Odds & Ends


When it comes to contentious issues, we rarely have genuine conversations regarding them. Most “conversations” are just opportunities for each person to express their own point of view. Neither person does much listening to the other, and neither expects to learn anything from the exchange. Their only goal is to declare their point of view, and perhaps convince the other person in the process.

This is not a good approach. We should come to every conversion believing that the other person has something to offer. We should be listening, not just making points. After all, we could be wrong in what we believe, wrong about particular facts, etc. Our “opponent” may actually have insights that we could benefit from, so we should be open and ready to be corrected if necessary.

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A lot of people grew up seeing their parents divorce and feeling the consequences, and now they don’t want to get married because they fear that the relationship will end in divorce. That makes as much sense as saying “My parents bought a car and wrecked it, so I don’t ever want to buy a car. I’ll just rent a car instead.” If they fear having a failed relationship, then they should forego romantic relationships altogether because any relationship can end. It’s not as though it only hurts when it’s a legal marriage. The piece of paper doesn’t create the pain. But actually, getting married makes it more likely that the relationship will last because marriage entails a higher level of commitment and legal entanglements.

Perhaps the primary concern is not the ending of the relationship, but the ending of a relationship involving kids. If that’s the case, then they should not be avoiding marriage per se, but having children. If they don’t want kids, they can get “fixed.” Foregoing marriage because your parents’ marriage did not work out just doesn’t make sense.

If you listen to the media, you would think that Republican states are experiencing the highest percentage of Covid-19 deaths, and that this is because Republican governors were not severe enough in their lockdowns or because they lifted lockdown restrictions too early. States like Georgia, Florida, and Texas have routinely been accused of botching the handling of the pandemic and causing unnecessary death.

Based on my limited knowledge of some stats, this narrative caused my bologna detector to go off, so I decided to do a little research. I wanted to see if there is any correlation between the severity of a state’s lockdown, political parties, and the number of Covid-19 deaths. Given the media narrative, I expected to find Republican states with non-severe lockdowns topping the list, such as Florida, Texas, and Georgia. What I found is that the truth is quite the opposite. Democratic-run states with more severe lockdown restrictions top the list of Covid-19 deaths per capita.

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Personal experience is valuable and powerful, but it is of little value for determining the truth or what reality is like for other people. Personal experience is anecdotal in nature. We may know what we experienced, but how could we know that others have experienced the same? Even if we found three people who shared our experience, at best, we could conclude that four people have experienced what we have. We can’t simply extrapolate from our experience that everyone else has the same experience/perspective as we do. We can’t just assume that our experience is representative of other people’s experiences.

To know how widespread and representative our experience/perspective is, we need more than anecdotal data – we need hard data. Polling and statistics serve this purpose. They seek to determine how common certain experiences and perspectives are in the general population. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt that my experience was common, only to find out from polling data that it isn’t; or how many times I have believed some X to be uncommon in society, only to find out that it was quite common (or vice-versa).

We should not place our personal experience above the facts when determining the truth. Personal experience is a factor, but it’s just one factor. If my personal experience leads me to believe that X is true, but the data shows that X is not true, then I need to correct my perception. My experience is still my experience, but I need to recognize that my experience is not necessarily the norm and should not be used to color my perception of reality. Perceptions should be based on facts, not anecdotal experiences.

P.S. As a public service announcement, for the sake of all mankind, please don’t use the phrase “lived experience.” Adding “lived” before “experience” adds no additional meaningful. It’s like saying “sufficient enough.” Every experience is a lived experience because the dead do not have experiences. ‘Nuf said.

Due to my busy schedule, I’ve hardly had time to blog this year, yet alone interact with the comments (which I would like to be able to do).  As I’ve read through some of the comments sections this year, I’ve been very frustrated with what I see.  Comments veer off the topic almost instantly.  Some comments are a mile long, filled with off-topic rants, a million links, or quotes galore.  If you want to rant, do it somewhere else.  If you want to talk about different topics, start your own blog.  If you want to interact on my blog, however, please stick to the topic, be respectful, don’t rant, and make your argument with words not links.  If you cannot follow these rules, I will provide a warning.  If you do not heed the warning, I will start deleting your comments.  If the behavior continues, I will simply block you.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

All of us like compliments, but why?  I think a large part of the reason is that they serve to either validate our own healthy sense of self-perception or, if we have an unhealthy self-perception, they serve to bring hope that we just might be better than we perceive ourselves to be.  Compliments serve as confirmation that we are, indeed, valuable. Receiving compliments is necessary to a healthy development of one’s self-perception.  A failure to receive compliments can cause someone to doubt their own value, and may lead to them doing abnormal things to solicit compliments so they can be reassured of their own value.

