Closing Doors #4 The power and the glory?

img_8814     From 1,000 to 1,500, Europe saw unprecedented changes in virtually every aspect of life. The Black Plague and a “Mini Ice-Age” [1312-1850] had decimated the population, while the crop failures of 1315-1322 devastated the economy and the population. The Church in Europe had sunk to the level of feudal governance, charging their adherents for everything—baptisms, funerals, penances, and indulgences (to buy their way into heaven).

     The priesthood became exorbitantly powerful and wealthy. During the famines and cold weather they were able to wear warm, elegant clothes and live in luxury, while the hoi polloi could barely keep their rags mended. The Church also had a plentiful storage of food: at one point, wheat prices rose by 320% (France).  It was these extravagances, practices and heretical theology that led a monk in Germany, one Martin Luther, to lash out in protest against the Catholic Church. His actions resulted in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

     Alongside the Church, the rest of Europe witnessed great strides in technology, art, and exploration. The “new world” was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Themovable type Printing Press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455, ushered in the first days of the Information Age. In architecture and art, grandiose style of Baroque prevailed. Albrecht Durer (Praying Hands) imported Italian influence into Germany. Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo became the quintessential artists who developed perspective in their paintings and sculpture. Hayden, Handel, Bach, and Mozart scored complex orchestral pieces. Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler proposed a heliocentric (not geo-centric) understanding of our solar system.

     The idea of human reasoning as a way of determining Truth was proposed by René Descartes. The idea of common sense came from John Locke. These philosophers, and others, influenced the ideas found in the U.S. Constitution.

     In the midst of all these revolutionary inventions, discoveries, new ideas and technologies, where stands the Church? In two words— wealthy and split: no longer between East and West, but between Catholic centralism, and Protestant diversity and expansion. The new Protestant ideologies fostered a rise in creative reorganization and reconstruction. In some ways, this freed Christian thinkers to reexamine Scriptural Truths in the light of the cultural and scientific revolutions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Protestant churches became the churches of the people, rather than the authoritative dominance of the clergy in the Catholic Church.

     But things were changing. Between 1500 and 1850 the relationship between the Church and her surrounding cultures witnessed great strides in compassion, but also great assaults from the spread of Enlightenment and Renaissance ideologies. Eventually, even American individualism spread throughout Western Culture…, and the faith, with both positive and negative effects. A new secularism in the Church began to erode her influence in our world.

     True, the Church had finally opened her doors to the outside world— and she had lost her healing edge.

 In…— not of,
  Gary

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Beyond Words – Take 3 – Cultivating a Biblical Mindset

BEYOND WORDS: Cultivating a Biblical Mindset— Take 3

One of the great delusions within the Western Church is that we know our Scriptures. We do not. We know a few feel good verses or sections that we can summon up as proof texts or evangelistic references, but, by-in-large, most of us draw a blank when it comes to the warp ‘n woof of the great expanse of Biblical history and how it overlays the rest of world history.

Cultivating a Biblical mindset takes effort. It takes thinking. It involves an understanding of history and how Biblical Truths weave their way throughout.

Imagine all of History, recorded & unrecorded, from the Beginning of Time through Final Culmination. BIG PICTURE. We know just a minuscule slice of it. Scripture describes an actual Creation in Hebrew poetic verse—brilliant! It then tells us about the important events and people that God knew we couldn’t figure out by just looking around. How much of this unique revelation do you really understand? It’s important.

Again, a picture may be worth a thousand words—

gary, davis, needinc, chrisitan, bible, mindset

Think of History, all of History, as cradling the birth of our story of Creation—Fall—Redemption—and Culmination, when all things will come together under the majesty of Jesus Christ. Scripture holds the principles by which we are to live in this world, and the practical implications of those principles to our daily lives in our interactions with others.

To grasp the depth and expanse of God’s gift to us we must immerse ourselves into the Bible. Not pulling out certain verses for comfort or combat—but to learn to live within its culture, walk its roads, and hear the heartbeats of the great men & women who walked with God before us. But we must also learn human history: not that of our own country, but of all countries. Become a student-of-history and you will see your own situation more clearly.

