Spiritual: July 2008 Archives

In the latest Christian Carnival, I found a post at Got Bible? about the term 'Reverend' for people we also call pastors or ministers. I remembered posting about the same issue a few years ago, but as I was reading this post a new idea occurred to me. At least I thought it was a new idea. Here's the idea. Wouldn't it be interesting to start calling every Christian 'Reverend' the way everyone is a brother or sister in a lot of congregations? After all, Paul calls everyone saints as a reminder that we're all made holy in Christ. Doesn't 'Reverend' pretty much mean the same thing?

The problem with the term is that it makes some people seem more holy just because they hold a certain position in the church, and that's completely opposed to biblical teaching. But if you called everyone by that term, it would removed the problem. I thought about doing this after church on Sunday, but I didn't get around to it with anyone.

So I went to go find my previous post, and here it is. Check out the last paragraph especially. Am I really that out of it that I can't remember the punchline of a post that I can nevertheless remember writing? I mean, I can remember the content of the punchline enough to come up with it again, but I can't remember that it's not new and that it was part of the original post that I was thinking about all along, and I somehow end up thinking it's a new idea that I've never thought of before.

I've often heard passages of music that sound similar enough to another one and wondered if the writer might have taken it from that without noticing. There's a beautiful Spock's Beard song that has a line that sounds an awful lot like John Williams' Jurassic Park theme, which came out the year before. I've long thought some pieces by Trevor Rabin of Yes had some similarities to the Princess Bride theme by Mark Knopfler. There's a repeated short bridge section in Carry on Wayward Son that sounds similar to a Journey song that was never released (but I think might be on their boxed set). That song had been played on a tour the previous year when Kansas had opened for them. The guys in Journey have several times publicly accused Kerry Livgren of deliberate plagiarism. If I can steal an idea from myself without even knowing it, surely these musicians (and all of them are good writers) can unknowingly come up with a melody that's similar to one they've heard before but don't happen to remember hearing.

In our sermons, we just finished Matthew 1-7 followed by the Ten Commandments. Matthew 5-7 contains the Sermon on the Mount, and doing that right next to the Ten Commandments is pretty convicting. It's hard to imagine anyone who has carefully read and studied the Sermon on the Mount coming away from it thinking that it's easy to follow Jesus' teaching there. In the light of the full teaching of Jesus, anyone who does so is like the Pharisee who thanks God that he's not like those sinners, someone Jesus roundly condemns. The person is indeed a hypocrite of one of the worst kinds. In one of the last few sermons in the series, one of our elders pointed out exactly this response as one of the many ways people have responded to the Sermon on the Mount that miss the point, in this case violating several other major teachings of Jesus in the process.

I've been trying to find a good interpretation of Barack Obama's 2006 words that have recently gotten a lot of attention. (I first saw the complete quote in context here. although I won't endorse everything in that post, which also seems to me to be focused in the wrong direction.) I'm not having an easy time being charitable.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage so radical that it's doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?

There's a lot in there that worries me, quite deeply in fact. I've seen a lot of comment about these words, and a lot of it isn't entirely fair, which amazes me given how many things could be fairly criticized. I do think it reveals some lack of understanding about the New Testament's presentation of how Christians should see the Old Testament, but some very smart biblical scholars make those same mistakes, and in the theologically liberal churches whose well Obama drinks from, I'm sure he gets most of his understanding of the Bible from such people (probably very indirectly).

I've deliberately put off commenting on it, but I still haven't seen anyone point out the aspect of this statement that most disturbs me. (The closest is Collin Hansen's Christianity Today article, but that only gets to the beginning of my worry.) This isn't the only time I've seen Obama try to use the Sermon on the Mount as a method of sticking it to someone whose sins he doesn't happen to commit (or at least not in the way they do). It's very strange to use the Sermon on the Mount that way, though. The Sermon on the Mount sets some pretty tough standards, ones that no one really could meet.


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