be imposed on ancient writings. To do so reveals a certain lack of education, common sense, and absence of desire for accuracy.

In the 1st Century and earlier the use of the word “head” rarely meant “intellectual thought” since it most often was representative of authority. “The head of the church” did not mean “the most scholarly person in the church” but rather “the highest authority figure in the church.” To read “head” in the Bible as a reference to intellect instead of as a statement about authority is to generally misunderstand what the biblical writer was communicating.

Similarly, ancient writers most often (but not always) used the word “heart” to mean the center of a person’s thinking rather than emoting. The heart represented a person’s intellect, thinking process, memories, hopes, desires, motives, and spiritual condition (i.e. good or evil). This use of the word heart did at times include the emotional state of the person because a person’s emotions always involved their intellectual processes.

When an ancient writer desired to isolate the emotions of a person from the cognitive aspects of that person they often used specific idioms, like “broken hearted” or “uplifted sprit” or “felt happy.” By contrast use of just the word “heart” implied thinking, motives, and memory rather than pure emotion.

A Second Modern Bias Exposed

Today, when a person says or writes, “I prefer to have heart knowledge over head knowledge” they reveal something significant about themselves. First, they reveal that they lack adequate training or education regarding the Bible since the Bible itself is replete with appeals for Christ’s disciples to be trained in sound doctrine, educated in the Word, and equipped in the knowledge of God. God never decries study of theology or of the Scriptures.

Second, the person who espouses a mythical and modernistic “heart knowledge” over and against “head knowledge” exposes their own lazy spirit. They have announced they have no interest or drive to understand the deeper things of the Word of God by using diligence, hard work, and study. In short, they intend to bypass their mental faculties in search of easy fixes, like “sensing” what decision to make rather than to study out and apply biblical principles of decision making from the Word.

Truth About Biblical Knowledge

Every time the Scriptures are studied and the mind of a person learns something new about God then the Holy Spirit is more likely to use that knowledge to change the thinking, behavior, and habits of that person. Knowledge of God via the Word always accomplishes the improvements that God desires (Isaiah 55:11).

Without knowledge, that is, without intentionally engaging the intellect and the hard work of study in the Scriptures, there is only disobedience and deception. This anti-study attitude was one such error Paul fought against, “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)

The Heart Is the Mind

In the Scriptures it is most often true that the heart is a reference to the mind and the thinking of man, not to his center of emotions. When the emotions lack knowledge the result is an emotional zeal that leads to destruction. Similarly, secular knowledge, or what passes for wisdom in the world, leads to pride and spiritual destruction. But study of God’s Word leads to the knowledge of love, the truth about God, and to the repentance and reform of the human mind, heart, and soul.




Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two Missing Supreme Court Tests for Assessing Obama-"care"

Two Proposed Tests

As the Supreme Court evaluates whether elements of the Obama-care law are constitutional or not, I lament that there are not two additional tests that they should also apply. These two tests are: The Stupidity Test and The Mercy Test. If a proposed law (or elements of it) should fail one of these two tests the candidate law would be found unconstitutional and could not be implemented.

The Stupidity Test

Since the key provision to Obama-care is that everyone who presently cannot afford to buy private health insurance should be fined by the IRS for being too poor, then it should be asked, “Is this too stupid or illogical to become a law?”

For example, if people are homeless because they cannot afford to rent a small room is it logical to have the IRS fine them for being homeless? The problem is the lack of money, so what sense does it make to take away more of their meager finances by fining them? Will fining them get them into housing sooner?

And so it is with Obama-care. Will fining the poor really cause them to suddenly have more money with which to buy private health insurance? Such a notion does not pass The Stupidity Test.

The Mercy Test

When laws impose an undue hardship on the most needy in a nation then those laws are unmerciful. Taxing and fining people who are already too poor to buy health care and thus taking away what small money they have left for food is unmerciful in the extreme. Obama-care does not pass The Mercy Test.

Conclusion

Obama-care is neither merciful to the poor nor is it a logical approach to fixing the problem of overpriced health insurance premiums. History has shown us that the free market system works best to lower prices for everyone when the free market is protected from government intrusion.