Of course, there is always the temptation to pride when one receives compliments.  That’s where a health Christian theology comes in handy.  We recognize that everything we are, and everything we do, is because of God’s grace.  He is to be thanked for everything we are/do, and thus we redound the praise to the glory of God.

Makes sense.  Take a look.

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Testing

 

refugeesA lot of Christians are arguing that our Christian principles, based in Scripture, demand that we welcome the Syrian refugees. This article shows why this is a hasty conclusion regarding the teaching of Scripture.

Surely the Scripture does not mean to say we should allow foreigners to come into our nation who intend to kill us (as if the Israelites would have let the Philistines or Babylonians into Jerusalem!).  And surely those who argue that Scripture demands we accept the Syrian refugees would not cite those same passages if they knew members of ISIS or Al Qaeda were among them, but could not be identified.  But here’s the thing: We know from the experience in France that terrorists are coming in with the refugees undetected, and people have been murdered as a result.  Until and unless we can properly vet these refugees to determine who is a possible terrorist and who is not, how can any reasonable person say we should just let them into our country?  It only takes a few terrorists to produce mass killing.  9/11 and the French attacks are proof of this.

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Empty BedThe predominant sexual ethic today is built on three moral principles: 1) Consent; 2) No harm involved; 3) Whatever feels good.  As long as it feels good, no one is getting hurt, and those involved are consenting to it, it is deemed to be morally acceptable.  Timothy Hsiao has written a great article showing why consent and harmlessness are not sufficient to justify a sexual behavior.

Regarding consent, Hsiao argues that consent ought to be based on what is good for us (not just desired by us), and thus the inherent goodness of the act – not just consent – is required. Furthermore, to give consent is to give someone moral permission to do what they would not be justified in doing absent the consent. Giving consent, then, presumes that one has the moral authority to give that permission to another. But if one lacks the moral authority to grant such permissions, consent is not sufficient to make an act ethical. If the act in question is not morally good, then the consenter lacks the proper authority to give consent.

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Political correctness has progressed from silliness, to annoying, to downright stupidity. From CTPost.com:

Under pressure from the NAACP, the [Connecticut] state Democratic Party will scrub the names of the two presidents from its annual fundraising dinner because of their ties to slavery.

Party leaders voted unanimously Wednesday night in Hartford to rename the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner in the aftermath of last month’s fatal shooting of nine worshipers at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were wrong to think they could own black people. We see that clearly now, but these men were men of their generation. We honor them, not because of their actions in regards to slavery, but for their many other accomplishments in the founding of this nation. To remove their namesake because they did not think and act like people in the 21st century is absurd.  What’s next?  Should we throw away the Declaration of Independence since Jefferson the slaveholder wrote that too?

In the future, when America comes to see that abortion is a moral tragedy, and the practice is outlawed, will we remove the names of Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton from everything their names are attached to as well?  Will we fail to honor them for whatever good they were honored for, just because they could not see as clearly as future generations will see?  No.  We honor the people of the past for the good they did, not for their flaws.  To remove their names from monuments or anything else due to their flaws is wrongheaded and petty.

Lifestyle Evangelism3Jesus charged his apostles – and by extension, his church – with the great commission.  The mission he gave us involves both the proclaiming of the gospel as well as the discipling of those who put their trust in Jesus.