Slow down. The more you can integrate your life within the paths of Holy Writ the simpler it will be to express and communicate your faith.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

We the People…

Gary, Davis, Charleston, America, IndividualismThe Charleston murders last night are reflective of an America that has fallen deeply into the abyss of the rights of the individual to shape the core beliefs & common respect due us all. “We the people…, in order to form a more perfect union.” Has degenerated into “I will assert my rights, my values, my individual dominance, and my anger against anyone I chose…, screw you.”

 Following World War II (1945) America was so tired of war we simply withdrew from Korea and allowed the country to divide. (1952) We know how well that worked out. Through our war in Vietnam (‘60s-70s) we grew weary and skeptical that any war was worth entering. Then came the Gulf War followed by the War in Iraq, and finally our world-wide war against Terrorists and ISIS. According to my son-in-law, a military strategist, that is a Stage 1 war that can never be won, and will never be over.

The effect of this history has been that American individualism has focused on our own individual rights and a return to isolationism. We don’t want to get involved.

 It took almost 100 years following our Civil War for African Americans to be recognized as decent human beings. Our LGBTQ Americans fared much better in a mere 40 year struggle to gain national recognition.

 Why should we be surprised that a white supremacist attends a Wednesday Bible Study and murders nine African-Americans!?! His goal? “To reignite the race wars.” American individualism has supplanted any core value with the values of whatever fringe activist group seeks to assert over the common good. This is wrong on any moral, civil, and human decency level you can find throughout history.

 Which groups will face eradication next? My guess is any semblance of the Judean-Christian religious tradition. Religious types are a threat because they believe in an external reference point on which all human dignity and morality is based. They threaten those fringe philosophies that challenge the common core’s right to exist. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, are a threat to our nation and must be kept in check. There is no common decency, there is no moral code, there is no respect for “WE the people.. .”. There is only I.

 Thus, the murders in Charleston last night.

 And yes, I am mad that we have come to this.

 Dr. Gary Davis

Rethinking Thinking

Clueless, Christianity, Christian, Book, Dr, Gary, DavisRethinking Thinking:

                                    the non-propositional nature of truth.

By now you’re probably thinking—

Okay, are you suggesting that the way Christians have thought about their faith for hundreds of years no longer fits this postmodern culture? And what about this non-propositional Truth stuff? This is getting more than a little weird.

Actually, Christians throughout history have articulated their faith differently, depending upon individual cultural setting. Some are more experiential than theological; some are more communally based than hierarchical; some have a minimal understanding of the theology of their faithbut hold a deep commitment to Christ in what they do know. So as we rethink the thinking about our faith in North American culture, we must to be careful to not create an historical assumption that things “have always been the same.” We must to be willing to reexamine our present-day view of the Christian faith and how it is expressed and understood. Over time I have learned to not be so attached to my words. I even joke about it— “Hey I could be wrong; I haven’t made my mistake for this year yet!” Nonetheless, to challenge the process of thinking does seem, even to me, a tad arrogant. I do so with a great sense of personal fear and large regret that a great era has gone and could be lost forever. The Modern Era has given the world so much—from consolidated nations [mostly], to incredible scientific discoveries and never imagined medical breakthroughs, to established theological constructs for our faith, to world trade, and to space exploration. During the Modern era the battle between religion and science won and lost, lost and won, on both sides.

….

Think about it—  If you updated this thinking and applied it to any religion, what you might find is a religion not entirely devoid of rational thought, but one where rational explanations of reality, took their proper place in back of actual experiences. It then interpreted them in light of religious thought, revelation, or tradition.[i]  For the past 350-500 years Western Christianity has been a reflection of modern, logical thought patterns. These thought patterns focused on “defending the faith,” debating the opposition, and developing a cohesive world-and-life view which overshadowed the vibrant work of God in our midst. We have raised the Bible to such a divine level as to virtually eclipse the God of the Bible with the words that tell us about him! The wine glass has replaced the glory of the Wine.