If we want lower health care costs then the law should require that health care providers bill the same amounts to all patients for the same care regardless of whether patients buy health insurance or not. Should this ever become law then on the very next day health care prices would begin dropping because the rich elite (with health insurance) would not be receiving huge discounts which must be paid for by the uninsured.

Fair and equal billing to all patients is both merciful and intelligent. Too bad it is not law.

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Post Script:

For those who may be unaware, doctors and health care providers give large discounts in pricing to patients with insurance because the insurance companies demand them. Rather than take a loss for those discounted billings the doctors are permitted by law to charge uninsured patients much more for the same medical care.

It is that practice which makes prices for everyone so much higher than they have to be. It is also unethical on many levels.




Monday, April 16, 2012

The Hunger Games: One Christian’s Movie Review

Science fiction as social commentary; that phrase sums up the obvious intent behind The Hunger Games movie. This film expertly meets its intent. However, it will leave many a person asking, “But what comment on our society was being made?”

Before I address what I saw to be the meaning and symbolism in the film, a brief non-spoiler plot overview is needed. On a slightly futuristic earth-like planet where resources are scarce one faction of a fragmented feudal-style government has just established dictatorial control over all rivals and has put its competing fiefdoms to work in labor-oriented outlying districts. The new central government lives well in the inner cities off the produce of the impoverished districts.

Weary of putting down rebellions from the impoverished labor districts the fledging central government (and the elite that live there) requires each of the twelve labor districts to offer up one teen boy and girl as annual gladiatorial sacrifices. These sacrificial children kill each other in a televised reality-game-show style contest called The Hunger Games. The “game” show is meant to remind the districts of their servitude to the central government and to instill in them the fear that things could easily become a lot worse for them if they ever again rebel.

This movie is violent with some scenes being a bit on the graphic side, though the worst of the mayhem is merely hinted at. More than the visual violence is the haunting (and nightmare inducing) look at human nature. The movie has a very realistic look and feel to the story. And the people, for the most part, behave like people we all know. Even the very sadistic ones.

The dialogue will long bring chills to many viewers. In one scene a few teens in “the game” have formed an alliance and have just hunted down and killed a competitor. They can be heard callously laughing at and mocking the surprised look of the girl that had just become their victim. This dialogue is a virtual sober parody of the dialogue that one hears every week on the reality game show called Survivor when a tribe “blindsides” one of its own members to expel them from the game. Frankly, I could not watch and enjoy Survivor for two weeks after watching The Hunger Games, so strong were the heart wrenching impressions and emotions the movie left within me.

That brings us back to the intent of the movie. There is no question that the creators of this film intended to prick the collective conscience of the public. It is a not-so-subtle commentary on the need to safeguard true political and civil freedoms, to be ever vigilant against tyranny, to ensure we train our children to be merciful and kind, and to decry bullying and civil violence at every turn (while there is still time to do so).

Is it written from a liberal left socialism-centric perspective? Or is it written from a conservative right free market point of view? Both. One can easily envision it as a warning against a socialistic big government take over of the planet. One can also equally envision this as a large-screen play that admonishes and cautions against the excesses of unbridled greed and capitalism. Your own socio-political biases will likely define for you how you see the message coming out of this movie.

At its basest level the movie is entertainment. It tells an engrossing story using the highest production values. It is graphically violent, but far less so than efforts like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It will leave many feeling uneasy about social conflicts and will leave the viewer with lingering questions about the role of government, warfare, morality, and ethics. One nagging question the movie will raise for Christians is: Should a Christian when put into such a situation (as they were in the 1st Century) take another’s life to preserve their own? The movie hinges its realism on symbolic references to the historical abuses recorded by such civilizations as the Romans, Nazi Germany, and Bosnia with regard to their persecutions of the Christians, Jews, and other ethnicities.

It is thought-provoking and entertaining. But it is anything but lighthearted eye candy. For me it was worth taking the time and money to see, even considering the impact it had on my sleep and on my reality game show viewing habit. Most surely there will be many Christians who will be deeply offended by the immorality hinted at by the killings, the graphic display of violence, the coarse language, and the general inhumanity that underpins the central conception of the plot. Choose whether to watch this movie based on your own Christian principles, for the premise of those principles will be tested by this film.