If we are honest with ourselves, the American church is not great at either proclaiming or discipling, but we are doing worse on the proclaiming end, and it’s only getting worse.  As our culture becomes increasing secular and as Christians increasingly buy into the notion that our faith is to be kept private, we are becoming increasingly reluctant to proclaim Jesus.  There are a host of reasons for this, but I am not concerned to analyze them at this point.  Instead, I want to focus on the type of evangelism we are opting for in its place.  Some have called it “lifestyle evangelism.”  Lifestyle evangelism entails the notion that the way we live our life is the best witness of Jesus.  Our lives are a living gospel.  This form of evangelism is summed up in the apocryphal quote attributed to Francis Assisi: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

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worshipSinging is a spiritual exercise (Psalms; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  Few things can open up hearts to God like beautiful music and meaningful lyrics.  The effects of music on the soul are nothing short of amazing.  That is why virtually all Christian congregations feature music in their services.  But what we sing about is just as important as the fact that we are singing.  After all, singing the latest Taylor Swift song would not be deemed spiritual just because it was sung in church.  Content matters.  But not just any ‘ol content that mentions God will do either.

Theologically Lean

I have been increasingly concerned over the years with the lyrical content of mainstream “worship” songs.  Many of our songs suffer from theological anorexia.  There’s not enough theological content in them to make the Devil yawn, yet alone choke.  They are so generic that one may have a hard time telling what God they are talking about (if God is even mentioned).  Then there are the “God of my girlfriend” songs that are spiritually androgynous.  One can’t tell whether they are singing about their love for God or their love for their girlfriend.  Finally, there are songs some have called “7-11” songs: They contain seven words sung 11 times.  If you want to know what theologically robust songs look like, get yourself a hymnal that’s more than 30 years old.  They are pregnant with theological substance. (more…)

It’s been just over two months since my last post. No, I’m not dead.  No, I haven’t given up blogging. I’ve just been working crazy hours at my job.  Sleep has been a luxury (to give you an idea of how crazy it’s been, last week I slept five hours between Sunday morning and Thursday night), so blogging has been out of the question.  I apologize for not at least posting something a couple months ago notifying everyone that blogging would be next to non-existent for a while.  When I have a few minutes I write down some thoughts for a blog post, but then it takes me 10 days to get back to it, and I only have five minutes to write.  So I will be posting something in a few days.  It’s only a few paragraphs, but it took me more than a month to write!

For those of you who have not already subscribed to my email feed, I would encourage you to do so (click “email notifications” on the top right).  Hopefully by December things will be back to normal, and I’ll resume blogging on a regular basis.  Until then, I’ll try to post when I can.  Thank you for your faithful readership!

InfatuationThere is a difference between being enthralled/infatuated by someone, and being in love with someone.  Enthrallment or infatuation is when you are consumed with your desire for someone else.  Love, on the other hand, is the giving of oneself to another.  It is caring for their needs as you would your own.  It is doing all you can to make them a better person.  In short, infatuation is self-consuming, while love is self-giving.

I tend to think that we have so confused the two in our culture that only a minority of couples ever experience true love.  Instead, they experience intense periods of infatuation in the beginning of their relationship, and that gives their relationship the gas it needs to continue for a considerable distance.  But like a car that only gets filled with gas in the beginning of a long trip, the relationship does not reach its intended destination of “til death do us part.”  Only true love (or pure will and commitment) can fuel a relationship so that it can endure the many hardships of life.

For quite some time now, I have wanted to expand this blog from a one-man show to a team of like-minded bloggers.  My hope is that this will add more diversity to the blog, and engage more people on multiple levels. That is why I am pleased to announce that Chad Moore has agreed to team up with me as a contributing author at Theosophical Ruminations.

Chad is a lifelong Hoosier who was born and bred in Bloomington, IN with my wife, Tonya, and their three children. He is absolutely committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and wholeheartedly believes in the local church, having worked for a decade in youth ministry, and regularly serving as a teacher in his local church.

Chad earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, and an M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. So by day, he is a software engineer and web developer, and by evening, he is an avid reader and theologian.  One of the remarkable things about Chad is his ability to translate the truths communicated in the ivory tower in a way that is relevant for the people in the pew.

Chad is not new to blogging. He has been blogging at What’s More for some time, and will continue to blog there as well as at Theosophical Ruminations. Check out his personal blog when you have a moment.

Everyone, please welcome Chad to Theosophical Ruminations!