Please hear me out on this point. Evangelicals are “people of the Book,” we proudly proclaim. Not, mind you, that I am not a student of the Bible myself. It is the grass-roots of my faith sticking through my toes. It is the one, solely reliable source for Christians to learn about their faith, its foundations in Judaism, its founding, its history, and its implications for living before the God Who made us in this world He created. It is Truth revealed in writing. The Bible is no less, I repeat, than God telling us things He knew we would not be able to figure out from merely looking around. It sets forth the precepts, principles, and practice of what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is 66 individual books, letters, historical documents, collections of poetry, and future prophesies woven together over 4,000 years by 40 ± writers with one central theme— the redemption and fulfillment of the human race by the God who created us. That’s no small feat. The Bible’s internal consistencies, cohesiveness and congruency alone attest to its veracity. It is a book like no other ever written.

But as much as the Bible portrays the mighty works of God throughout history it is not the end-all of end-alls. When I was in college I majored in philosophy (duh). My specialization was language philosophy. I learned that, in any language, words have referents. That is, the word points to the object, the idea, the subject. It is NOT the object itself, it is the sign, the symbol, or the pictogram which represents the object. For example, when I say cow, your mind forms an image of the real thing. I do not know whether your mind’s cow is black, brown, Guernsey or what. That would require you to ask “What kind of cow?” But you would have the basic cow image-idea down pat. Applying this simple linguistic principle to the Bible, it can be stated that the Bible, with its historical sections, poetry, prophesies, and letters, is the tag that points us to God. It describes God for us; it clarifies His conditions for us to live on this planet, it sets forth His rules of protection for human relationships; it informs us of the consequences of our actions, here and later; it sets forth Truth as God defines it.

So, in one sense, the Bible, the Word of God, is the Truth; but in another sense it is only the Truth-Tag, the reference, the word, that points us all to the object of the Word— Jesus Christ, God Himself. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[ii] In the modern era, with a common acceptance of logical-sequential thought, this simple observation was not particularly important; but in a postmodern era, where the logical process has moved from its basis in sequential word-tag-reference explanations of stuff to a basis in life-experience and our responses to them, this distinction becomes eminently critical. To the point, the nature of Truth itself is shifting from a rational/logical-sequential propositional-base to an individual-experience one.  Truth is moving from an exclusively propositional position to one that is far more personal, far more individualistic. NOT, as some would have us believe, a personal, individualistic rendition of reality; but, rather, a position reflective of one’s personality and preferences. Lost yet? This is important to grasp so hang on.

To keep reading, you can find the book on Amazon and Amazon Kindle.

 

[i] Applying postmodern thought to religion is not entirely precise. It is actually postmodern thought applied ONLY to Christianity. No other traditional religion (Islam, Hinduism, Budhism, Judism) would allow postmodern thought to be applied to it. They are not concerned with the effects postmodernism has on them as yet. They stand outside the circle of influence of the shift. Some retain their traditions fiercely; others simply hang in a sort of limbo, culturally. But their children will have some concern. There will be little difference between a postmodern Jew, Muslim, Budhist, or Hindu. Will there be that much distinction for the postmodern Christian? Hummmm.

[ii] John 1:14. NIV Bible.

Ready-Fire-Aim

Clueless, Christianity, Christian, Book, Dr, Gary, DavisLife facts from 1902: things that make you go hummm.

  1. The average life expectancy in the US was forty-seven years.
  2. Only 14 Percent of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
  3. Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.
  4. There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
  5. The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.
  6. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
  7. More than 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.
  8. Ninety percent of all US physicians had no college education.
  9. Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
  10. Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  11. The five leading causes of death in the US were:

1)      Pneumonia and influenza

2)      Tuberculous

3)      Diarrhea (most likely from contaminated food)

4)      Heart Disease

5)      Stroke

  1. The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30 people.
  2. Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented.
  3. One in ten US adults couldn’t read or write. Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  4. Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were available over the counter at corner drugstores. According to one pharmacist, “Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.”
  5. Eighteen percent of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
  6. There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US. [i]

So, given the religious fun & fancies of the last 10,000 years, not to mention the incredible innovations that have taken place in the last 100 years, the question we are facing on this postmodern/postChristian, text2text, family-redefining, iPoding, Wii-ing, touch-screen, Skyping globe is— Who are we? or— What are the definers of life and reality in a world (western culture, in this case) with so many value systems coexisting side by side?  In other words, how do we make sense of all the changes of the last years of the twentieth century and the few we have played with so far in the twenty-first?  That is what this chapter will address.