Friday, April 27, 2012

Les Miserables: One Christian’s Play Review

Last Man in America

Having been once again put on notice by the American Performing Arts Association that I was the last human in the country to not yet have seen any rendition of a current play, in this case Les Miserables the musical, my wife and I went to a live high school performance of it last night. Both the cast and the live orchestra were virtually world class in their interpretation and delivery of this classic work.

Symbolic Universal Human Struggle between Faith and Unbelief

Les Miserables is a masterful fictional tale that unfolds in the backdrop of the historical French Revolution. The play opens by describing in song the depths to which humans will abuse and enslave each other just to gain a political or economic advantage.

More pointedly the musical subtly exposes that atheism was a root philosophy at the foundation of the French Revolution. Early in the tale a loving bishop/priest walks off the scene never to return, symbolically illustrating the passing of genuine Christianity from mainstream French culture. Rising in its place is rampant humanism, cynicism, social discontentment, and a false form of unforgiving Christianity and legalistic order represented by gendarme Javert.

Comic relief is paraded in the form of the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Thenardiers, inn keepers and euphemistically masters of their house. But the comedy is a thin veil for the thick social commentary espoused and symbolically illustrated by the Thenardiers. These two characters are consistently greedy and discontent from beginning to end in every era covered by the time span of the play, never changing and ever enslaved (mastered) by their corrupt natures.

The Thenardiers represent general humanity and their fallen state. These are the people who ought to be slapped into prison for their numerous crimes, schemes, deceptions, and scandalous behaviors. Yet, like most of us, they remain free and unpunished throughout their lives, winked at by society, hiding their unconfessed guilt, and left unmolested by Javert. They are incapable of understanding material sacrifices motivated by love, as made by Jean Valjean and the bishop/priest. They display a phony Christian cultural façade to others, but have no form of genuine faith whatsoever.

Javert, representing law, order, and unloving “faith” is gripped by hatred and conviction by the acts of Jean Valjean during the span of his entire life. Jean Valjean, converted to true faith in God by the now-absent bishop/priest, dedicates his life to acts of Christian kindness, though pursued by his youthful crime of having broken parole before his conversion. Jean Valjean is faced with a choice of taking lethal revenge on Javert during the Revolution, or being kind. Javert is frustrated and confused that Jean Valjean will not exact due revenge and cannot reconcile true Christian forgiveness with his legalistic dogma of law-as-god.

How We All End

At the end of the play it is graphically, hauntingly, and repeatedly exemplified in song that political revolutions and economic reversals achieve nothing to change the human heart. Dying for political or economic revolution is ultimately a meaningless and shallow victory. Evil, greedy, and discontented people remain as they always were. From poor to rich and rich to poor, the poverty of the heart of the person is not ruled by such circumstances. One class of humanity will always seek to gain advantage over the weaker, regardless of political conditions.

Faith in God, love, and their resulting forgiveness is the sole formula for freeing the human heart. To this point the play ends with a musical appeal by the combined cast to join the genuine crusade to live on Earth for the faith in God which results in eternal life and everlasting fortune.

Recommendation

Despite certain coarse elements in the dialogue and lyrics, I highly recommend this musical. Its message, if grasped, can be life altering. Its message, if missed, will be scarcely noticed as absent amidst the enjoyment of the music.

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Update: What Does the Barricade Symbolically Represent--Death or Rebellion?

Last night my wife opined that the barricade must be symbolic of death because in the movie version of the play a pair of coffins are incorporated into its base. However, the barricade seems more fittingly the symbol of angry rebellion itself, and not simply rebellion, but the rebellion of sin against God.

Rebellion always results in death. Sin always ends in death. Sin, and its rebellion are barriers (barricades) that prevent us from being holy and attaining love and forgiveness; they block us from God and His holiness.

This is why at the end of the play (opposite of what the movie shows visually) the words of the entire ensemble cast resound that the real crusade is that of love and forgiveness which are only found BEYOND the barricade, once one has moved past sin and rebellion.


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On another blog I posted my review of the movie release of Les Miserables: Les Miserables: One Christian's Movie Review


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