BoredI’ve always said that if you are bored, you are not in the will of God. After all, if we are doing what we are supposed to do as Christians, we don’t have time to be bored. If someone says they are bored, ask them if they have prayed, read their Bible, talked to someone about Christ, helped the needy, visited the widows, etc.  I think we all know what the answer will be.

As I think about boredom, it’s not just that people are failing to do the activities they should be doing; it’s that people are filling their lives with the wrong kind of activities.  Their days are spent pursuing insignificant activities, entertainment, and self-fulfillment rather than living their lives for God and others.  They pursue meaningless activities like playing video games for hours on end, watching endless amounts of television, and spending inordinate amounts of time on social media rather than pursuing relationships with God and others.

For an increasing number of people, their “relationships” are mostly virtual.  Having a relationship with people has been reduced to posting pictures of yourself online and waiting for your “friends” to like and comment on them.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against entertainment or social media, but if that’s where we are spending most of our time, and that’s where we seeking meaning for our life, we will be bored.

Exclamation point“God/Father/Jesus” are not punctuation marks, so they shouldn’t end every sentence we utter in prayer. Prayer is our communication to God. We wouldn’t communicate with any other person by ending every sentence we say to them with their name (“What did you do today John? Are you going to the game John? It was nice to see your kids John. They played so well last week John. The hot dogs at the park were delicious too John.”)

When we talk to God that way, we are not using his name to address Him, but as “filler” material. I doubt God is annoyed by this in the same way that I would be annoyed if someone talked to me that way, but I think we can do better nonetheless.

talk lessI was thinking the other day how I could be a better conversation partner, and show myself more friendly to others.  I began to think about the kinds of things I find annoying when talking to others: failure to make eye contact, interrupting, dominating the conversation, changing the topic, etc.  Then, I thought of another faux pas that I’m sure most of us are guilty of.  Not only have I observed it so often in others, but I find myself doing it as well, either due to nervousness (particularly when meeting someone new), my desire to demonstrate our commonalities, or in some cases, just pure selfishness.  To what do I refer?

When in conversation with someone, we have the tendency to relate our own experience when it is similar to something the other person is talking about.  The worst thing to do is relate your story while the person is in the midst of telling their own!  But it may be good to withhold your story, even if they have finished theirs.  I don’t know about you, but if, when I finish telling my story to someone, they immediately begin talking about themselves, I get the feeling that they are more interested in their own story than mine.  It almost feels like you have two people competing against one another to share their personal story, each talking past the other.  If we want to be a better conversation partner, and show ourselves more friendly while in conversation, instead of telling our story, how about we seek to know more about their story?  Show them you are listening and you care by asking them to share more.  Not only is this flattering to your conversation partner, but it expresses our genuine interest in them as a person.  Rather than using their story as an opportunity to talk about ourselves, we use it as an opportunity to get to know them better.  We’ll have plenty of opportunities to share our own experience in the future.

“Although feminism purports to raise the value and status of women, it actually deconstructs femininity, treating it as an illusion or even an aberration.  The male chauvinist of the past identified women as unique and different, but then treated femininity as a lesser thing than masculinity.  The feminist of today, rather than celebrating femininity as a thing of equal worth, dismisses it as a bourgeois construction.  Far from championing femininity as a beautiful, God-created gift, the feminist absorbs femininity into a hyper-masculine world of competition, struggle, and ideology.” – Louis Markos, “Just Brilliant!: Three Things only a PhD Can Believe,” Salvo, Issue 24, Spring 2013, page 16.

Blogging doesn’t pay my bills.  I actually have to work a real job for that.  And lately, my work schedule has been crazy.  It will continue to be that way for the next four months, so blogging may be sparse.  I will try to put up new posts whenever I can, and I’ll try to respond to comments, both past and future.  I just can’t promise how frequent my engagement will be. 

In the near future, I hope to expand the scope of Theosophical Ruminations beyond a one-man shop to include other writers.  Hopefully they will be able to start blogging soon, and will make up for my lack.  I’ll keep you posted.  

In the meantime, I would highly suggest that you sign up for my RSS feed so you can be notified of future posts.

 Thanks!

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