Let’s start with a metaphor from the early days of the wornderful world of computers. Can you say Ctrl+Alt+Del?[ii] You remember what that means, don’t you?  (Or not.) It’s an old computer key combination for releasing a hard drive freeze up, a crash, a lock up…, call it what you will; personally, I remember it as *&@#$ frustrating.  [Well, admit it. You feel it even if you don’t say it. It’s part of human nature to be frustrated by all things electronic.]  We’ve all experienced that irritating situation where we are working along, just like we always do, and, for whatever reason, our computer’s hard drive hits a wall, beyond which it will not work.  Ctrl+Alt+Del.  You have to REBOOT! And if you haven’t bothered to save your work, or exit your application, or backup your work, well, bye-bye!  Back to square one.

The point is that things don’t always work the way they are intended. [Perhaps Microsoft intends their operating systems to work like this, but probably not. (Why people buy Macs?] So much has changed in the world it requires a focused determination (or constant immersion) just to keep up. In the Western World (Europe, North America, parts of the Pacific Rim) the rate of change has accelerated to the point that we literally cannot keep up. For example, it used to be that if you ordered a computer from a distributor (DELL, GATEWAY, HP) by the time you paid it off it would be obsolete. Now, the joke goes (but not so far from the truth), that by the time it arrives it is obsolete. We are outpacing ourselves on a daily basis. The way we did something yesterday (made a phone call, turned on the TV, cooked dinner, “commuted” to work[iii]) is not the way we do it today.

In the mid-twentieth century products and goods were made to last; they could be counted on to be around for 5-10, even 15 years. They broke; you repaired them. Now it is use it & lose it. Material goods in the West are expendable; sometimes, so are the people. Company loyalty, holding onto your job, or having a single career for life have all been supplanted by upward mobility, “down-sizing,” farming jobs overseas, and multitalented entrepreneurialism (read “I want to do what I want to do.”).

For better or for worse, we have moved light-years past the modes of living at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century. Imagine that world for a moment. Industrialization had taken over the cities, the family, and the father. Electricity was just becoming available to the masses. Most Americans used kerosene lamps for light.  The automobile was crowding out the horse and buggy. Train travel was the rapid transit of the day; subways and trolleys were uniting workplace and home with greater efficiency. Back on the farm even the earliest mechanization of planting and harvesting was revolutionizing the agricultural process. The massive expansion of North America’s roads enabled farmers to get their produce to more markets faster; the railroad transported goods and produce to yet further a-field markets, expanding trade and creating a hunger for exotic goods and tastes.  On a world scale, old tribal conflicts were replaced by a new sense of nationalism. Europe had solidified under national monarchs. And it seemed that those American states had finally made it as a world power, even after the bloodiest of Civil and territorial wars. The world seemed poised for the entry of the greatest century ever, the Twentieth Century! Most Americans were giddy with what they had been told the new century would bring— science and technology freeing ordinary people from the demands of physical labor. And what an exceptional a century it would be— both in greatness and in tragedy.

 

[i]  [http://www.goofball.com/jokes/facts/death_life_difference_The_Year_Is_1902

[ii] For you Mac/Apple Computer users, this is an unknown. You should be thankful you can utilize such a reliable CPU. Of course, having everything proprietary does limit one’s ability for diversification.

[iii] Commuting to work 1950-1960- take a bus. Commuting to work 1970- drive yourself. Commuting to work 1980- Car-pool it. Commuting to work 1990-2000- grab yourself a latte, sit down at your laptop, log-on… in your bunny slippers.